We’re all familiar with the saying, “Patience is a virtue,” but have you ever tried explaining that to a child under the age of eight? Virtue can be a big word for a youngster trying to understand the concept of moral excellence. Couple that with teaching the importance of waiting calmly, and it seems like an impossibility.
Yet, even for adults, understanding the virtue of patience can be a hard, troubling notion.
We want answers to our problems, understanding to our hurts and concerns, and certain material possessions right when we want them.
Waiting is not something people in general typically do well.
Maybe more important than understanding the virtue of it, we should recognize that patience is one of the Fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5. Paul includes it as one of nine attributes that flows out of a believer living in accord with the Holy Spirit.
In this season of Christmas, one mighty example of patience worthy of our focus would be the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah. This couple – both of whom came from priestly descent – were happily married, busily serving the Lord, and always welcoming and doing good to those around them. But, they were childless and already well along in years (Luke 1:7).
So when Zechariah was met by an angel who told him that their wait for a child was coming to an end, he had his doubts. He and Elizabeth were old, and they waited patiently for a very long time to no avail. It’s easy to understand how he struggled to fully believe this news.
He may not have been the only person doubting the Lord at that time. When the angel approached Zechariah in the temple, over 400 years had gone by since God spoke to his people in any manner. They awaited a promised Savior, and God was silent for generations.
For his doubts, God muted Zechariah until his son, John the Baptist, was born. Some biblical scholars believe that in addition to being mute, Zechariah may have lost his hearing. His communication went from much ease to almost impossible. He had just witnessed a message from the Lord with great news – and he couldn’t tell anyone!
Fast forward a few months to where Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Her relative from Nazareth entered their home, unexpected, for there was no way for the hosts to know of her long journey to visit them.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
Don’t miss this! Again, Elizabeth knew nothing of Mary’s visit or her astonishing news. Even if Zechariah had heard Mary approaching, he couldn’t verbally alert Elizabeth to their coming visitor. The Holy Spirit spoke through Elizabeth as she immediately yelled out, “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)?
In Liz Curtis Higgs’ book, Women of Christmas, she points to a revelation in Elizabeth’s welcoming speech to Mary. “Wait a minute, Elizabeth. Not the Lord, but your Lord? Yes. Elizabeth just made her confession of faith, and Jesus wasn’t even born yet. Thirty years would come and go before he would be tempted by Satan in the wilderness, start preaching about repentance, then call his first disciples. Even so, Elizabeth proclaimed him Lord while he was still being formed in his mother’s womb.”
When we look to lessons on patience in this beautiful, God-ordained story, it’s important to note that God is at work while we wait.
Zechariah had many months to think and pray while he could not easily communicate with anyone. When his voice returned, he immediately spoke words of praise to God (Luke 1:64). Once pregnant, Elizabeth had nine months to wait for her child to be formed and born into the world. During her wait, she was honored with a magnificent encounter with Jesus and his mother! And together, after their years of waiting for a child, Elizabeth and Zechariah were blessed to raise a son who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
When we embrace the wait, we can fully experience the power of God’s perfect timing. It offers us a special season for growth and transformation, along with the knowledge that God is fully in control. Our waiting is not meant to be passive. It’s meant to actively stretch us to grow deeper in our relationship with Him.
Remember to welcome the pause, because in every wait, big or small, God is working to show us his glory!