...So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there.There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:27, 36-38 (NIV)
As the ink dried on my divorce papers, I felt the overwhelming reality of my aloneness. What I left behind had managed to suck the life right out of me while I walked through it and yet the “life” didn’t seem to come pouring in now that this door closed behind me. Yet, somewhere along that painful journey, my heart’s desire had changed. I no longer craved intimacy with a man, but, rather, I craved a deeper intimacy with my God. The words of the psalmist in Psalm 42, “as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”, became the cry of my heart.
As I searched God’s Word for every morsel I could digest that might draw me closer to Him, I stumbled upon the brief, yet inspiring, story of Anna tucked away in the Gospel accounts of Jesus. Anna’s life was a living testimony to focus and faithfulness. We read about her in just three short verses found in Luke 2:36-38. Anna’s name means “grace” and she lived it out in her life and clearly believed in it from her God. While Anna was married in her youth, after just seven years she found herself widowed and alone. Can you imagine her heartache in a time and place where motherhood was what every woman dreamed of and often a measure of success and God’s favor? Even so, we have no record of Anna pining away for another man, whining about not having any children, hitting the online dating sites to find the next Mr. Right – nothing of the sort. She didn’t look back with regret but rather she looked forward with hope. What we are told is Anna could be found in the temple. Worshiping the Lord, fasting and praying. Night and day. Year after year.
Who does this? Better yet, who has time for this? Seriously, it’s a level of commitment most of us can’t wrap our heads around. Especially if you’ve got a husband & kids to take care of. Or if you are a student carrying a full load of classes and holding down a job to pay for them. Or if you are a single woman who is responsible for 100% of the expenses in your household.
Nonetheless, our soul sister Anna realized there was “only one thing worth being concerned about.” (Much like another friend of ours, Mary, whose story can be found in Luke 10: 38-42.) And while in His presence, Anna fasted. Not to lose weight or cleanse her body from toxins or to impress others with her piety, but to honor God. “But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17-18a, NLT).
Anna’s reward came one day in the form of a visit from her Savior. It’s no coincidence that when her Savior showed up in the temple that day she was more than ready to receive Him. After all, she had been in the temple continuously for well over 50 years, fasting, praying and worshipping for Him. Yes, she was ready, and when He arrived on the scene she made a beeline for the Christ child, “coming up to them at that very moment” (Luke 2:38a, NIV). Yes, she was ready, and from the overflow of her heart, “she gave thanks to God” (Luke 2:38b, NIV). Yes, she was ready, and instead of remaining with Mary and Joseph, making idle chitchat, Anna then turned to everyone else in the temple courts that day, and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38c, NIV). Anna didn’t complain about the long wait, the lonely years, the emptiness of her stomach, the stiffness in her knees, the hardness of the temple floor. She simply gave thanks and lived her life “souled” out to her God in the circumstances she was dealt. “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them”. (1 Corinthians 7:17 (NIV)
I don’t know if Anna turned to her God immediately and felt the wholeness of Him complete her or if she mourned and walked through her solitude over time but eventually, she landed in the security of her relationship with her God, and she was content. Not just content, completely satisfied and fulfilled. And as I read Anna’s verses in Luke, I can relate. Completely and wholeheartedly. Sweet friend, can you relate today? Are you feeling satisfied? Complete? Whole? If not, are you searching in the wrong place? Are you looking for someone or something to fill a place and purpose in your heart that only Jesus was meant to fill? Sister, whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you in this season, I pray you find contentment and fulfillment in the arms and will of your Savior.
Heavenly Father, let us look to Anna’s story and be motivated to draw closer to you in worship, prayer, and fasting. May we always look to you to find what we might feel is missing from our lives and, more importantly, help us to know that as long as we have You we are lacking nothing. Lord, may I develop the disciplines of prayer and fasting in my life and practice a heart of worship, night and day. Please teach me to be still, to wait, to listen and always to give thanks. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Today’s post was written by Cyndi Staudt
Cyndi traveled a long & broken road that led to the heart of her Savior and is grateful God can use her tattered past in His story. God has placed in Cyndi a heart for sharing the love of Jesus both locally and globally and she has traveled to the Philippine’s (3 times), India (2 times), Thailand & Myanmar to let people in some of the most remote regions of the world know that God is Crazy about them. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing, performing & teaching aerial silks, hammock & hoop, traveling, writing devotionals, and date nights with her main (feline) man Harley. Most weekends you will find Cyndi enjoying Saturday night service at the Clermont Campus.