Hope in the Hardship
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Have you ever paused to contemplate the difficulty Mary faced in becoming the mother of Jesus? The stability of her marriage was at risk; there was likely gossip; there was a physical and mental toll traveling to Bethlehem, giving birth in a stable, and fleeing from Herod.
We want it to be easier than it is sometimes. We want the miracle of Jesus in our lives to be packaged neatly in the routine of Sunday mornings, tidy tithing, responsible stewardship, discipled children, cute Christian decor, and uplifting music and devotions.
True faith doesn’t always fit in neat packages.
“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1).
“In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33).
The difficulty Mary faced isn’t so far from the difficulties we can expect to face. Do your relationships reflect the worry, hurt, or uncertainty Mary and Joseph may have felt before the angel appeared to Joseph? Have you faced ridicule because of your beliefs? Are you facing challenges and enduring circumstances that are far from your ideal? Have you spoken the words “it wasn’t supposed to be this way” this year?
We don’t know much of what Mary thought or felt because Scripture doesn’t reveal it, but we have incredible moments to provide an example of faith in the midst of uncertainty in our lives. When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Scripture shares Mary’s song: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).
God doesn’t expect us to prove ourselves in the struggle. God allows the struggle as a means of drawing us nearer to him, building our character, and aligning our perspective to his. Hardship is inevitable in this sinful world. But God willingly meets us to provide incomprehensible peace and joy right now. Then, with God’s help, we can let our faith permeate beyond the neat boxes we’ve made space for, into every aspect of our lives.
When your thoughts wander towards the difficulties you are facing, fixate on the God whose hand is as present and powerful in your life as it was in Mary’s. Dwell in the peace and joy and privilege of knowing Christ Jesus who cares for you deeply and has a plan for your life. Seek him to find purpose and comfort in a terribly uncomfortable world.
And when that peace and joy seem far away and incomprehensible, go back to prayer, and to that great cloud of witnesses who endured in Scripture. Seek teachers and encouragers of the faith as Mary sought Elizabeth. Eventually all of this hardship will fade beyond memory and we will stand in God’s eternal glory with Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and all the saints who overcame.
Heavenly Father, you never promised an easy road. Help us cling to the hope of heaven and trust in your presence when we face challenges. Let our love for you permeate into all areas of our lives. We praise you regardless of our circumstances. Amen.
Written by Jes Woller
Provided by WELS Women’s Ministry