And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
The greetings of “Happy New Year!” may still echo in our memory. We were glad to receive them. But we know very well, they were not promises made to us. They were wishes.
They express hope that the new year will lead us to happiness.
However, from experience, we have learned that the path our life takes may lead us to some sad days. After all, “Happy Days” was just a TV show.
If we ask “What could go wrong in this new year?” a long list of misfortunes comes to mind.
The next question is, “Why? Why do bad things happen even to the people of God?”
Then, there are times when we might be tempted to say, “especially to the people of God?”
Human nature assumes we deserve credit for doing good and extra credit for believing the Lord is our Savior God. It tells us that our life should be happier than the life of one who rejects God.
The Holy Spirit teaches us that we don’t deserve anything but condemnation from the Holy One. Even one moment of happiness is an undeserved gift from him. It is the result of grace—his undeserved love.
More than that, it shows that the loving God may plan for misery to come into our lives. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an example. We learn that pain was waiting on her life’s path.
The angel Gabriel startled her with the words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
She surely was favored. Of all the women born on earth, she was chosen to become the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Son of God from eternity. What higher honor could any woman receive?
Her response to the seemingly impossible news came from her steadfast faith: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:48).
She confessed that she was a sinner who needed saving. She rejoiced to know that the Lord God would rescue her.
She delighted in that blessed assurance.
Because we know that, we might be surprised to hear the prophetic words of Simeon to her, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
The prophecy was fulfilled. We hear: “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” (John 19:33).
She saw her son crucified. It was as if a sword had cut through her soul.
Simeon had warned that the Lord planned for pain on her path as she walked through life.
He would not forsake her. She would remain precious in his sight.
But the pain would come. It was part of his plan to bring great joy to her and all people.
Her Son needed to die. Her Son needed to suffer agony so that she, and all humanity, might live forever in the peace that surpasses all understanding.
The pain was God’s gift to her—and us.
His people need to know this.
If we have found pain lying on the path we have already walked in life, if there is pain lying ahead on our path, we have the same assurance that Mary had. We are still in our Savior’s hands. His will is always wise. His way is always best.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary had told Gabriel. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Will our New Year be a happy one? We surely must expect some pain ahead. But that’s all right.
The loving Lord is in control. And do we not say, “I am the Lord’s servant”?
Yes, we do.
We know a perfectly happy, never-ending New Year awaits beyond the edge of time.
We sing the song of blessed assurance:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change, he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.” Amen.
(Christian Worship 847:1)
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.