I’m quite good at throwing pity parties, and this fall and winter, I think I’ve excelled in this area. I’ve even invited others to join me. But leave it to God to crash the party with some heart-illuminating truth. Truth revealed through an ancient widow living in a time when life for widows appeared hopeless. After seven years of marriage, her husband died, leaving her destitute. She didn’t have access to welfare. No life-insurance policies or thrift plans to fall back on. So what was a woman to do? Why, isolate in her misery as she bemoans her situation to all who might listen, of course.
Hardly. She turned her eyes upward and focused on serving God in whatever capacity she could.
And God rewarded her for it by allowing her to catch a glimpse of the long-awaited Savior.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him (Luke 2:36-39 NIV).
Notice how she spent her time. Not complaining or lamenting but instead, worshipping. She turned her eyes off herself and her situation and placed them on her true treasure–God. And God showed up when she was 84. After 50, maybe 60 or more, years of patient serving.
We all have obstacles, heartaches, trials that come our way. Constraints on our time. And when our energy wanes or our health fails or our schedule balloons, it’s easy to focus on what we can’t do. We might even be tempted to throw a pity party or two, but God expects more. He wants us to take our focus off ourselves, placing it where it belongs–on Him, anxiously awaiting His blessings, His guidance, His nudges.
More than that, He wants us to anxiously await His presence. Daily. Moment by moment.
I loved this fun yet thought-provoking post written by Billy Coffey. Pop on over to read about his missing Jesus (Thanks to fellow LBG hostess and co-author of our tween devotional, the Story of Faith, Joanne Sher for sharing this post on her FB wall!) then come back here to share an idea or two on how we can keep our focus and our hopes on our Savior, anxiously awaiting His presence each day and celebrating not the tinsel, lights, and presents but the miraculous gift of Immanuel. A gift so amazing, so life changing, that upon encountering God in flesh, prophet Simeon could proclaim:
Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 which You have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32.)
You can now dismiss Your servant in peace. Simeon’s life dream had been fulfilled. He longed not for wealth, health, prestige, or promotion, but instead, to encounter God Almighty.
Can you say the same? This Christmas season, where do your expectations lie?
Let’s talk about this. Anna and Simeon had one thing in common–something I believe enabled them to experience great joy despite trials and setbacks. They focused not on being served but instead, on serving. And they appeared to have but one expectation or hope–encountering the living God. As I read their accounts, I wondered how many of my frustrations and heartaches come from expectations not fulfilled. How might centering my expectations on Christ and Christ alone affect my day? My Christmas?
Join me at Living by Grace as we share ideas on how to focus our expectations not on the events surrounding Christmas but instead, the Person who initiated the season to begin with.
Some questions to ponder and discuss:
1) Can expectations hinder our joy, and if so, how?
2) What are some signs our focus needs readjusting?
3) What are some ways we can grab hold of joy when stress or trials abound?
4) How can you anxiously await God’s presence today?
(You might also enjoy this devotional titled Battle in the Night, written by one of the Proverbs 31 women, that provides tools for grabbing hold of peace and joy when our crazy thoughts attempt to plunge us in angst and despair.)
And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.
And before you go, I wanted to congratulate Mary Preston for winning last week’s book give-away. Mary, pop over to Linore’s website to choose what novel you’d like her to send you. And I’ll be shooting you an email soon to get your mailing address.