Hope Suffering

What Mary Can Teach Us About Joy in a Broken World

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As Christmas draws near I’ve been thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, again. Her story has stuck out to me as a beautiful example of joy in a broken world. Her walk of faith has encouraged me that while life is not always easy, there is true hope to be found.

She was called “blessed among women.” What an incredible honor to so intimately bear and mother the Son of God during his earthly years. Yet, even while she was considered most blessed, her path was not without its hardships.

In the first chapter of Luke, we encounter Mary as an angel tells her of what will come – that she will bear a child despite being a virgin, and that he would be the holy one, the Son of God. We see her dedication to God as she instantly accepts this miraculous undertaking.

What did her village think when she showed signs of pregnancy before marriage? Likely nothing good. We are told in Matthew 1:9 that her betrothed was considering putting her quietly aside until an angel appeared to him as well. Painful scenes that likely happened are left to our imagination.

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But also what joy. We see joy when she visits Elizabeth, then pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth cries loudly that Mary and her son are blessed and that her unborn son leaped with joy in her womb at their appearance.

Mary sings of the greatness of the Lord, and how her spirit rejoiced in God, her Savior.

Her joy as the mother of Jesus eclipsed the pain of her unique situation. (Luke 1:39-56)

What precious moments she must have had with him as a sweet little newborn baby. After Jesus is born, shepherds are heralded by angels and told of the Glory of God come in a little babe. Everyone else was amazed, “But Mary was treasuring up these things in her heart and meditating on them.” Luke 2:19

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This treasuring up as a mother is something all of us mothers can relate to. I think it both speaks of her special relationship as a mother to a tiny newborn infant, and also as a godly woman who truly wanted to honor God with her life and the unique responsibility she bore.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to understand how we should best honor God. When Jesus was twelve and told Joseph and Mary that the temple was “his father’s house,” they were offended that he had stayed behind and “did not understand what he said to them.” (Luke 2:50)

How often have I been like Mary and Joseph, also not understanding what Jesus was about, and even being offended by him because I could not understand.

But it warms me that Mary was the one that pushed Jesus into his first miracle. This mother had been spending years treasuring all that she had been told about her special son “Do what he tells you to do,” she demands, and watches as Jesus turns water into wine. This woman did not doubt Jesus’ ability to save that wedding! (John 2:1-12)

But then the story of their relationship takes a turn. Soon after when Jesus started his ministry, gathered his disciples, and began his miracles, his family or kinsmen thought he had gone insane and came to collect him (Mark 3:21). We don’t know whether his immediate family, including Mary, was in that group. But a few verses later we are told that when Mary and his brothers waited outside wanting to speak to Jesus, he spoke these confusing words.

Then his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him and told him, “Look, your mother, Your brothers, and Your sisters are outside asking for You.”

He replied to them, “Who are My mothers and My brothers?” And looking about at those who were in a circle around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 31-35)

As a mother, this verse stings me as it must have stung Mary and his siblings when it happened. Earlier we had been told that Jesus chose to be submissive to his parents as a 12-year-old son. It must have been jarring for Jesus to refuse their simple request now. But Jesus never stings without purpose, and here he not only has an important message to those around him, but he is offering a gift to his family – including Mary.

He knows that while Mary has been blessed to be his earthly mother that a still greater blessing awaits her – eternal salvation – if she were to trust her son as her Savior. This verse appears to imply that his siblings and his mother are not yet his followers. They wish to speak to him, but they are outside the fold.

Because Jesus loves them he sends them a clear message – blood ties are not what will hold them together in the future, but being in the family of God will.

We don’t hear a lot about Mary again until we see Jesus crucified and Mary watching her beloved son dying a painful and horrible death. Here was the moment that Simon had prophesied when Jesus was an infant – that Mary would have her very soul pierced with a sword.

I have always wondered what she thought of the promises of God in those long hours. Did she wonder if she had misheard God all those years before? Did she doubt her own story? Did she mistrust God’s goodness?

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I don’t know if she held on to her faith during that dark night, though I hope she did. Here was a woman who immediately accepted God’s out-of-the-ordinary design for her life despite likely harsh consequences. Here was a woman who fled with her husband to Egypt in the middle of the night to save her son, was regaled by Angel-seeing-shepherds, watched wise men give gifts, and who treasured it all in her heart.

But no one can envy that long night. Death is the last enemy, and she had to watch the enemy take not only her son but her savior too.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. What an important reminder that when we think all hope is lost, it’s a call to wait on God’s timing, because we don’t know what he has planned next.

Jesus rose from the grave on the third day and joy was again. We are told in Acts 1 that not only Mary, but his brothers too were joined in joyful prayer after Jesus ascended to Heaven. (Acts 1:14)

Mary had received the spiritual blessing of accepting Jesus not just as her earthly son, but as her Savior too.

And that’s joy.

None of us will get the opportunity to be the most blessed among women by bearing the Son of God in our womb. But Jesus, and Mary and his brothers too, would tell us that we can join in the greater joy of also accepting him as our savior and putting our trust in Him.

As we can see from Mary’s life of faith, it meant that sometimes living by faith was confusing; it was hard, it was sometimes heart-wrenching and sometimes poignantly beautiful.

This is the life that we can also have following Jesus who is both tender and loving, and a cross bearing Savior asking us to follow in his footsteps.

That is joy in a broken world.

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So this Christmas season, as I think of Mary all those years ago, holding her newborn son in her arms, I think about joy so great, that even the angels appeared and a star rose. “Jesus is worth celebrating” only sounds cliché because we aren’t feeling the weight of the glory of his mission on earth.

The joy of Jesus’ birth is our joy when our hope is in him. This is what Mary’s story tells us.

10 thoughts on “What Mary Can Teach Us About Joy in a Broken World”

  1. I love this, Kimi. I’m not a big celebrator of Christmas, as I think Christmas for the Christian is every day of his life! (As is the resurrection.) But this reminds me of the sacredness of the story of Christ’s birth, something that can be lost in today’s fast-paced world. Thank you for the reminder. You are so right, “when we think all hope is lost, it’s a call to wait on God’s timing.” So many things can bring despair, and yet, it’s all about keeping our eyes on Him. When we do, we have the faith that moves mountains.
    Be blessed, my friend,

    1. Rachel,

      Thanks so much for the comment! I do believe that we can lose a lot in our fast paced world. For me at least, I can lose a lot of the wonder of life until I slow down. It’s been a sweet time to slow down this Christmas season and think about the joy of Christ’s birth through the eyes of Mary. It definitely made me think about it in a new way!

  2. Very well said and Mary probably would’ve took his place on the cross if she cut ou very well said and Mary probably would’ve took his place on the cross if she could

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