The Second World War was thundering to a close when the young soldier stepped onto the troop carrier that would carry him from the United States to Europe. Halfway across the Atlantic, word arrived that an armistice had been signed. The war with Germany was over.
Of course, the ship could not turn around; there were clean-up operations to be done in Europe. So the ship kept going, and the young man did his duty.
After his tour was over, the soldier married his sweetheart back home. It took some time to find work, but they finally found employment at a farm. Growing a family was more important to them, though, than raising crops. Unfortunately, after years of trying, they learned they were not likely to have children.
They prayed that God would trump the doctors word. Against human odds, a healthy baby girl was born in the fifth year of their marriage. A baby boy followed, then three more girls and another boy.
The couple had a good life on the farm, but none of their six children followed them into the family business. Instead, the four daughters became teachers in Christian schools. One son wed a doctor, and together they have been active in cross-cultural mission efforts; the other son became a pastor and Bible teacher.
To this day the postwar couple shrugs when asked how it all came about. We just begged God to give us kids, they say. Then we learned to pray for our children every day.
I know. Im their eldest son. And I&#’;m only now beginning to realize how much my parents were like the infertile couple Elizabeth and Zechariah, who one day felt ecstasy as well as fear when God actually answered their prayers for a child. They could only vow to do their best and ask for Gods help.
There is no magic formula for having kids, let alone having them turn out well. Many couples remain childless after years of agonizing prayer. And even miracle children, bathed in spiritual significance, carry with them no guarantees of piety. The old priest Zechariah and his wife celebrated the day of Johns birth. But what did they think when their son lived like a wild man in the desert, provoking the wrath of Jewish leaders and priests with his scathing sermons and unorthodox baptisms? Were they alive when their son was imprisoned, then beheaded?
Should we stop asking for children because they bring pain into our lives? No. This story and others remind us that we live in a broken world in which we depend on one another for encouragement when the waiting is long or when children don’t turn out the way we had hoped. With the help of others, and with God&’s encouragement and strength, we can have hope. Wayne Brouwer Lets Talk – How do Christian couples spiritually prepare to have children? What are some requests we make of God? What happens when the waiting is long; where do we go for help? – In what formal way do we declare that our children belong to God? How will these ceremonies be carried out? What part will our parents and friends play in them? – What plans are we making to educate our children in the ways of the Lord? Who, besides us, is responsible for their ongoing instruction?
Luke 1:5-25 (KJV)
5 There was in the days of Herod,the king of Judaea,a certain priest named Zacharias,of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron,and her name was Elisabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God,walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 And they had no child,because that Elisabeth was barren,and they both were now well stricken in years.
8 And it came to pass,that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest’s office,his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him,he was troubled,and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him,Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son,and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord,and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost,even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias,to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man,and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel,that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee,and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And,behold,thou shalt be dumb,and not able to speak,until the day that these things shall be performed,because thou believest not my words,which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
22 And when he came out,he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them,and remained speechless.
23 And it came to pass,that,as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished,he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived,and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me,to take away my reproach among men.
Luke 1:57-80 (KJV)
57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
59 And it came to pass,that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias,after the name of his father.
60 And his mother answered and said,Not so; but he shall be called John.
61 And they said unto her,There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62 And they made signs to his father,how he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing table,and wrote,saying,His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64 And his mouth was opened immediately,and his tongue loosed,and he spake,and praised God.
65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts,saying,What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost,and prophesied,saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets,which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies,and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers,and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us,that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him,all the days of our life.
76 And thou,child,shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80 And the child grew,and waxed strong in spirit,and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.