Women of the Bible Podcast

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Elizabeth - Week 2: The Bigger Picture

Season:  Elizabeth

Erin Davis: Welcome back to the Women of the Bible podcast. This is the “Elizabeth” season, and you’re in the Revive Our Hearts living room. We are walking through this Bible study together along with you.

I hope that you are gathering with friends as you read it. Bible studies are always better with friends. And I am with some friends.

If we were actually in my living room, I always start Bible studies with a quirky question. So this time as we are in week #2, I’m hoping that you can answer an age-old question for our listeners. I need to know the best mascara. Because my quest for the perfect mascara is never ending, and I’m hoping you have figured it out. So tell us your name, and tell us your mascara recommendation.

Alejandra Slemin: That’s a hard one for me because I normally don’t wear it. I just have it for very . . . I have the pink one.

Erin: With the green lid?

Alejandra: Oh, yeah, that one! What is it called? CoverGirl?

Erin: I don’t know. I just know it is pink with a green lid.

Meg Honnold: Your hair is so dark. It must just show up. If I went without mascara, it would be a sad day.

Alejandra: Well, my name is Alejandra. And . . . I like CoverGirl mascara?

Meg: My name is Meg. And I’m a CoverGirl. I do the lash blast volume.

Erin: It’s in the purple one?

Meg: It’s orange.

Erin: I’ve tried for years to find the perfect one. CoverGirl . . .

Meg: It’s cheap. You can get it at Walmart. It comes in a two pack now.

Erin: Does it give you raccoon eyes?

Meg: No, it does not. There is no little dusties underneath my lashes, either.

Erin: So those of you who are listening to the podcast, you just got some bonus tips and mascara to try. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ve tried the really expensive kinds . . .

Alejandra: If you have daughters, don’t buy expensive makeup.

Erin: Good advice, but I don’t have any daughters . . . just for the record.

Alejandra: The daughters will just wreck it.

Erin: Well, we are not here to talk about mascara. We are here to talk about Elizabeth, and what Elizabeth has to teach us about disappointment.

In episode one, we took our first peek into Elizabeth’s story. Her whole story of what we know is found in just one chapter in the Bible. It’s in Luke 1.

I think that a lot of the times when we look at Elizabeth, we look at her as kind of “background noise” to the arrival of the Savior—which, all of us are “background noise” to the arrival of the Savior. But we just get these snippets of her story leading up to the nativity and the announcement that Mary is going to have Jesus.

But we do know that Elizabeth faced years, we don’t know how many years, of infertility. The text tells us that she and her husband, Zechariah, were advanced in years. It’s a nice way of saying that they were old.

Meg: Very old! They were very kind about it.

Erin: And they had no children.

We have to assume a little bit that they wanted a child. Although, when the angel appears to Zechariah, he says, “the child that you’ve prayed for.” So they prayed for this child. And they faced a lot of years of disappointment.

So we are looking at her as sort of an example of how can we be women who face disappointment with grace.

The title of this session is: The Bigger Picture. What I’m so excited to talk about is how our disappointments can be an opportunity for us to preach the gospel. Then, maybe come these pearls. They were a source of frustration and irritation to us, but they become an opportunity for us to share the gospel.

We have to do a little bit of cultural context. That’s where it is good for us to read more than the verse so we have a broader understanding of Scripture.

But likely, there was an assumption among Elizabeth and Zechariah’s friends, among the people they went to the Temple with, that they had done something wrong; that there was some sin that caused Elizabeth’s womb to close.

I think, sometimes, many, many years later, we have that same assumption.

Alejandra: Centuries later we are still dealing with that.

Erin: Do you feel like when you face a disappointment, or maybe when somebody else is facing a disappointment, is there ever a corner of your heart that thinks, Who sinned here? What sin caused this? Can you speak to any examples?

