“‘How can I know this?’ Zechariah asked the angel. ‘For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever received news that was totally unbelievable based on everything you knew and didn’t believe it? Each of us has a level of disbelief we are capable of suspending in a given situation. We can only handle so much wonder. That level tends to be higher the younger we are (which is why, for instance, my boys wake up every morning these days asking where Elfie is and delighting in searching for and finding him), but grows smaller and smaller the older we get. When we are asked to suspend more than our max level, we tend to put on our suspicious hats and remain incredulous until we see proof. That’s normal. When it comes to the things of God, though, it can get us into trouble.
Zechariah asked an entirely reasonable question. He had just received news from the angel that went way beyond the level of disbelief he could successfully, much less willingly, suspend. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had been childless their whole marriage and were now well beyond the age when having children was physically possible. Scientifically unsophisticated as they may have been, they understood that much. And now he had just been told they were going to get pregnant and have a son. That may have been the news he had always wanted to hear, but there was not a fiber of his being willing to believe it was true—not even when it was delivered by an angel.
The fact is, God doesn’t operate within the bounds of what we think or imagine could be possible. He’s not limited by what we believe to be impossible. As Gabriel would tell Mary a few months from now, with Him, all things are possible. Now, no, He can’t do anything logically impossible like create a round square, but that’s just silly and no reflection on His power. But if we let Him, He’ll work things in our lives that we would have never even considered as a possibility before they happened.
I know a man who was sitting inside death’s threshold for reasons that are still a mystery to his doctors. On the most critical ICU floor at a major, downtown hospital, he was the sickest guy in the building. Two weeks later he was (and is) on a path to a full and complete recovery. There is not a soul in his life—including his own wife—who believed he was coming back from that brink. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we all had only a prayer. But, like he discovered here, when you have only a prayer, you have more than you need.
The question we have to answer is the same one Zechariah faced: Are we going to receive what God invites us to believe? Are we willing to suspend our disbelief beyond every limit we could have even imagined holding and go forward with God into the unimaginable? The evidence for the reasonableness of this position is rich—a big part of the reason Zechariah, who was in a position to know that evidence more thoroughly than most, had his disbelief met with discipline rather than patience—but that doesn’t make it any easier to adopt in the moment.
But here’s the truth: God has plans for us that are unimaginably good. They are beyond all we could ask or imagine. He can and will work His good plans to completion in and through and for us no matter how dark things may seem to get; no matter how impossible they appear to be from square one. The only thing that matters is this: Are we willing to receive what God invites us to believe?
All we need to take is one step forward. Even if it is reluctant, one step forward will enable us to take the second. Then the third. And the fourth. And suddenly we’ll find ourselves walking into the great unknown and experiencing what we knew for sure to be impossible right up until the point it happened.
This season—and every season after it—pay attention for God’s invitation into the impossible. Willingly receive what He invites you to believe. The journey won’t always be easy, but you’ll be glad you did.