How old is too old to serve God? At what point do you decide it’s time to let the young people do the serving? How do you plan to spend your final days?
We meet Anna in Luke chapter 2. Her story is told in just three verses, but wow! What a lot of information is included in those three verses. In Luke 2:36 we learn that Anna was a prophetess of the tribe of Asher. We also learn that she was of a great age. She had lived with a husband seven years and was a widow of about eighty-four years. Depending on how you interpret that, she could have been eighty-four years old. Or, she could have been eighty-four plus seven plus however old she was before she got married. In other words, over one hundred. However you interpret it, she was no spring chicken.
But verse 37 tells us that she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. She lived at the temple, serving God 24 hours a day. And because she was at the temple, she was able to witness when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem for his baby dedication. She happened to be walking by when Simeon held Jesus in his arms and acknowledged him as the long awaited Savior. She gave thanks to God for being allowed to witness such a special moment then processed to she about Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
What an inspiring story of hope and encouragement! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel old and discouraged. I get tired of serving. I wonder if my best years are behind me. I can only imagine that Anna felt that way.
For seven years she was married. In that time she never had children. Then her husband died, leaving her all alone. A childless widow was pretty low on the social scale of her time. She could have easily given in to grief and self pity and let other people take care of her. But that’s not the route she chose for her life. Instead, she used her singleness as an advantage. Without husband or child to take care of, she could devote herself completely to her Lord.
Whereas most would have grown bitter, Anna grew better. Morning and night she devoted herself to prayer and fasting. As a woman who had suffered much, she understood the suffering of those around her. I imagine her tucked away in a corner of the temple watching as women entered, their heads bowed, their shoulders sagging. As they’d kneel down to pray, pouring out their hearts to the Lord, begging Him for mercy and grace, I can see her heart breaking as she joined them in prayer. Most of the time she might not have a clue what they were praying for. Yet, still, she could intercede with them knowing that God knew their needs. And then, as they would stand up to leave, she might gently walk over to them with outstretched arms, ready to share in their grief or distress, perhaps sharing a few words of hope or encouragement.
The Bible calls her a prophetess, so it might be that God gave her special insight so that she knew without a word what it was that they were dealing with. Or maybe He just provided her with words of scripture that she might share at just the right time.
Decades spent watching other people pour out their hearts to the Lord, seeing God answer prayers for them, observing couples joining together in marriage, bringing their little ones in to be dedicated, watching the little ones grow up and then becoming parents themselves. At times she must have felt like life was passing her by. Surely, in her darkest moments she must have questioned if she was still useful to God, if He still needed her. Nonetheless, she continued faithfully serving, trusting that God would let her know when her time was up.
And then, on that day when she was quietly going along about her business, and she saw Simeon holding a baby and declaring Him as the Redeemer, it all came together. All those years of service were rewarded.
In that moment, all suffering was forgotten as Anna rejoiced in the blessing of being one of the first people to witness the young Messiah. And though she was old, she was given renewed energy as she shared about Him to all those who would listen.
Can you imagine? As those same women would enter the temple worn down by weariness, Anna, her face glowing, could embrace them and tell them not to worry, that the promised Messiah had come. Many probably dismissed her as a delusional old woman. But to those who listened with open hearts, God used Anna to bring them hope.
What about you? Have you gone through difficult times? How have you reacted to those difficulties? Have you given into them or have you given them to God?
If you’re alone this season, are you focused on the loneliness or are you using your aloneness as a gift to share with others who are hurting?
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We may start off with visions of grandeur of what our future is going to look like, but 2020 has taught us that nothing is guaranteed. We can’t avoid disappointments. But how we treat those disappointments will mold us into who we become in later years.
When we’re feeling alone this season, may we remember Anna and how she used her aloneness as a blessing.
When we’re feeling old and useless, may we reflect on how God remembered Anna and used her in her later years.
When we are blessed by getting to know the Messiah, may we not forget to share the good news with all those around us.
Lord God, thank You for always remembering us and never forgetting us. Thank You for the way You take our trials and turn them into our strengths. Thank You for allowing each and every one of us to serve You regardless of our age or social status. Thank You for revealing Yourself to each of us and making Yourself known to us. Forgive us those times we grow discourage and lose hope. Help us to continue in our service even when we see no glory. Give us the strength to go on when no one acknowledges what we’re doing. Comfort us when it seems we’re wasting our time. Fill us with Your love and mercy. Remind us of Your ever presence, that You never leave us or forsake us. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. Anna was the last in our Women of Christmas series, but I’ve got a exciting episode planned for next week. I’ve invited a number of my fellow female podcasters to join me for a special Women of Christmas series where they each share thoughts on their favorite woman and insights they’ve learned about her. You’ll not want to miss it!
Bible Study Review
- How old was Anna?
- How did she spend her days?
- What did she do after witnessing baby Jesus?
Thoughts to Ponder
- What might a New Testament prophetess have done?
- Why did Anna choose to spend her days and nights at the temple?
- Why didn’t Anna retire from her temple work and let others take care of her?
- If you were left a childless widow at a young age, how would you respond?
- Do you ever get discouraged, wanting to quit God’s work and let others do it it?
- What motivates you to keep serving God?
Mark your calendars for next week’s special Women of Christmas Crosscast where I’ve invited fellow podcasters to share about their favorite woman of Christmas. It releases Monday morning so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it all Christmas week.
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