Mary’s marvelous song of praise stirs hope in our hearts. How could this young woman express such confidence in God under extreme circumstances (have we mentioned that she was pregnant and unwed?).
How did she have the strength of spirit to say “yes” to God under such challenging circumstances? We have discovered that her yielded heart enabled her to surrender to God when she recognized herself as a servant and bravely agreed to mother a son in a most unusual fashion (Luke 1:38).
She was equally sustained by her faithful heart. Certain that God would fulfill His promises, she believed that God was trustworthy (Luke 1:45-49).
We now find Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem in Judea because Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census of the whole Roman world.
This disruptive edict brought Mary and Joseph to the place where it was prophesied that the Messiah would be born, and so He was, right there in a stable. God sent unlikely witnesses to sing the praises of the newborn King. Unsuspecting shepherds, hanging out in a field with some sheep, were urged by an angel to go find the Messiah baby who was wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Watch for it – God sends another confirmation, a Word that Mary can hang onto her calling when she may have been tempted to doubt or to forget what God had promised. First it was Elizabeth who encouraged our young heroine, and now the shepherds confirm that this was no ordinary baby. All who heard it were amazed, but not Mary. She had a different response:
“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
Mary treasured God’s Words to her, actively remembering and reflecting on what He had spoken to her through Gabriel and through the Holy Scriptures. One of the definitions of the word “treasured” is “to preserve a thing from perishing or being lost.” When we fix God’s words in our minds and talk about them day and night, we remind ourselves to believe (Deuteronomy 11:17-18).
However, the reverse is also true. Without the sacred practice of treasuring and pondering, we can lose God’s words. If we do not remember what He has done, if we forget what He has promised, those promises may perish or be lost.
However, they are not lost in God’s heart. Every Word that He has ever spoken remains (Isaiah 40:8), but if we fail to treasure and ponder what He has said, His promises can be lost from our heart and mind.
When we fail to remember the promises, we gradually drift away from His way. If our gaze is not fixed daily on God, our eyes wander to distractions, and before long we find ourselves on other paths, confused about our direction, unsure where we are on the map . . . or maybe we have lost the map altogether, and we find ourselves chasing lesser things:
“You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile.” (1 Samuel 12:21)
Mary did not turn aside because she remembered God’s promises. The very act of pondering, turning His words over and over in her mind, kept Mary’s heart steadfast to her calling and firmly secured to God’s purposes. She did not veer off course because her mind and heart continually rehearsed God’s Word.
What are you pondering in your heart? I remember a time where I was intensely frustrated with a family friend. As I weeded my yard one Sunday afternoon, I let my mind wander to rehearsing the wrong that this man had done, how arrogant he was, how misguided he was.
I didn’t even notice what I was treasuring in my heart – I was on auto mode, my thoughts running rampant, pondering all the wrong that this person had done. When I eventually gained consciousness, I tapped into my heart, and realized what was running amok there.
As I pulled the next weed, I heard God say, “You have some weeding to do on the inside too.”
Singing praises is not what I was doing with my thoughts that day. I was cursing, and that created a darkness of heart that brought on self-pity and hopelessness. My heart was choked with weeds. My emotions followed my thoughts down into a spiral of despair. My misguided ponderings poisoned my thoughts.
How do we pay attention to what is in our hearts? Ann Voskamp points out in her book, 1000 Gifts, that we cannot entertain negative attitudes like spite and anger in our hearts while at the same time expressing gratitude.
We find that when we choose gratitude, we position our hearts toward God and displace the other attitudes that would drag us down into a pit of darkness. That is why Mary praised God! Gratitude displaces cursing. Praise infuses our hearts with light.
I have learned over the years to consciously tune into the ponderings in my heart. I have a choice about what I treasure and what thoughts I turn over and over in my mind. Mary’s heart was fixed on God. Her ponderings were focused on God’s Word, and not on the many “what-if’s” that lurk in the shadows, taunting her to doubt, to fear, or to turn away from His promises.
Spending time in God’s Word, filling our minds and hearts with His truth, and praising Him with our lips equips us to respond with an unwavering “yes” to God’s call on our lives. When we know that He is good and that we are called, we too can walk fearlessly into the future. The path of confidence begins with the treasures of our hearts.