by Annmarie Worthington
Sometimes it is easy to idolize certain people from Scripture. It is tempting to forget they were human just like the rest of us. They had fears and faults. Many of them learned to overcome them, and that is what makes them almost super-human to us. One of my favorite ladies from Scripture of all time is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Have you ever taken the time to think about things from Mary’s perspective? Research shows she was probably quite young when the angel first appeared to her. She may even have been as young as 14. What do you think girls from that time period (and even a few still from this time period) dream about? Getting married. She was already espoused to Joseph. I’m sure she spent much of her time daydreaming about her future with Joseph. She dreamt of romantic evenings and all the wonderful children she’d be blessed with. Then out of nowhere comes an angel that changed everything.
His pronouncement almost certainly meant loss of her marriage to Joseph. Depending on how severe his reaction was, it could even mean being stoned to death. Did she flinch from her calling? Not at all! At first she was confused. How could this be possible? She’d never known a man. When the angel told her, she accepted his answer even though there was much of it she couldn’t understand. She simply replied,
“….Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” ~Luke 1:38
End of questioning. Compare that sweet young girl’s response with the high priest that fathered John the Baptist. He had trouble accepting the angel’s pronouncement. So much so that the angel was angry and caused him to be mute for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
Not only that, but Mary didn’t even grumble about the possibility of losing her marriage. She would have lost it too, if the angel didn’t intervene and explain things to Joseph. He had already decided to “put her away”. The serene submission of this woman is something to be treasured and emulated.
We often skip to the next “big” trial of Mary: her labor and delivery. But think about how trying those nine months must have been. Whispers from neighbors and friends. The uncomfortableness and newness of pregnancy that she had to face alone, for at least part of it. There must have been a lot of both emotional pain and physical hardships. All was endured without complaint.
Then it was time for delivery. She may have thought that Heavenly Father would at least want His son delivered in Kingly array. Whatever she expected, I doubt is was a stable after traveling for days from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey. After the birth of her child, she becomes surrounded by shepherds who told her of the angels’ pronouncement to them. Luke says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” I’m sure she wasn’t sure what to think. But, she was a thoughtful young girl. Her Father in heaven gave her many things to ponder.
When it was time for her to make the offering for her first born son, she heard words that probably sent fear into her heart. Simeon the prophet spoke to her,
“….Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,)….” Luke 2:34-35
Again, no word of complaint came from Mary’s lips. There must have been times she thought the Lord was asking too much of her. Just imagine the pain she went through watching her first born son suffer on the cross. A suffering we have no comparison to in our modern society. Crucifixion is such an intensely brutal way to die. Picture your child, or if you don’t have children, a child you care deeply for, going through that. A sword piercing her soul is probably an understatement.
Yet through all that, did Mary get bitter at God? No. She was worshipping with the apostles even before His resurrection. What a woman.
You might be thinking “So what? Mary was great. What does that do for me?” All I can tell you is what it does for me. Mary is an incredible example of godliness. I’m humbled by her life. Whenever I am tempted to inwardly grumble about my circumstances I think of Mary and her response. All I am left with is the profound feeling that I too am to say to Heavenly Father, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” I can tell you the first time this verse really hit home to me.
It took me five years to get pregnant with my first child. I can’t adequately explain how desperately I wanted a child, so when I finally got pregnant it was the thrill of my life. Beginning in my third trimester I began having physical problems. However I was pretty sure the problems would go away after I delivered, assuming they were pregnancy related. Unfortunately, they didn’t. My problems only got worse. I felt awful. I just couldn’t shake the tiredness and other symptoms I was having. I read every verse on slothfulness I could find trying to “jar” myself into feeling more energetic. It didn’t help.
Then, I found a lump in my neck, which led to several procedures. When my firstborn son was just 6 months old I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was in shock. To make things worse I misunderstood the doctor. When he was explaining life expectancy I thought he said the MOST I would live is 10 years. I looked over at my precious son that I had been praying to have for so long. Was I really doomed not to raise him? My heart was broken.
My husband was out of town, so I drove home alone with my new baby, devastated. After I got him to sleep I sat on my bed and opened my Scriptures. The verse it opened up to was Mary’s response in Luke 1:38. I remember distinctly praying, “God, I don’t feel this way, but I know it is how I should feel. I will say the words. Will you help me mean them?”
There will always be times that we are asked to endure things we don’t want to. We have to remember who we are. We are the handmaids (or bondservants) of the Lord. Let’s show our love to Him by our humble submission.