Alejandra: Definitely. When something goes wrong . . . I mean, if you are in a car and it breaks down, you open the hood and check everything to make sure things are functioning well. You might call out for help. But definitely, you’re going to check in the inside.

So when something goes wrong in our home, checking on the inside of our home or the inside of our hearts . . . Or if it is someone else, you try to poke in there or question, “Hey, maybe you should have . . .” Those thoughts really cross our minds. And usually you don’t have the answer.

It’s hard to see both things at the same time. You’re going through the struggle and analyzing what did we do wrong.

Erin: It’s true that the Lord will allow consequences of sin in our lives. So it’s not that it’s never the case.

Alejandra: There are struggles that we have nurtured ourselves.

Meg: I think especially when it’s a disappointment that goes over a long span of time and you’ve looked for the answers and you’ve dug through the “whys” and “how do we fix it?”

I think that’s when it is especially tempting whether it is you or if you are looking at the life of a friend to go, “Well, we’ve tried all these other things. It must be something we’ve done. This has to be a consequence, because what else would the answer be?”

Erin: The way I tend to think about it is sort of little girlish. Like, Why are you mad at me? He must be mad at me. I’ll pray all the prayers, like, “Search my heart, O God, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” I’ll repent, and I don’t know what I’m repenting of.

One of our little boys, we call him Noble the Repenter. Because he’ll come to us all upset. I’ll say, “What’s the matter?”

He’ll be like, “I, I, I thought about doing something bad.”

We’re like, “Buddy, until you actually sin, you don’t have to tell anybody.”

So I have a little of that attitude, “I must have done something to disappoint You, Lord, and I don’t know what it is, and I’m so sorry.”

That can be devastating when really, the source of disappointment, as in the case of Elizabeth, was not a consequence of sin. In some ways, it might be because the Lord wants to use that for something better for His glory.

So there’s a story that we talk about in session two. You girls have your Bibles. If you are listening with us and you’re not in your car, grab your Bible and turn to John 9. If you are in your car, please do not try to look this up and drive.

But here in John 9 Jesus heals a man who was born blind. I’m going to give a quick read over of these verses, John 9:1–12:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.

So like Elizabeth, this is a man who was blind a long time. We don’t have the exact number of years.

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

If you are listening and you have access to your Bible, I would encourage you to underline that sentence. I have it underlined in my Bible.

"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). [Underline that in your Bible.] So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

So this is in a generation of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. We know that since Jesus is walking the earth. And still this idea that because this man is facing this, this disappointment or challenge or disability or pain, somebody must have sinned.

That’s what the disciples said. That’s their first question. The disciples who had walked with Jesus, who had heard Jesus teach at some point, who had heard some version of the gospel, they are going, “What caused this?”

Jesus, of course, always in teacher mode uses it to teach. He says, “It was not this man’s sin or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

I have written in my Bible, “Sometimes hardship is allowed so that God may be glorified.” Sometimes I think the source of disappointment is not sin. It is the glory of God. That flips a switch for me.

Can you think of a time in your own life where it wasn’t clear, but in hind sight you can see that that season of disappointment or struggle was for the glory of God.

Meg: You mentioned that in the middle of it we didn’t see . . . There was a situation where my dad really brought it to the attention of us kids. My younger sister had a brain injury when she was two. All years growing up she dealt with seizures. We shared a bedroom growing up.

One particular night I woke up to her in a grand mal seizure, which is just the most horrific thing you can imagine a person going through. Once she had calmed down and it was over and the ambulance had left and we were all just sitting in the living room at two o’clock in the morning, or something . . .

I was just trying to breathe and once again going, “why?” My dad said something at the time that I didn’t quite comprehend but that becomes clearer with time. He said, “Stephanie is chosen. God trusts her with this disappointment. He will work His goodness through it.”

I love that he had the wisdom at the time to not question, “What has Stephanie done wrong? What have we as parents done wrong?” But to say, “God has trusted her. It’s an honor that He uses disappointments to work His glory into our lives.”

