And he came to Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you. Luke 1:28
Mary was favored by God, promised His presence, but then, her life was characterized by suffering. She left her home eight months pregnant. She gave birth in a dirty barn. She fled for Egypt with a husband and a toddler. She saw her son taunted, beaten, and crucified. How was she comforted? There was only one way ~ through sound theology and the presence of God.
As she reviewed the stories of her ancestors, she remembered others who were favored by God, promised His presence for their journey, but then suffered greatly as they walked out their calling. ‘A life of ease’ never characterizes the journey of a disciple.
- Joseph, shown early through dreams that he was favored by God, was then betrayed and led into slavery and imprisonment. Many years later, he would see redemption.
- David, shown early at twelve years of age that he was favored by God, was anointed king. But over the next decade or two, he hid in caves and ran for his life from a demented king.
- Jesus, obviously favored by His Father (a voice from heaven declared it so), was immediately led into the desert for testing. His life ultimately ended up on a cross, by God’s design.
There are more examples than this, too. So why have I forgotten the Bible stories I learned as a kid? Why, when I’m suffering, do I wonder if I have found dis-favor with God? Why do I hide my pain from other believers? Why do I fear God has withdrawn from me rather than tucked Himself in closely? The answer is bad theology and the shame other believers inflict because of their bad theology!
Perhaps you are in the wilderness of testing. You may be ill and the losses that accompany deteriorating health have been staggering. You may have been betrayed, wondered why God didn’t prevent it and instead of feeling comforted, you feel punished, deserted, and aching. You feel you set out on a path God carved out for you ~ only to experience one set of crushing circumstances after another. Most likely, you’ve second guessed yourself so badly that you’ve lost your footing, or you’ve second guessed God’s love and lost all confidence in His promises. If either is true, shame and guilt are your constant companions.
Suffering does not prove dis-favor and disobedience. In the life of an obedient believer, it proves God’s favor. I am not advocating that we wear our pain as a badge. I am, however, promoting rest in God’s purposes!
The One who favors us is the One who calls us to share in His suffering. God’s glory, the point of it all, is most clearly seen when His favored ones trust Him through their tears. Let’s renounce the lies of our accuser and run with confidence toward the heart of the Father who sustained Mary through the tumultuous events surrounding the birth of His Son, Jesus.
I want to be a spiritual giant but I forget their paths of suffering. Shelter me in your arms of grace. I declare that I am loved today, not despised. In Jesus’ name, Amen