Highly Favored

I’ve been thinking about the prayers we pray for our boys: for wholeness and wellness in every part of their being, for God’s goodness to flood their lives, that they’d know Him and become leaders who love well. When we whisper these yearnings, I envision joy for them, not difficulty or sorrow. I don’t ask for hardship. While I know that dark and fiery seasons refine the soul, I don’t wish them upon our kids. We want only good things for them. I recognize the limited scope of my heart here.

I found myself thinking a lot about Mary this Advent season; thinking about what “good” really means when it comes to our lives. She was a teenage girl, minding her own business, when God specifically seeks her out. He tells her she’s highly favored. He chooses her to carry His one and only Son: God with skin on, right there in her very body. In my mind, I’d assume that would mean smooth sailing through pregnancy, delivery, and beyond, however, quite the opposite occurs.

Instead she faces social isolation, a tarnished name, no labor support, birthing in a barn, being chased down by a vengeful king, staying far from home, watching her son tormented and hung from a cross, and so much more. She endured much difficulty. Gabriel visiting Mary wasn’t simply a calling for a season, it was a calling for a lifetime. Nothing would be the same for her ever again. 

I’ve been trying to rectify this in my mind – why did God permit Mary to experience this level of difficulty? Why couldn’t they simply have found decent shelter somewhere? Why couldn’t Mary have raised Jesus without fear of Herod? Did Mary ever wonder the same? An obedient heart can also wish for things to ease up. 

These questions reflect my own limitations back at me. I’m reminded that just because Mary was “highly favored,” doesn’t mean she’s guarded from hardship. In fact, quite the opposite. During our most painful moments, God longs to be near us. Those who love Him and know His tender goodness dwell near Him in grief. Mary loved Him deeply as the Bible repeatedly states that she “treasured all these things up in her heart.” She faced many dark nights of the soul, but she also had front row seats to witness the Messiah upon which all creation hinges.

She knew that the story written around her life was actually not about her at all. It was about Him. The puzzling hardships she faced were Biblical prophecies coming to fruition from hundreds of years before. It wasn’t about her comfort, or a direct correlation between love and provision. Her journey was the most loving one she could take, because God proved Himself in it to her, and to all of us, by following through on His promises.

What if our darkest hours are so much more than what we can see in the moment? What if we crumple up and throw away the preconceived notion that joy is directly correlated to our comfort? May I humble myself and surrender enough to see the bigger story at play even when my circumstances aren’t lining up with my expectations. May that hold true for my children’s lives and the prayers we pray for them, too.

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