If you have experienced infertility or child loss or know someone who has, you know what a searing, painful experience it is. Nicole and Sharon share from their personal experience and from the Word of God, what it's like to want a child desperately. Join us for a study of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, who endured years of waiting and scorn, and who did it with grace and faithfulness. Let's talk and encourage one another today.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to the Christmas edition of the Sweet Selah moments podcast. We are so glad that right in the middle of decking those halls, you have decided to stop for a while with us. We hope you will feel refreshed and blessed as you listen today. The Sweet Selah moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to the Sweet Selah moments Christmas podcast season. This is episode 26, Longing for a Child, Elizabeth’s Story. Chances are you either know someone who longs for a child or you are that someone. Deep in many a woman’s heart is a desire to someday become a mother. There’s a unique ache in the heart of a woman who has long waited to hold a child of her own. Today we’re going to look at the story of Elizabeth. Like so many women throughout the centuries, Elizabeth longed for a child that did not come. Until he did in her old age. It’s quite the story.
Nicole, it’s an amazing story. And I’m excited to study it today. You know, the Bible is actually peppered with stories about women who had a hard time becoming mothers. Sarah, for example, knew that God had promised her husband, Abraham, that a great nation would come from their offspring and yet she waited decades until way past when conception was even possible. When Isaac was born Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was barren and watched as her sister, also Jacob’s wife, had four sons in a row. Hannah, mother to Samuel the prophet was also one of two wives and her rival the other wife had children and Hannah had none until she cried out to the Lord and begged once again, promising to dedicate that baby to the Lord. So story after story of heartache. I am at least glad that the two wife rivalry thing is less likely today, Nicole.
That does not sound fun at all. However, the pain of infertility is still very present. I know many a suffering woman who grieves every month when, once again she discovers that she is not expecting a baby. For four years of my marriage I was that woman. I can remember attending a baby shower once thinking I could handle it and having to leave before I absolutely ruined it by sobbing. I remember dreaming of holding a baby and waking up weeping when I realized it was just a dream. It was miserable. It was hard. And I think the worst of it is you don’t know how long it will last or if it will ever end.
Oh, I know it’s such a deep and terrible pain. Either of the wanting of a baby or the loss of one. It’s a strange grief I’ve found that comes in waves. You don’t just dream of or lose an infant. You feel like you’ve lost a whole lifetime with a growing person too, you know. I find myself saying goodbye to my child at many different stages. Goodbye to a baby and now goodbye to a preschooler and someday goodbye to a high schooler and so on. I think that’s why it’s a pain that seems to come up over and over again. We envision their whole life with us when we see or feel them for the first time. It can be really tough. Yes. I also know many friends who have tried to adopt or foster and have had their sweet kiddos taken back after sometimes years of loving them. The blessing of children can be wrapped in so much hurt because of how deeply we love them.
It’s so hard.
Yes. So today we’re going to look at Elizabeth, wife of a priest and a godly woman who was faithful all her life, despite her barrenness. You know, it was even harder on Elizabeth in those days, because many people believed that barrenness was a sign of God’s disfavor and that it meant you weren’t worthy of being a mother. Can you imagine?
So in addition to the normal heartache, let’s just heap on judgment and critical people whispering about you. I think the first amazing thing we should note about Elizabeth is that she remained faithful and sweet, despite it all.
Yeah, that’s really good.
So let’s have our Selah moment and let’s read Luke one, five, through 25 and listen to Elizabeth’s story. Nicole, you can go first and we’ll go back and forth.
All right, starting in verse five. When Herod was King of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth was also from the priestly line of Aaron.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.
They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the temple for his order was on duty that week.
As was the custom of the priests he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
While the incense was being burned a great crowd stood outside praying.
Speaker 2 (05:03):
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar.
Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
But the angel said, don’t be afraid. Zechariah, God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth will give you a son and you are to name him John.
You will have great joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.
And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.
He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.
Zechariah said to the angel, how can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now. And my wife is also well along in years.
Then the angel said, I am Gabriel. I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news.
But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long.
When he finally did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence, that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
When Zechariah’s week of service in the temple was over he returned home.
Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.
How kind the Lord is, she exclaimed. He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.
That’s so sweet at the end.
I know it. I mean just so… another miracle baby, really? Because she was too old to have kids. Wow. What a story. Well, let’s start by learning what we can about Elizabeth from reading this. What did you learn about it from this passage?
