“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” Luke 1:31 NIV
We’ve all had to handle bad news at some point and I know I don’t always handle it well.
Mary was just a young girl, probably about fourteen, yet as a crusty middle-aged woman, she could teach me a thing or two about staying sane when your world falls apart. We all could.
Luke 1:26-38 reads like the beginning of a Hollywood movie; a film where the young protagonist faces her come to Jesus moment (Ha! Pun totally intended!) as the title sequence ends.
There she is, minding her own business, doing the chores assigned to a young girl of marrying age, when her nice calm morning is interrupted big time. In bursts the tall, dark and handsome angel Gabrielle*. He tells her she’s found favor with God and, despite her unmarried status and lack of any form of roll-in-the-hay, she’ll give birth to a baby boy.
Up until this point, sweet Mary had been living her life, minding her own business, trying to follow and honor God while doing what was expected of her – marry and settle down with a nice Jewish man from the village. Her life was mapped out ahead of her – the carpenter, the kids, the whole nine yards.
Until Gabrielle goes and spoils it.
His news was not good news as we know it.
Being unmarried and pregnant was a huge deal and Mary was all too aware of the consequences. She’d be divorced before she even got fully hitched, shunned by her family and friends, and quite possibly killed.
God’s plan didn’t sound like an upgrade for someone favored by God.
Have you ever been minding your own business, going merrily along in your happy skippy life when something shows up and rips it all away? I have and it’s no fun. To be honest, it’s often painful, scary and heartbreaking.
When I got the call to tell me I had cancer I didn’t react with the calm and thoughtful faithfulness Mary did. I was a screaming snotty, cursing mess. Not the picture of calm composure we see in Mary. Just take a look at what she says;
29″Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be …
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
How did she do it?
How can we stay sane, calm, and trusting when our lives get smacked in the face by a curveball of this magnitude?
Here’s what I see Mary doing that I think we could all learn from.
She kept calm. v29
As we tell our kids, panicking never solves anything, but when it’s you and your life that’s been ripped away or you’re doing your best to keep your head above water as you begin to drown in a life you didn’t sign up for, it’s easier said than done. Mary’s obviously not happy; Gabrielle has to tell her not to be afraid and we’re told she was “greatly troubled,” and yet she doesn’t freak out or have a hissy fit. When we keep our calm in the face of bad news we set the scene for open dialogue.
She asked God questions. v34
If we’re calm we’re in a better place not just to ask questions, but ask the right questions. For Mary that was a practical question involving birds and bees and the like. For us, we might need practical, spiritual, or emotional, answers and if we’re calm we’re in a better place to think of the right questions.
She waited for answers. v35-36
In an angry rant of biblical proportions, I spewed my questions at God after I got my diagnosis, but I didn’t hang around to hear what He might have to say. I was too busy being angry, hurt and formulating my own theories. Mary waited. Mary listened, and she was rewarded with answers.
She trusted God when she couldn’t see how her story would end. v38
Despite all that could happen Mary said yes to God. Yes to carry a baby out of wedlock, yes to risking divorce and possible death. Yes to the unknown. Yes to the dark days ahead. You could argue she didn’t have a choice – that none of us have a choice. It’s happening anyway, right? Wrong. We always get to choose. We get to choose to trust God or not, we get to choose to go with the situation or fight it. We can choose how we journey through dark days, even if we can’t choose if we travel through them.I reckon Mary was able to trust God at this life-altering moment because she knew God to be faithful and trustworthy.
As I heard Kay Warren say shortly after losing her son, “What God says in the light, we hold onto in the dark.”
I don’t know what you’re facing this Christmas, but chances are you’ve got something weighing you down or keeping you up at night. Can you join me and face it like Mary? Can you do your best to stay calm, ask God questions, wait for His answers, and then trust Him with your story whose ending is unknown?
If like me, you struggle to trust God when life’s a hot mess, you might find this post helpful. 5 Simple Steps to Trusting God When You Don’t Feel Like It
These five steps helped me trust God, especially when it’s the last thing I want to do, and I hope they helps you. I made you this handy, dandy infographic to print off and keep.
*Let’s be clear, there’s absolutely no biblical evidence that Gabrielle is tall, dark, and handsome, but saying he was squat, balding and with a bad case of halitosis, doesn’t sound quite as good, does it?