ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.6
6. Long-Term Unhappiness Locks in Unbelief
Luke 1:18-20 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
It’s a strange thing, but you might think that people who have a tough time in life would be really grateful when God turns up to bless them, but you would often be mistaken. We’ve already referred to that tendency that we all have, that the Bible calls ‘Sin’, and in such situations it frequently shows itself in ungratefulness or unbelief. If we can put it gently, perhaps we might say that it is quite natural, after you’ve been in a particular prison for any length of time, to be wary when you’re told you’re now free from it. This phenomenon is quite common, and it may be as you read yesterday’s meditation, you struggled with the concept that God is good. If you did, it’s most likely that it is simply because you’ve lived with circumstances that seem to fly in the face of that.
In the Old Testament, Gideon is a classic example of this. An angel comes and tells him that God is with him (Judges 6:12). His reply is, “If the Lord is with us… where are all the wonders that our fathers told us about?” In other words, how can you say God is good, how can you say He’s with us, when I’ve been through what I’ve been through, and there’s still no sign of change? Do you see how long-term unhappiness over the past can lock us into unbelief in the present?
Now the interesting thing, when Zechariah responds like this, is that he’s not given an explanation why he didn’t have children. We’d like to have explanations and then come to belief, but it doesn’t work like that. The truth is that until our hearts can accept God’s love is there for us, we’re going to constantly criticize and grumble. Zechariah is still in grumbling mode when he basically says, this is stupid, this can’t be, because I’m too old. When we start telling God what He can’t do, we’re in trouble! God can do anything; it’s just our unbelief that thinks He can’t, so we reject His words of goodness towards us.
The angel’s response is basically this: OK, you don’t think God can change your circumstances, you don’t think God can make you become a father, you want a sign, I can see that. All right, I’ll give you a sign that will remain with you every day until the child is born – you won’t be able to speak until then. This is going to happen, you having a son, but you obviously need a bit of encouragement along the way.
You see God loves us so much that sometimes He does intervene in our lives and bring ‘unusual’ circumstances, if He sees that is the only way we’ll come to belief. (There are some people He sees that won’t ever come to belief so He leaves them – but that doesn’t include you, because you wouldn’t be reading this if it did!). If a little crisis is the only thing that will bring us to our senses and bring us to a place of believing (and that without the explanations!) then that’s what He’ll bring to us – in love of course. Of course it’s in love because that’s what He’s trying to bring us. It’s much easier to believe without a crisis! Can we say, yes Lord, I believe what I’m reading in this Christmas story – teach me; I receive all the good you’ve got for me in this season? Dare to, go for it!