While I was serving in the Cayman Islands, a middle-aged woman once asked if she could meet with me. She’d been attending church services for a few weeks, and a cloud of sadness hung over her. When she came to my office she told me she had one son but had suffered six or seven miscarriages. She had one question: “Why is God punishing me?”
Our disappointments will either make us bitter or make us better. Our disappointments have a way of producing terrible theology and denials of God’s goodness. That morning I told this depressed woman, “Though I cannot explain why God has entrusted you with so much suffering, I know God is good.” My words seemed to her an empty platitude. In Elizabeth and Zechariah’s case, the striking thing is that they handled a lifelong disappointment and social shame with righteousness and blamelessness before God. They served God even though they did not have what they wanted.
Being righteous and blameless does not mean a challenge-free life, exemption from heartaches, or that every desire will be granted. If you serve God for what you can get, then you actually serve yourself. That, beloved, is the prosperity gospel, not the biblical gospel. The righteous person is not free from suffering because he serves the Lord. We do not get everything we want just because we live well. We may live well past the years of possibility without receiving our hope; but if we are God’s people, we will live righteously anyway because God is our hope.
Elizabeth and Zechariah endured this very test. Their examples provoke us to ask, Will we serve God faithfully through our disappointments? No child. No husband. No dream job. No dream house or car. Will God mean more to us than all those things though we receive none of them?