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 2:36-38
Married only seven years before becoming a widow, Anna could have waved a white flag of defeat over her life. She could have labeled herself a helpless victim, robbed of her protector and provider at an early age. Anger at God could have brewed the poison of bitterness in her soul.
But Anna didn’t let despondency over the loss of her husband turn into depression and isolation. She refused to let her circumstances rob her life of its joy and purpose. Instead, Anna allowed God to fill the void left by her loss. Luke tells us that every single day she got up, got dressed, went out and joined God’s people in worship at the temple.
This elderly woman’s selfless service in the temple paved the way for an incredible honor. She became the first to proclaim the Good News “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38) that the nation’s longed-for Redeemer had arrived in the form of this helpless baby. To Anna’s ministry of worship was added a mission — to proclaim hope and the promise of redemption to those in need of a Savior.
Some of us find ourselves in Anna’s earlier situation. The circumstances of our lives lead to loss and heartache. At times life’s pains, including our own shame, bitterness and frailties drive many of us into isolation and depression. Avoiding or overcoming depression when deep hurt comes our way requires that we say no to seclusion by following in Anna’s footsteps and participating in community with others who empathize with our struggles. We need to connect with individuals within a community of people who understand our hurts, hang-ups and habits and can guide us on the path to healing. When we add worship to that community aspect, the circle of fellowship is complete.
Anna is a beautiful example of a humble servant of God whose life revolved around worship. The Bible’s account shows us that worship of God oozed out of her day and night. That kind of worship has the power to transform a life. And consistent personal devotion to God will inevitably move us toward ministry to others. Anna’s continuous contact with God was the best possible preparation for her own ministry as a prophet (see Luke 2:36).
Fellowship with God’s people, worship, fasting, prayer and ministry are all important steps in the process of overcoming hurts and more importantly, to deepen our relationship with our precious Lord and Savior Jesus.
Drawn from an article in the NIV Celebrate Recovery Study Bible.
The NIV Celebrate Recovery Study Bible contains the complete text of the NIV with hundreds of notes and study features that connect Scripture to eight recovery principles from the Celebrate Recovery program developed by John Baker and Rick Warren. Includes articles, recovery stories, biblical character studies and more.