The Life of Elizabeth Day 2 – Her Steadfastness
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. (Luke 1:6, ESV)
The absence of details from Elizabeth’s early years leaves me wanting. I want to know if she accepted her lot of barrenness humbly. I wish I knew if there was anyone, aside from Zechariah, to comfort her. Did she have another woman to whom she could pour out her pain? How did she cope with the ridicule and judgmental stares? Was God always enough to satisfy the deepest longing of her soul?
We can’t be sure of the answers to these questions because we aren’t told. But there is one captivating thing that appears to be true of her: Elizabeth remained steadfast in her sorrow and trial. Luke writes that both she and her husband were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Are these not words that would confirm for us her steadfastness of faith? Of her constancy and patient perseverance? Of her loyalty to all God asked of her despite His denial of her request?
How the gnawing sorrow Elizabeth carried in her heart year after year must have challenged her every resolve to trust God and remain faithful! Yet, remarkably, and so very convicting to me, it would seem Elizabeth did not allow her despairing circumstances to alter or falter her walk. It was blameless—before God, before man.
The obvious question to be asked, then, is how. How did she sustain such a steadfast walk?
I wonder if James might offer us the key to unlocking the answer to that question with these words: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV).
The testing of our faith through sorrow, suffering and trial is what God uses to produce steadfastness within us. But we often skim over what I think is a key condition upon which this building of steadfastness hinges: how we “count” or view the trial. When we find ourselves falling unexpectedly into a difficulty of any kind, we get to choose our response. Do we respond with a hard heart? Or do we consider it with joy—the comforting joy we can possess knowing the trial has been allowed to grow steadfastness within us?
I don’t see any hard-heartedness in Elizabeth. In fact, in coming days we will see more layers of her character unfold, proving she was anything but hardened. Even as her hope of bearing a child slowly waned, Elizabeth must have chosen to fix the eyes of her heart on God’s perfect plan rather than her pain. She must have chosen to trust in Him and His goodness despite all that was happening in her world. She must have chosen to follow hard after His ways rather than to run from them. Her fulfillment and comfort must have been found beyond a fruitful womb, and found instead in Him.
How she counted her sorrow and trial must have been what made all the difference between her becoming bitter and walking blamelessly. Was it easy? I can assure you, Elizabeth would tell you, it was not! And I’m sure she would also tell you she had days when her faith felt weak. The sorrow was still weighty and the pain still real, but how she chose to “count” her trial led her in her blameless walk of steadfastness.
Oh, how easy it is to nod our heads in affirmation of the need for steadfastness in suffering. Each of us wants to remain unmovable and obedient while walking our most trying roads. But until you know what it is to have your faith severely shaken by pain and suffering and hardship, the difficulty of actually living it out amidst adversity can hardly be known. Radiantly, Elizabeth has shown us the way. And with the strength and grace given to her, also promised to us in Scripture, you and I can follow in her footsteps. We have the same God. We claim the same promises. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can walk the same steadfast walk.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (Psalm 119:28, ESV)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, ESV)