In the beginning, I thought it was interesting, they said that her husband was from a priestly line, but they also said that Elizabeth was from a priestly line.
I thought that’s interesting that they noted that. Usually they don’t follow the women’s (line).
And they followed her. It was honoring.
Yes. I like that.
There was something special about her.
Yeah. I liked that they said very clearly at the beginning that she followed all the regulations of the law. So what I felt like Luke was saying was it wasn’t Elisabeth’s fault that she didn’t have kids in a time where it felt like a disgrace not to. And the fact that she still did follow them. That even though, you know, she probably begged God year after year after year for a child and God kept her womb closed, but she didn’t pout. She didn’t say, well fine I’m not obeying you anymore. She did it all right anyways.
It is amazing because it takes a special kind of person to trust even when God’s answer is a resounding no.
To keep doing what you’re supposed to do. Well it says she was righteous in God’s eyes. So I think that her heart was in the right place. So she was following the law cause her heart, she really did love God and wanted to serve him. Even if she did keep getting a no over and over again.
And evidently she maintained a trust in him. And I admire that.
I do too. That’s a long time to pray and have a no.
It’s a long time to pray. And then at the end, when she has her pregnancy, she says, how kind the Lord is. She doesn’t say ‘you couldn’t have given this to me when I was young?
You know? Instead it’s just like, Whoa, thank you, God. There was no residual bitterness in her heart and that’s admirable too.
Because it’s very easy to get bitter when you’re like, why not me?
When everybody else is, why not me? I can remember my mother-in-law who lost two babies full term before she adopted Ray, my husband, saying that it was hard for her not to be bitter when she’d read about an abandoned baby. And she’d be like, why? I had a baby I wanted, and I couldn’t have the baby I wanted.
You know, and here’s this baby that nobody wants. So it is easy to let bitterness come in and we just don’t get it. And God’s plan doesn’t feel good at all to us. But Elizabeth handled it well.
Yeah. She didn’t let that lack of understanding cloud her, her heart for God.
So we don’t understand and we do get really frustrated and bitter so easily.
And she stayed sweet.
She did to the very end. I love her.
I love her.
I know. What a woman!
Yes, yes. You know, I find it so interesting that, you know, many of the special babies in the Bible were born to people that had to wait for them forever, you know, and to older women. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. I think God waited till it was physically impossible for humans to do it. And I think then there’s no doubt that, there is no question it was from him. If this older woman who’s been barren her whole life, all of a sudden conceives, it’s like, well that has to be God.
That has to be.
For that to be possible.
And then he gets all the glory.
He does. It’s like only I could do this.
Yes. And I also wonder if maybe a special value is put on a child that you have waited long for. Oh, if you’re young and you have children quite easily, Oh my word, you love them.
But they’re sort of expected.
You take them for granted almost.
Yeah. And when you’re in your nineties like Sarah was, you’re like, Oh, I need to treasure every moment with this child. So there may be a special value placed. I know with my mother-in-law, you know, losing two babies full term and just grieving it and in a family where everybody had five to seven kids.
Oh, wow. Yeah. And finally adopting Ray she just stared at him all the time.
Oh I’ll bet!
She adored him. And she said, I know it wasn’t polite, but when people would say what a beautiful baby, I wouldn’t say, Oh no, no. I’d say isn’t he? Look at him more!
He is. He’s magnificent.
She just was enthralled in a very unique way. You know? Not that we’re not all enthralled, but I just feel like there might be something special.
There is something a little… Well, like Hannah says in the Bible, ‘For this child, I have prayed’. Like there was such an outpouring of her heart because she had prayed and agonized over praying for Samuel. And then she had him and the fact that she was willing to give him up to the Lord to live at the temple.
Oh my goodness!
When she probably just wanted to hold him and look at him for days on end.
For days on end. Exactly.
That just shows I think that they fully understand what a gift that child was.
Right. And they’re older and maybe they have different ways of raising as well because they’ve had life experiences.
Probably more wisdom to slow down.
