I recall sitting on my bed, years ago, praying a prayer I had often prayed, “Lord, make me more like Jesus, I will follow you wherever you lead me.” Isn’t it funny how we are quick to prayer in these ways, without first counting the cost of what we are asking?
All throughout the biblical narrative people’s faith grew, because of suffering. God brought something great about through their life in the midst of deep trouble and affliction. Why would I think He would operate any differently with me or you? Why do we treat disappointment, tragedy and hardship as the curse of God and not a blessing from His hand? Quite frankly, it’s because we want an easy life.
We think, God why? Why are you allowing me to walk through such pain and difficulty? What is the purpose God? Please take it away! When all the while, it is the very thing God divinely appointed in our lives to make us more like His Son.
As Mary was minding her own business one day, an angel appeared to her. At this time she was a virgin, around the age of 13, pledged to be married to a young man named Joseph. To a first century Jew, the betrothal period was a binding agreement between the two parties that they would be married, not like our modern day engagements. To break off the engagement, one would have to literally file for a divorce. The marriage wasn’t made official until the couple consummated the marriage through sexual intercourse. This means, Mary was a virgin, awaiting the day she would become Joseph’s wife. Then, in walks Gabriel, an angel sent from God, to give her a message that would literally turn her world upside-down.
I wonder if Mary prayed similar prayers to mine? God, I want to be more like you. I will follow you and be obedient to you no matter what! I bet she did.
The angel Gabriel said to her, “You who are highly favored (in the original language it means “filled with grace”) the Lord is with you. There is so much within that statement that if we gloss over it, I think we miss a great application for our own lives, because what comes next is quite shocking. Mary is told she will have a son, the power of God will come over her and she will give birth to the Savior of the world, Jesus. Mary will maintain her virginity, because of the power of God will awaken within her womb a child, but can you imagine the talk around town? People would not understand, I’m sure they would shame her, not believe her and want to publicly disgrace her. Mary would become the centerpiece of the town gossipers, the people of Nazareth would stare with judging looks as she passed by them. Yet, Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant, let it be unto me according to your word.”
I wonder if Mary ever struggled with the reality of her blessing? I wonder if she ever felt like maybe her blessing was a curse when folks started to whisper and judge her? I wonder if in those moments she went back to the promise made to her when Gabriel greeted her. “You who are highly favored, The Lord is with you.” Is that not the promise for all of us who follow Jesus as we walk through seasons of suffering?
What if we started to view our suffering as a blessing from God instead of a curse? I’m certain Mary pressed deeply into the grace God favored her with in those moments where others tried to shame her. I’m certain she remembered the simple yet profound phrase, “Mary, the Lord is with you.”
Today, I want to offer a similar sentiment to you. If you are walking through a season of suffering as a Christian, do not fight God over it, embrace it as God’s gift to you to make you more like Jesus. As you do this, your faith grows, and your heart learns the peace of trusting in the one who is leading you. Always remember, “The Lord is with you,” Amen.