My friend and mentor, Holly Leachman, is known for her nuggets of wisdom. One of my favorites is, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” In fact, I repeated this so often to my children as they were growing up that they attributed it to me rather than to her. But more recently I have applied this truth to combat these lies that I often hear— “I can’t make a difference,” or “there is nothing significant I can do for God’s Kingdom.” Scripture affirms the truth that it is never too late to do something for God’s Kingdom, and certainly nothing we do for Him is too small. A perfect example of these truths comes alive in the life of a little-known woman described in the Gospel of Luke.
While Jesus was still a baby, His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord at the Temple. They were devout Jews and the Law of Moses required this ceremony. In this moment, Luke introduces us to Anna.
“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.” (Luke 2:36)
I read this account many times before noticing several significant details. First, she was 84. Second, she was a widow at a time in history when widows were marginalized and forgotten. We know this because Jesus Himself admonishes us to care for the widows, implying that they had been neglected. Last, she had been widowed after only seven years of marriage. Since most women married while still teenagers, we can deduce that she had been a widow for the majority of her life. I am sure this is not how she had imagined her life would be.
But, did she believe the lie that her life was over? Did she believe the lie that her life was without hope? Did she believe the lie that she couldn’t do anything for God? Did she believe the lie, that as a widow she had no value? Did she believe the lie that she was alone? Her actions imply otherwise.
Anna was a prophetess, a person in Scripture called by God to proclaim His Word. We know from the account that she was faithful to this task.
“She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37)
Rather than wallowing in a pity party, Anna answered God’s call on her life—she was drawn to God and His Word—specifically about the hope of the coming Messiah. While many had given up hope that He would come, she didn’t, and she continued to serve God faithfully in the Temple while awaiting His arrival. And then, finally, after years of steadfast service, the moment came. Jesus was presented at the Temple, and immediately she knew that He was the long-awaited Messiah of the world.
“And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)
Anna believed, thanked God and began to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. She was the first one to go and tell others that the Messiah had come! And she was eighty-four!
She did not miss the moment. She did not give up. She did not buy the lies that she could not make a difference. It was not too late for her to do something for the glory of God.
My mom (whose name happens to be Anne) is eighty-six. Every Tuesday and Thursday she drives (yes, she still drives!) to the Hospice Center in the next town over, where both her husband, my dad, as well as my aunt, passed away. She volunteers as a receptionist, and does odd jobs for the director. Her role there may not be glamorous by the world’s standards, but she is undoubtedly making a difference. She too, has not believed the lie that she has no value. She is doing what she can to make a difference in this world in whatever time she has. I want to live like that. It is never too late.