Maybe they slow down more because they’re old. But for whatever reason, a lot of those special babies came to women that had to wait. And in the end, the barren women are honored because of that waiting. So. Well, okay. It kind of pierces me that Elizabeth says in verse 25, he has taken away my disgrace of having no children. I feel so sad that she felt it was a disgrace. It’s not. It just is. Like cancer or like my Meniere’s disease and other stuff that happens to good and bad people alike because the fallen world we live in has evil in it. It just does. And perhaps sometimes through the suffering and through the waiting God molds a woman’s faith and character in gigantic ways. Perhaps he enlarges her heart to love on other little children through teaching Sunday school or providing foster care or adopting. All beautiful ways to nurture a child born not from one’s own womb. My family is full of beautiful adoption stories, Nicole. After Ray, my in-laws adopted Dianne and Scott, you know, three beautiful kids and my own granddaughter Emma is adopted and she is so cute. And she came after much grief and sorrow. So I love adoption stories.
Adoption is really amazing. My family has a bunch of adoption stories too. It’s really cool. I have cousins from all over the world now. It’s just the best.
I love it.
I have one particularly amazing cousin, Sharon, who, after having two beautiful girls of her own decided a few years later to start adopting; they have grown their family by 11 or 12?
They’re always in the process of adopting more so it’s hard to keep up. And many of these children have special needs or they’re victims of terrible neglect from countries that treat their orphans deplorably. But I absolutely love to see their updates and pictures. These kiddos literally blossom before your eyes. They often say on their updates, like, look what love can do. And it’s truly amazing to witness the transformation in these children’s lives from being in a safe home and just being loved so dearly. It’s so beautiful to watch.
I love it.
She’s like my superhero. I think she’s so cool.
She’s definitely a superhero. I had a superhero who was a single woman when I was young. Have you ever heard of Pioneer Girls?
You have? It was sort of the equivalent of Girl Scouts way back in the day. And we had Pals and Gals and so older women in the church would be a pal to a little gal in Pioneer Girls. And my pal was Mary Marjoram. She was in her fifties and she had never married and she had wanted to marry. So she was someone that not only did not get the blessing of children she also did not get the blessing of a marriage.
She loved me so well. She had me over to her little apartment. She lived in Magnolia by the water. She taught me of the Lord.
Speaker 3 (15:21):
She was another Elizabeth, you know, not bitter.
Not even, you know, depressed, just loving on a Pioneer gal as her own. And then in her late fifties, you’re not gonna believe this, she got married.
It was so fun; I’m like, what, how did that happen?! She had known this man at Gordon College, where she worked for years and you know, she had just known him professionally and his wife died and he remembered how sweet she was. So he looked her up, started dating her, married her. And then she had kids and grandkids galore.
So you just never know. Yeah, you never do. And I think God loves late surprises. And I think Mary Marjoram had a very happy life, all her life, both as a single and as a married person. So that’s very good. So anyways, Elizabeth, back to Elizabeth, here we are. What are we talking about here? Elizabeth is pregnant with an extraordinary child because John is going to be the four runner for Christ. His life was going to be wild and strange. I mean, eating locusts, I can’t even look at a locust. (Wowsers) It’s going to be vibrant and it’s going to be short. I’m kind of glad his mom and dad probably died before John’s beheading cause John was only in his late twenties or early thirties.
Oh, that’s right.
You know, I hope they had died. You know what I mean? I hope they had the joy of raising him, of knowing that he was going to proclaim Messiah and then God took them away so they didn’t have to see that. So how cool though, that this godly couple were assigned and chosen to raise John and teach him all he needed to know for the mission God assigned him before birth. Talk about God having a plan for your life. John’s was decided at the very beginning. So do you ever talk to your girls about that? I mean, I think we all have a plan for our life, although maybe not in that spectacular way John was told his?
Right, with such vivid detail. Yeah, no, I do talk to the girls. I try not to build it out to be all rainbows and sunshine you know? God works all things together for his good, even the hard things like we see in Elizabeth’s life and in John’s life as he ended up being beheaded. But I do tell my girls that if I teach them that he does have a plan for them, before he made the earth, he had this plan and that he loves them dearly and knows so much more than we could ever know. I’m praying that the hard things will lose their edge and they will cling to that verse in Romans eight, that all things work together for good and find hope in Christ in the hard times. So, you know, they can be like Elizabeth and not have that bitterness when something they’ve prayed for finally comes.
I think it makes all the difference in life to know that we were made with purpose.
It just does. If everything’s just random and hitting you, I can see why people would feel hopeless, but when hard things come and you can trust that, even in that hard thing, God has a kernel of goodness that is going to come from it and that he will use it for something good. There’s there’s purpose. There’s plan. There’s hope in that. So, and if you can instill that in your girls, Nicole, then they’ll be able to walk through the hard things, trusting that God’s got them, even in that hard place.