At the time, I just remember thinking, What? But it becomes clearer and clearer with time. I can see it in Stephanie’s life, but also in the life of our entire family as we learned to walk through that disappointment and to see it as He’s bringing fruit out of this hard, hard time.

Erin: Your dad could have faced that same circumstance, which he’s faced for many years, kicking and screaming and raising a rebel fist at the Lord. “You don’t love me. You’re not good.”

Where I tend to default is Eeyore, like, “Ohhh nooo. God doesn’t love me.” And default to feeling some sort of misplaced shame or guilt. Not that it wasn’t hard. But he faced that hard thing with trust in the Lord, that the Lord was bringing redemption to your sister’s life and your family’s life.

That’s really an example we see in Elizabeth. She has this trust in the Lord. And the Lord brings her plenty . . . She gets to be the mother of John the Baptist, who declares the way.

There is a sentence in the study that I find great hope in. “I wouldn’t choose this, but I embrace it.”

I think there is a tenderness in saying to the Lord, “I don’t want this.” Your sister didn’t want to have many seizures a day. Your dad doesn’t want his girl to not be healed. But the only way I think we can embrace it is because we trust God’s promise, the He will work it to our good; and then that He’s going to be glorified through it.

So whatever we face, we can look it in the eye and say, “I wouldn’t choose this, but I embrace this.”

We see that in Christ. As He’s going to the cross, He’s honest about the fact that, “If it be possible, I’d rather just cut that.” We would say it, “I wouldn’t choose this.”

Then He gets to the best “but” in all of Scripture: “But not my will, but your will be done.” It’s always what we say after the “but” that makes it real. His ultimate surrender to the Father is, “I don’t want this.”

I sometimes marvel that in His sovereignty, He knew every thorn that was going to pierce His head. He knew every milli-second that He was going to have to hang on that cross. There was no blindness to it.

Could it be that we still have lists in our Christian circles of do’s and don’ts to have a happy life? You know, that book you glance at when you walk in the bookstore or the library? Like: Nine Steps to Have a Cleaner Home. Or, Five Steps to a Happier Life. This is even in Christian bookstores, like, there’s nothing wrong with picking up that book and looking through it.

I think we all have that temptation of making a list of the “right” man. Or, making a list of how the “right” family should look. Or, making our projection. Some people have a board and they put pictures up of how they project their next ten years life. Like, think of the good things and you will attract it.

As Christians, in the Word we are totally challenged to a very different lifestyle of God setting the path for us to walk on.

Meg: And trust that path that He chooses. I want that goodness worked in my life, but I don’t necessarily like the way that He is choosing to do it.

I love this passage that the Lord choose to use mud to work His healing in this man’s life. Because, isn’t that what it feels like going through disappointments? “You could have used something else, but You slapped some mud on my eyes!”

Erin: We think we’ve got to follow these checklists, and the Lord just picks up some dirt.

Alejandra: It happens in marriage. When we were single, we made our lists. The man I marry should be: this, this, this. I’m not trying to discourage younger girls to not make a list because that sets some kind of guidance. But in the sense of, “He had all this before we were married, and now we are married, and it seems that he is a stranger.”

Then you feel disappointed because it’s not going as you planned. But if we think of it is not my life, it’s not my plans. It’s His life. It’s His plans. It’s for His glory. Then I think we will embrace things as they go through Him or from His hand for this season of life. This cup was prepared for me. It was given to me by a loving Father.

Erin: The choice is ours. The circumstances we don’t get to choose. The disappointments we don’t get to choose. The timeline we don’t get to choose. What we do get to choose is whether our focus will be on our comfort or God’s glory. And that’s a constant choice.

I wake up in the morning and that’s the choice. Is today going to be about my comfort, which is what I crave, or God’s glory. That informs every decision that I make after that.

