The most common pregnancy is an unplanned one. Or at least it seems that way, especially when you’re trying for a baby, and others get pregnant unexpectedly. More than one dear friend, as well as myself, has experienced the deep frustration and aching disappointment that accompanies such a journey. If there was ever a woman who could empathize with us, it would have to be Elizabeth. Elizabeth was married to a priest named Zechariah. She herself was also a decedent of priests, and they had no children. At least, they don’t have any children at the beginning of their story. Through Elizabeth’s story of building a family, we can glean some life-changing truths.
- Elizabeth followed God no matter what her circumstances were.
Being childless is not easy, but it was especially not easy in the 1st century AD. A childless couple faced an uncertain future as they began to age. Who would care for them when they were sick? Who would provide for them when they could no longer work? More than that, many people viewed childlessness as a punishment for sin, and most unfairly placed blame on the wife. Beyond financial security, now Elizabeth also lacked social standing. More than that, Elizabeth had a rich faith heritage in which important women of the faith who were unable to conceive became miraculously pregnant (Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, Hannah, Samson’s mother). Why them and not her? Pangs of disappointment, an ambiguous future, an unjust reputation, Elizabeth had every cause to wallow, to go her own way, to become bitter. Instead of allowing her circumstances to dictate her faith, she followed God anyway and was considered righteous and blameless by God (Luke 1:6).
- Elizabeth honored and celebrated God’s work and blessings in other women.
Eventually, Elizabeth experiences her miracle. An angel visits her husband to share the news that they will have a child, and this child will do incredible things and will help people come back to God (Luke 1:11-17). “He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,” the angel says—an understatement for anyone who has the longing of a child fulfilled. Elizabeth is six months pregnant with this joy bringer when her little cousin, Mary, comes for a visit. This ordinary girl will become of the mother of Jesus, and as soon as Elizabeth makes the connection that her cousin is far from “little” anymore, Elizabeth is elated. She encourages Mary with these words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43). Elizabeth is humbled by Mary’s visit, and in her humility, we see a lack of comparing on Elizabeth’s part. Elizabeth's baby will be special, but Mary's baby will be God and will save the world. How easy would it be to start the mom comparison game early! Instead of becoming jealous of what Mary gets to do, instead of wondering why Mary and not her, Elizabeth simply celebrates Mary’s calling and blessings. God’s work in Elizabeth’s life is not diminished by God’s work in Mary’s. All is good, and all is worth praise.
Movement Step: Take a moment to reflect on your circumstances. Are you moved by them? Or do you move through them to a place of faith? Consider also how you might celebrate what God is doing in women around you, much like Elizabeth did for Mary.