I pray that over them. I really do.
And I do that for my grandchildren too now as they’re growing up, that they would know that they have giftings that are unique to them. They have a story that is going to be played out that only they can do. And I always pray that they’ll fulfill that purpose. That’s one of my favorite prayers that they will fulfill the purpose for which they were made.
Yes, that’s a good prayer.
So, okay. We’re going to read one more Christmas passage. And this is about Elizabeth in her meeting with Mary. So let’s read again, Luke, one 39 through 45. Nicole, would you read that for us?
Sure. A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting Elizabeth’s child leaped within her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said’.
So what do we learn from Elizabeth from these verses?
We’ve said it before, but there’s no bitterness. How beautiful is that? She didn’t feel jealous or angry that Mary was stealing her moment because she’s expecting this miracle baby. And then her young cousin comes up with her miracle baby.
Who’s probably still a teenager.
Right. And there was no hesitation. The baby jumped for joy. She jumped for joy and she exclaimed wow, you are so blessed.
Isn’t that neat?
Her heart was so pure. And that just took me back to see that.
No trace of bitterness.
Yes. Just joy in both of them.
What remarkable women. And I want to know so much more about the story I always do.
The Bible would have to be 10,000 times as long as it is to answer all my questions. I’m like, how long did Elizabeth live? And was John an easy baby? I mean, we don’t know that.
He was a wild man maybe he was a wild toddler.
Yeah, he might have been. And when did they start to tell him about his mission? I mean, in the womb, he’s recognizing Jesus.
Did they need to tell him about his mission? Did he kind of know it? I don’t know. Was there an eagerness and a spirit to go to the wilderness and meet with God? Did he want to get away from people and crowds so that he could have sweet selah days and days and days? I mean, we struggle to find those two hours.
John’s like, no, let me just live out there with you, God.
No kidding. Wow.
And when did that passion to call people to repent and turn and give their hearts to God stir in him? That, you know, please look to God, repent from your sins. And did he play with Jesus when they were growing up? They were cousins.
Oh my goodness. How fun to think about that.
I just have this curious mind that’s like, I want to know more.
Right. About this story, what a story.
So when we get to heaven, Nicole, let’s sit down with Elizabeth and Mary.
Oh, how fun.
There’s eternity to do it. I think they’ll find time for us.
I hope so. Ladies, we have some questions.
We have so many questions. So anyways, okay, well it’s time for Christmas selah moments where we talk about how you, the listener and we as well can bring this beautiful story into our daily lives. Nicole, you go first.
All right. So I’m going to talk a little bit about what we can do with our kiddos. So as we get closer to Christmas and all the Christmas toy catalogs magically appear in the mail. My kids always find them before I get to throw them away. I feel like my kiddos start to get a little ‘mom, I need this for Christmas-crazy’. And you know, it gets to be too much. So I try to do one thing a year and it has changed every year, but we do it just to get our minds off of what we’re going to get and kind of on, Hey, what can we give? How can we bless somebody? So, each year we pick a ministry or an organization. So one year we did Samaritan’s Purse does the shoe boxes for kids. And you can pick one and pick the age and you get a shoe box or a little Rubbermaid container, the size of a shoe box. And you fill it with the things that they make a list of. So, you know, little toiletry items and toothbrushes and toys and games, and it’s really fun to take the kids to the store and have them pick out things that they may even want to give to somebody else. And there’s something, a little sobering, for my girls anyway, to see that this is all one child is going to get. It fits in a shoe box. That is their entire Christmas gift. So it just helps put in perspective how blessed they are. Cause I think our kiddos don’t always see the blessings they have.
So it kind of stems that ‘I want. I want’ for a little bit. Another year we had a little jar we called the giving jar and the girls do chores and they earn allowance and they could put, as they felt led some money into this giving jar and, you know, we helped cause you know, they don’t make that much money.
And then at the end about a week before Christmas, we would get out, Samaritan’s Purse again, has this little giving catalog and you can look through and pick out like a goat for a family and the milk supplies food for a year. Or some rabbits and they eat the bunnies and it provides for their family or chicken or whatever. And they have gifts from $20 to $2,000. You can provide water to a village. So super cool. So we see what we’ve saved up. And then we look through the catalog and we get to pick out something to give to a family in need. And it’s a good visual for the kids again, to see like, wow, this family is getting a goat for Christmas and not as a pet, but you know, to get the milk from and maybe eat later. And that supplies their needs. So just find an organization, there’s plenty of local charities too, that are great. Pick one, to pray for that charity, find a way to serve or to give something to them and, you know, get our minds off of what we’re always just wanting.