It doesn’t make hard things less hard. But I think we struggle when hard things feel meaningless. To have to go through something hard and it be meaningless is unbearable. When things are hard and meaningless, that’s when they are unbearable.

We have four sons, three of which have serious kidney issues. I remember with the first just feeling like “why?”

Alejandra: What did I eat during this pregnancy?

Erin: These boys have to endure this. The second one came along, and he was a healthy kid. We thought we were through the woods on it. I get pregnancy again, and Judah, the third, has serious kidney issues. They had to do surgery on his kidneys when he was ten months old.

They took him from me. They take your baby, and there’s this point of no return. You hand your baby over to the surgeons. I was in the emotional fetal position then. Then physically I curled up in the waiting room.

My pastor was there. My mom was there. My sister was there. My husband was there. This is why you need people of faith around you. What they were saying to me was things like: The Lord is going to use Judah’s life. The Lord is going to use this moment. And, I can endure it for that. I can endure almost anything for the glory of God. If I go, “Okay, I don’t like this, but if God can be glorified, then this has value.”

That’s what we see in Elizabeth’s life. The Lord used her infertility. There’d be a little less wonder to the story if at the point of John’s birth Elizabeth already had a brood of children, and the Lord hadn’t had her waiting all these years. There’s something about the story that’s, “The Lord was in that!”

Alejandra: How deep difficult circumstances dig into our lives and into our emotions. I find that is so important in happiness and joy to take aside a little time to stop and think, What do I believe? What do I put my trust in? What do I think Christianity is?

Losing my dad three months ago I asked the Lord, “Why?” He said, “I want to you to need Me now as father.” Even being a believer since I was seven, I probably was never so deep into needing God as my father.

So when we go through struggles, thinking, God, what do you want me to do with this? I might not respond right away. But asking Him, “How can I honor You? How can I please You in this process?” It could be short. It could be long. We definitely know how the story is going to end, if we read Revelation. But in the process, it’s a bit of a bridge to get there.

Having the hope of God is with me . . . He wants me to know Him in a different way than I knew Him before.

What we read in the book of Acts 20:24, “But I do not count my life as any value, nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I receive from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Wow, we have so many plans. We have so many dreams, so many hopes. There are so many quotes that help you pursue that. But I think this verse really brings us down to earth and shows us: Do not account your life as your own. There is a purpose, and it is to fulfill the ministry God has called you to.

For Jesus, that ministry was the cross. For John, that ministry was to endure pain, hardship, death for his faith—difficulties. We’re not going to be exempt from that.

Erin: For Elizabeth it was waiting and waiting and waiting. And then strange ways that the Lord answers this prayer with a husband who is struck mute. Then there’s more waiting, and then there’s pregnancy in advanced years, which couldn’t have been fun! And it was all for the glory of God.

I think, What changes? The scenery of everything for us is when we realize, “My unfulfilled longings are gospel opportunities.”

I pray this prayer pretty often when something hard happens. I pray, “Jesus, I need You so much, and I know it now.” I forgot for a minute, but I know it now.

I would say to the woman listening. Whatever disappointments it is that you face, you can pray that prayer, “I need You so much, and I know it now. I wouldn’t choose this, but I embrace it because it is an opportunity to display the gospel.

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About the Teachers

Alejandra Slemin

Alejandra Slemin

Alejandra is a sinner who believed in Jesus at the age of seven in her native country, Dominican Republic. She is a wife and homeschool mom. She's passionate about Christ, studying the Scriptures, discipling, teaching, and learning alongside women. Currently, she supports her husband as he serves as a church planter in Victoria, BC, Canada. Alejandra loves herbs, designing headbands with her daughter, being outdoors, and serving her community.

Meg Honnold

Meg Honnold

Meg Honnold is a podcaster in Missouri. She has a hilarious husband, a tendency to burst into song, and a pile of dishes always in the sink. To share your story or just say hi, you can reach out to Meg@YouNeverAsked.org.

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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