Read and pray through Genesis, chapter 38.
Reflection | While I revisited the story of Anna, I happened upon a sermon quote from Pastor Chris that I had written in my bible back in 2017. The quote said, “Real contentment in life comes from knowing who we are waiting upon and knowing that our waiting is not in vain.” Even though this quote was about Simeon, as I read it, I felt it was a perfect description of Anna, her story, and our story with Jesus.
Anna experienced devastating loss early in life, loss that not only left the absence of her husband, but also the absence of her status and provision within the society she lived. Curiously, she lives in the temple and devotes her time to worshipping, fasting, and praying. Anna is devoted to the Lord, and as we see from verse 37, she lives in the presence of the Lord. This is what allows her to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and she not only gives thanks to the Lord, but also, “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna, despite her circumstances, has chosen contentment in the Lord and His promises. In circumstances that could turn any heart bitter and hardened against God, she chooses to worship the Lord, to abide and rest in the presence of her God. Instead of fleeing God’s presence, she presses harder than ever into it. As a result, Anna finds contentment because she knows who she is waiting upon in life. Anna was a prophet, and while we often think of prophets being able to see the future, that was not their role. Prophets in the bible, encountered God, and would see things that were unseen at the time. Regardless, Anna does not have some special lens into the future that gives her a hope, she has an intentional relationship with the one who gives her hope. She chooses to devote herself to the Lord and submit her life to His will. She draws near daily, moment by moment, to the God of Psalm 68:5,
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,[a]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
Furthermore, she knows her redemption does not lie in the hands of the people around her or the circumstances surrounding her. She knows her redemption does not lie within earthly boundaries. Anna, in all her years as a widow, knows that her waiting is not in vain. She does not rely on a mortal man to be her redeemer. She presses forward in all her years on earth knowing her redemption is with God. Consequently, when she meets Jesus, she knows immediately that her redemption, as well as everyone else’s, is come with the child standing before her, the one who is God incarnate, the promised Messiah.
Are we living our lives, “waiting upon the Lord”, or are we only waiting for the Lord when we simply want Him show up and fix things? Are we relying on a fix that will clean up our messes temporarily, or are we fixed on the Messiah who makes all things new? There is a distinct difference. Temporary fixes look like self-sufficiency, idolatry, and division. Reliance on anything other than God creates a tone-deaf view of the Gospel, where we misrepresent who God is and His love for us. We cannot wait for something that we keep blowing past on our own accord. The pace in which we attempt to wait upon the Lord, reminds me of the fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise”. Here is a quick summary, there is a hare who mocks a tortoise for his slow pace, to which the tortoise challenges a race. The hare is utterly confident in his own abilities to win the race and part way through takes a nap while the tortoise continues slowly, but steadily toward the finish line. When the hare wakes up to the tortoise near the finish line, he runs as fast as he can, but loses ultimately to the tortoise. The hare is the pace in which we often rely on ourselves to move forward, rather than on Jesus, and in the end, we are found to be sleeping, forgetting where our hope and our life should be, in the future hope of Jesus.
Anna reminds me of the tortoise, steadily focused on Jesus as the finish line, confident in the Lord and that He will ultimately bring her to the finish line by whatever means if she focuses on Him. She embodies on of my favorite verses of scripture, form Hebrews 12:1-3,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Anna did not “grow weary and lost heart”, she ran the race with perseverance, continuously coming to the Lord for her strength and endurance. In life here on earth, we are in the same race, which is more like a marathon rather than a sprint. We are to, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” including the sin of self-sufficiency, the very first sin that befell humanity in the garden. In that race, we will sometimes experience delays and the unexpected, but we know who we are “fixing our eyes on” and that is Jesus. Therefore, when we are truly “waiting upon the Lord” we are living in true and lasting contentment because we know that our Lord has already redeemed us, we know what awaits us after the finish line. Even though we know the outcome, we “wait upon the Lord” in true hopeful expectation knowing that Jesus has secured our redemption and salvation, and that the brokenness of this world is simply temporary. We do not rush ahead like the hare, by the means of our strength. We like Anna, our metaphorical tortoise, need to lean daily and wholeheartedly into the strength that Jesus gives us to persevere and continue the race before us, bearing witness to His grace and His goodness.
Whatever season of life you are currently in, remember that the Lord does not abandon us in our hour of need. While we may want Him to magically make all our hardships, all our sorrows, and pain disappear, that would not provide for us the ultimate healing our hearts need. We may feel that a quick fix will make everything better, but what our hearts truly need is Jesus’ redemption, moment by moment day by day. We need to live in the expectant hope that his birth promised so long ago but is the very same promise for us today. May we think of Anna and truly give thanks for the gift that Jesus is to our lives, the ultimate redemption of our lives and everlasting contentment. Fix your eyes on Jesus! Amen.
Consider & Discuss | Where in your life do you most default to self-sufficiency? What keeps you from relying on Jesus? How does Anna and her story remind you the importance of “waiting upon the Lord”. Looking back on seasons of waiting in your life (past or current), where did you see yourself “waiting upon the Lord” versus waiting for him to just fix your situation? If it is a current season, how can you “wait upon the Lord” instead of waiting upon a resolution? Find a verse to remind you of your need to rely on Jesus.
Prayer Focus | Lord, May I be reminded of the truths of my weaknesses. May I look to those weaknesses as strength as they push me to rely on you rather than myself. May I have the perseverance and endurance, like Anna, to run the race with my eyes fixed on you, never losing sight of you. And when I do lose sight, let me seek your light in the darkness. Thank you for waiting for me with open arms, Jesus. Even when I stumble, you are always willing to catch me. I pray I lean into your care, your grace, and your truth daily. Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!