I love that. I mean, Jesus is the greatest gift. Really Christmas is about God giving himself. So to give something as an honoring of him at Christmas time, I really, really like that. That’s wonderful.
Are there any organizations that you like locally?
Well, with our girls. We did Compassion International. We adopted and paid monthly for kids to go to school and have a hot breakfast and lunch. And we followed these kids. I still know their names, Angel Wilfredo and Juan Orellana from like four years old, right through graduation. And Christmas was a special time where we could send them a special present and write them a Christmas letter. Their pictures were on our fridge. And it was just another reminder that not every kid grows up in a home with many rooms that have many presents for Christmas. And so I think it’s a wonderful way to just remind our kids that we need to give because we’ve been given so much. So, well done. I like that. So the idea is find something to give.
Find something anyway.
Someone to fund. Well now my Christmas selah moment for us is much simpler than the challenge to spend a big chunk of time with God. Although I’m hoping you’re doing that. I hope that sweet selah day reports start coming in so we know how you spent that time. This challenge is to have a Christmas lights remembering time.
Ooh, that sounds nice.
Yes, I named it (laughing). So this is what one does for a Christmas lights remembering time. First you get yourself a hot drink of your favorite variety, whatever that would be, and either curl up on your couch with all the lights off except candles and Christmas tree lights, or if you’re feeling spry, lay down on the floor and look up at those Christmas tree lights through the tree branches.
Up to you, depends on your temperament. Then let your mind wander back through the year, and boy was 2020 a year to wander back over, and remember the hard and the good and take time to thank God for both. Just a remembering time, kind of summarize the high and low points with God, you and he look at it together and then end your prayer remembrance time with a reaffirmation of your trust in God to help you through the year ahead.
Oh, I love that idea.
Isn’t that fun? Just a remembering.
To close out the year.
I think it kind of, yes, it closes out the year for you. I do it every year and I’ve never named it. I just named it cause we’re doing the podcast.
It’s a great name now.
But I do it. I love sitting with all the lights out except the Christmas lights and thinking about the highlights and just kind of chatting with God about it and noticing that even the hard things have taught me. Because otherwise you just kind of keep going without compartmentalizing and tidying them up and organizing them and seeing the purpose, we talked about the purpose.
I was just going to say that’s a perfect way to see how all things work together for good. Cause we forget, I look back and that’s why I keep a prayer journal. I’ll write a prayer to God and it’ll be something so intense or so, you know, I’ve longed for it. And then I forget to thank him or I forget to see what happened. So it’s a great way to go back and like, Oh yeah, that was awful but look what came from it.
See. Yeah, maybe you pull out your prayer journal on the Christmas lights remembering time.
And prayer journal reflection.
Yeah, but that’s the idea of it anyways and I think it will yield great fruit. I really do.
Yeah. Especially this year. I’ll definitely, I want to do that. I’m excited to try it out.
Alright then. That’ll be fun. All right. Well let us pray. I want to pray, especially for the mama or the hopeful to be a mama person that might be listening today and who has struggled because you’re listening to two women who do have children and grandchildren. And so I want to pray for you because we both have felt our own hurts in that regard. So. Heavenly Father, I lift up to you right now, the woman who is listening, who is longing for a child either because she’s lost one or because she’s never had the gift of one. And I ask Lord God that you would touch her with such sweet love. That you would remind her that she is precious, that you do indeed have a plan and purpose even in this hard thing. Hold her close, Lord. Give her victory over bitterness and fear. Be tender with her tonight. And Father, would you bless her with an answer to her prayers as you see best, may she be your servant looking to do your will. In Jesus name? Amen.
Amen. Thank you for listening today. We’d love to hear from you. So write us on our podcast page @sweetselah.org/podcast. This year for Christmas, Sharon and I are asking for the gift of a review of our podcast or perhaps a financial gift if you can. We’d be so grateful. You can give securely at our website, sweetselah.org/donations. Hope your Christmas planning goes well this week. We’ll see you back here next week for our last podcast of season two, episode 27, The Perfect Rescuer -Jesus’ Story. Have a wonderful week friends.
Speaker 4 (29:59):
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah ministries. More information about this podcast can be found @sweetselah.org. Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.