Before we leave the scene — you know, the one where the angel Gabriel has just told Mary she will birth the Son of God — and move on in the story, let’s just sit here a little while longer and ponder the magnitude of this encounter. As I read the words of Gabriel, I come to a screeching halt right here:
“And behold [as in FYI or P.P.S.] your relative Elizabeth in her old age[are you catching the details?] has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:36)
Y’all, this is significant! Not only for Mary, as we will come to find out, yet also for you and me.
God just gave Mary a loaded baked potato with all the toppings. He downloaded some pretty heavy info on her, yet He didn’t leave her hanging wondering once the angel left if she had heard correctly or if it were a dream, or worse, was she going mad??
Would anyone believe this story? Would Joseph think she was playing childish games?
God knew that Mary would need to see a miracle unfolding. The angel Gabriel told of the miracle child in Elizabeth’s womb, to be named John, just as the miracle began coming to life in Mary’s body.
Before this servant of God utters her famous last words to Gabriel, he says this: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
I’m sure the gossip mill was busy over the DECADES that Elizabeth was barren. As Elizabeth aged, her chances of becoming pregnant were slim, and now at her old age (Gabriel’s words, not mine) they were non-existent. Mary would have grown up overhearing the family drama of Elizabeth’s shameful circumstances.
So the significance of what falls upon the ears of Mary would become her first life-line as this story plays out. Seemingly insignificant details viewed in light of the greater story, reveal her foundation of faith, the building of her steadfast heart.
Sometimes the revelation we’ve just been hit with feels as if we have been left stranded without a life preserver. We feel we are wading through the sea of despair, waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Yet, I believe that God always reveals a life-line, we just don’t always see it right away.
Several years ago I would walk hand in hand alongside a dear friend as she lost her young three-year old son to a brain injury. It was one of the most heart-wrenching, tragic, and emotionally exhausting moments of my life.
Watching a mother lose a child is not for the faint of heart. I drove home the night he passed away and my mouth could utter only one refrain through tear-stained sobs: “OH, GOD, that was more painful than anyone should ever endure!”
I got home and cried myself to sleep with the grief of the reality of the night pressed on my chest. The next morning I began processing the night before with God, because in my spirit I knew something went wrong within me.
I then heard Holy Spirit ask me, “Jenny, what did you pray for?”
“Well, I prayed for peace, strength, your presence, and something about it being beautiful in the midst of suffering….”
At that moment He took me back to the night before, in my mind’s eye, and said: “Didn’t you SEE My strength in a mother holding her dying child? Didn’t you SEE My peace poured out as everyone sang worship songs and praised My name?” God would show me He was there all along. Our life-line, our comforter.
This is what happens in the storms in our life. The overwhelming reality of the natural overwhelms us and we lose our focus and we start staring at the problem, losing sight of the promise.
Another favorite story to illustrate this point is the story of Jesus walking on water.
In Matthew 14:28 we come into the scene as Jesus is walking on the water. Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and asks: “Lord, is it you? Command me to come to you on the water.”(Matthew 14:28) Jesus beckons him out onto the water and all goes well for a few moments — Peter is WALKING ON WATER! Until he sees the wind and begins to sink.
You see, as soon as Peter saw the boisterous waves, he lost his focus, and he could not see the hand of Jesus reaching out. In the natural, walking on water is impossible because of something we call the law of gravity. It was only by the supernatural act of faith that he could do that. Peter had to believe….
We may not walk on water, but the only way we are going to see the hand of God guiding us through a chaotic world, through a chaotic storm is to remain focused on His hand, to remain focused on His goodness, and to believe.
Let’s get back to the story of Mary. Luke Chapter 1, verse 39, opens up by our learning that Mary arose and went with haste to visit her relative Elizabeth. Don’t you love the details? She didn’t just go see Elizabeth — she went with a fire in her belly. When she arrives, well that is quite the scene.
One filled with leaping babies, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and loud exclamations. If they were Facebook live-ing the event, lots of heart emoji’s would be swirling around from their FB friends.
Before we leave this glorious scene, Elizabeth utters powerful words that give us a glimpse into the heart of Mary:
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” Luke 1:45
As if this story can’t get any better! When I ponder these words I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:7 which reminds us that we are to walk by faith and not by sight. Yet, I realize that I had something backwards all this time. This scripture doesn’t imply that we don’t need our sight, but that faith must come first.
When Elizabeth uttered those gorgeous, affirming words to Mary, she confirmed that Mary believed that which could not yet be seen. However, God knew she would also need to see that bulging six-month belly Elizabeth carried to remind her that nothing is impossible with God and that the promise spoken to her would be fulfilled.
This is where I believe that a steadfast confident heart lies – just like Peter, as soon as we SEE those boisterous waves in our lives (because we will see them), we start asking God; “God show me your hand!”
As Peter cried out to Jesus – “Save me!” — he saw the hand of Jesus! I think Jesus’s hand was there all along because the Word assures us that God is continuously walking with us. So when we start seeing those waves, we can confidently ask God to show us his hand in that situation. To remind us of the promise!
He would show Mary a bulging, leaping belly and her faith would be secured.
God is good and He longs for us to see His glory, to perceive His outstretched hand among the chaos in our lives, in our families, in our hurting world. I want to be like Mary, running with haste to see the hand of God.
Ladies, our stories aren’t easy, the roads we travel are often broken and our hearts long for the promise fulfilled. Yet, sometimes in the midst of the suffering, the waiting, the unknown, we must choose to see . . and we must choose to believe.