Disappointment with God1
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
- Luke 1:5-7
This is a story about a man and a woman and their desire to have a child. In today’s passage, three words are used to describe Zechariah and Elizabeth: righteous, blameless, and childless.
In the culture at the time, people expected that those who were righteous in God’s sight and blameless in obedience to his commands would also be blessed generously with what their hearts desired: wealth, social status, and even children. Many of us also slip into this mindset, expecting God to reward his obedient children with special favor, perks, and privileges.
The struggle to conceive a child would have been very painful for Zechariah and Elizabeth. If you’ve ever struggled with infertility or walked closely through life with someone who has, you know the painful month-after-month rhythm of hope and disappointment that typifies this experience. On top of that, not having children would have significant practical implications for this couple in this culture: no one to carry on the family name, no one to provide for them in their old age, no one to pass along their family heritage.
Didn’t these righteous and blameless people deserve better from God? We’re reminded of that prayer from Teresa of Avila: “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few of them.”
One of the Christmas surprises we have to reckon with this season is the surprise of disappointment. We have such high hopes for God’s work and intervention. But they won’t always be fulfilled.
What do you do when you experience disappointment with God? How do you express this disappointment? What actions do you take?