A Broken Dream
by Sheila Walsh, Woman of Faith Speaker and award-winning author of Gigi, God’s Little Princess and Beautiful Things Happen When A Woman Trusts God
A Note from Sheila: What do you do in the waiting years? How do you trust God when there are no physical signs to encourage you? Are you tempted to put your life on hold as you wait, not committing to anything or anyone in case you miss your moment?
I don’t think God wants us to take a timeout or give up. I think we are asked to get into the game of life, to live each day as if it is the only day we will live by his grace. If God has planted a dream or vision in us, we will not miss it. That dream will unfold in his perfect way and in his perfect time if we are waiting, ready, and watching—and I don’t think any woman in the Bible demonstrates that more beautifully than the prophetess Anna.
A Broken Dream
Anna’s story begins with a hard twist in the road. We meet her in Luke 2:36–37, when she is old and poor and alone.
We learn that she has been a widow for most of her life and was married just seven years when her husband died. Since it was common for girls in Anna’s day to be married by age thirteen, and she has been a widow for eighty-four years (or was now eighty-four years old), it’s surmised that her husband died when she was around age twenty.
Imagine being so young, looking forward to making a home and growing a family, and then everything changes. No more dreams of having children or growing old with your husband. No hope of a beautiful home. No livelihood.
In Anna’s day, there was no financial provision from the government and unless a family offered support, widows were almost guaranteed a life of poverty. Even the apostle Paul addresses the sadness of this in his first letter to Timothy, advising young widows to remarry so that they would not be left wandering from home to home trying to find a place to belong and potentially lose their way (1 Timothy 5:13–14).
How easy it would have been for Anna to say, “This stinks. I expected to be a wife and mother. I expected to have a home. All the rules seem to be changing. I quit!”
But Anna, Luke tells us, was a prophetess, and she never left the temple.
When Luke calls Anna a prophetess, he is telling us that she had a special role speaking for the Lord. In all the Old Testament only five women are identified as prophetesses: Miriam, Moses’ sister who led all the women of Israel in a song of praise after their escape from Egypt. Deborah, the only female among the judges who ruled with the heart of a mother over Israel before they had a king (Judges 5:7). And then three others whom we know little about: Huldah, Nodiah (named a false prophetess), and Isaiah’s wife.
Did Anna sing, like Miriam, praises of God’s goodness? Did she speak like Deborah with the heart of a mother?
We do know Anna dedicated her whole life to immersing herself in the Word of God and in his presence and sharing his Word with other women who came to the temple. She stayed in the game when it came to faith—even if life might have whispered: Do you really have the desire for this? Do you think, as a poor, single widow you have the skills to encourage other women to love the Lord?
Those whispers were there, you see, because Anna came from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36), a group of people who had turned their backs on God.
Who Am I?
Do you ever look at your family, at where you have come from, and doubt that God could ever use you? Why would he put me in the game? you might wonder. I don’t have the experience or the skills. I don’t even know if I have the desire.
Anna could have chosen to think this since her ancestors were of the tribe of Asher, one of ten that had split from the kingdom of Israel after Solomon’s reign and moved to the north. Imagine their departure, after witnessing all the miracles of God in their lives: the escape out of Egypt from Pharaoh, the parting of the Red Sea, the issuing of the Ten Commandments, the blessing of manna every morning, the battles won, the rise of a king, the building of the temple. All this, and still they had no more trust in God.
So the northern ten tribes, Israel, rebelled against God and refused to acknowledge the grandson of David as God’s chosen king, appointing instead their own line of corrupt kings. Meanwhile, the southern two tribes, Judah, remained true to God’s ways.
In the Northern Kingdom, there was a remnant of people who still honored God and went to worship in the city of Jerusalem seven times a year to celebrate the feasts. Jerusalem was in the Southern Kingdom, and according to the Law, the only place where God’s priests could offer sacrifices. The journey by this remnant of believers, however, cost them everything they had—they had to leave their land and all their possessions behind.
How hard that must have been. How difficult to give up their home and expectations, to choose poverty and pain in order to worship God and look for the Messiah.
The people waited a long time. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the ten tribes in the north were captured and taken into slavery in a foreign nation. Very few ever came home again.
But God’s grace has no limits, not with time or distance.
So when Anna’s family returned to Jerusalem from the tribe of Asher, they left all they had to worship God; like the rest of the faithful, they sought the new Messiah, the King who again would free them from slavery and poverty. And God, known to hang out with those on the sidelines, chose one from among them who had lost even more—Anna, the poor, single, aged widow—to see the Messiah with her own eyes.
Excerpt taken from Beautiful Things Happen When A Woman Trusts God. Copyright © 2009 by Sheila Walsh. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.