What is it like to wait for your whole life, but to never quite be sure what it is you're waiting for? What is it to look at the underside of the tapestry of your life and never quite be sure of the design God is weaving?
I know this feeling. You know this feeling. And most certainly, Anna knew this feeling:
In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.
Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words.
Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.
Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
Anna must have been someone of note because not only is she called a prophetess (the only woman OR man to be clearly given that title in the New Testament), but the writer of Luke assumes we know the identity of her father, Phanuel (His name, by the way, means "Face of God." Coincidence that his daughter would actually see the face of God? I think not.)
When we meet Anna she has lived and served the Lord in the temple for at least 50 years. She knows the stories, has memorized the scripture concerning the Messiah, and has praised and worshiped with all her heart, but God, her God, has sent no direct message to His people in over 400 years.
Anna is waiting, but she's not quite sure what she's waiting for. She knows her service to the Lord is vital. She knows that her walk with Him is special. But does she ever question the Why? Does she ever question the When? Does she ever question the How?
Well, if she's human, the answer is yes. Yes. And yes.
And that's where faith comes in. A.W. Tozer says that simple faith is the most often overlooked attribute of the servant of God, but yet it is the most vital.
Neither Simeon nor Anna knew God's exact plan for the redemption of the world, but they kept their eyes opened for God's plan. See, Tozer says, "Faith looks out instead of in. Faith keeps an inward eye on the Father."
And with this sight, then, and only then, nothing else matters.
Not the Whys, or the Whens, or the Hows.
Faith answers these questions with, "I don't know, but I serve a God who most certainly does."
Hebrews 11:1 says, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about the things we cannot see."
Y'all, I cannot see my Whys, Whens, or Hows, but I can always see My God.
Anna's faith was rewarded. Her steadfast trust in God's plan (that she had no idea of) was celebrated by God Himself when He allowed Anna to look upon the baby Jesus as He was blessed in the temple.
Dear Sister, just as Anna's faith was rewarded, yours will be, too.
I cannot answer your Whys, Whens, or Hows. But I don't need to. I don't know the plans for your life, but God does.
Live in faith, like Anna. Live in the not-knowing in peace because God does know.
The last verse of this passage says that Anna "talked about the child to all who were waiting for freedom."
You know, there are those around us now who are waiting for freedom. Freedom from sin and chains and hurt. So let's be like Anna and tell them.
Let's tell people living in uncertainty of a God who is certain.
Let's tell of a Savior who knows the way even when we are lost.
Let's find rest in a Good Father and His good plans for us.
I read this week that we don't get to know all the details about our life. It's just not in the cards for us to walk in full knowledge of what will happen today or tomorrow. And that's okay. Don't be afraid of what you don't know.