Have you ever said something really dumb? Maybe even as you were saying it, the words seemed to come out in slow motion, and you immediately wished there was some way of taking them back. Zechariah did just that. After many years of praying, an angel finally shows up to give him the good news that he and his wife would have a child, and instead of rejoicing, this faithful priest basically retorts: “Yeah right!” to an archangel. That same archangel then reminds Zechariah that out of the two of them, only one of them routinely stands in the presence of God Almighty, and he then pronounces that for the next 9 months Zechariah would be given some “quiet time” to reflect upon his foolhardy response to the incredible miracle God was doing in his life.
I wonder how many times during those 9 months Zechariah replayed that scene in his head and wished he had responded differently. Yet, God’s discipline changed Zechariah. As severe as the Lord’s reprimand might have been, it became a means of spiritual preparation. No matter how much Zechariahs struggled, through that struggle, real change happened. Nine months of silence prepared Zechariah to take part in God’s plan in a way that he was not ready for when the angel first appeared. He goes from doubting to steadfast submission through this process. We witness this at the naming of his child. That moment put Zechariah in a terribly awkward situation. Since he was unable to talk, and women were not allowed to talk, the relatives tried to name the child in accordance with tradition. When Elizabeth goes to override the relatives and the tradition, they all turned to Zechariah. He astounds them by affirming his wife’s words and sacrificing the special tradition of naming his son after his family. That radical and faithful act caused “wonder” (1:63) among them and showed the real change that had taken place in Zechariah.
Zechariah was disciplined, and instead of spending 9 months fighting it, he chose to learn and grow through it. He grew more through 9 months of silence than he did through years of the trial of infertility. Please note this difference: not all trials are discipline, but both trials and discipline offer opportunities. While none of us would choose to be disciplined or to go through a trial, instead of fighting the trial or beating ourselves up for poor decisions we have made, we can choose to look for the ways that our struggles help prepare to better respond to God.
Think about struggles you’ve gone through that have prepared you to be a better person, a better friend or better in your vocation. Think of a struggle you have right now and how God might be using it to prepare you. Do you sense that there is something God is wanting to teach you? Pray about that struggle and ask God to use it in your life to make you more faithful.