Covid-19 means we are living in a deeply unsettling time. Life for many is a suspended state of unknowns. We have found ourselves in an unprecedented, confined, season of waiting. ‘Wait’ isn’t a word we typically like to hear. Anyone who has witnessed a hungry baby delayed from receiving their milk will have seen the frustration and panic that we, even as adults, feel when we are made to wait.
Some families have been thrown together and are juggling work and home-schooling. Others are separated from grandchildren, older children or ‘shielded’ loved ones. Many are completely alone and have not seen anyone for weeks. All are struggling as we await the lifting of the lockdown. Jobs have been lost. Exams have been cancelled. Much-needed operations have been postponed. Those who work in our NHS and in the care sector are under unprecedented strain. We wonder what a post Covid-19 world will look like and when will it come?
In Luke 2:36-37 we read, ‘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, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.’
We know very little about her; the account in Luke is Anna’s only mention in Scripture. But the little we are told is relevant to our situation today – waiting dominated this elderly widow’s life. But hers was an active waiting. She spoke God’s word and worshipped, fasted and prayed within the confines of the temple.
She could persevere because she knew her God and trusted in His steadfast love and faithfulness. The Scriptures reminded her that what He promises comes to pass – a people for Himself, rescued from captivity, sustained through the wilderness, brought into the Promised Land. And still to come, a Messiah who would dwell among us, bringing forgiveness, redemption and an eternal future for all who trust in Him.
Her waiting was rewarded with a personal encounter with the promised Saviour. ‘Coming up to [Mary, Joseph and Simeon] 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’ (Luke 2:38). Her waiting was over.
We face a very different situation to Anna, but we share the same faithful God. For some, waiting might feel tedious, frustrating and a strain. Sadly, for others, waiting will be a time of trauma, emotional pain and loss. As we wait, we too can wait with hope, resting on the character and promises of God. Growth in grace, love and faith may look very different, according to what God asks of us whilst we wait. Tedium-filled grumbling and frustration can be redeemed by active, sacrificial service of others. Trauma, sadness and loss can be redeemed through passive, necessary rest, being gentle with ourselves and wisely seeking appropriate support. Being still, knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10) in our suffering glorifies our loving God who lists our tears on His scroll (Psalm 56:8). Not a single tear is wasted when it is laid before Him.
Both active and passive waiting honour God as we bring our heartfelt struggles in humble, dependent prayer to Him. Like Anna, as we wait, we too can encounter mercy, grace and love daily from the One who gave His life for the lost and who gives hope to the hopeless. Hope has a name; hope is a person, Jesus. Let us, like Anna, wait with steadfast hope, redeeming this time of waiting for His glory.