God’s plan or ours?

Our pastor preached about Mary the mother of Jesus about a month ago and I’ve been thinking about that message ever since. He spoke about the difference between asking God to bless what I am doing and stepping into what God is doing. When the angel appeared to Mary with the news that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and become pregnant with a son, she had a choice to make: whether she would step into God’s plan for her or not. God was inviting Mary into His story. He was sending His son as the savior of the world, and he wanted him to be born through the virgin Mary. That was his plan, but I want you to think about it from Mary’s perspective. Although the scriptures don’t say a lot about what Mary thought or felt, I think her life was quite a roller coaster ride. It probably did not follow the script she would have written and prayed for. I think her life illustrates the reality that God’s plan is often quite different than the one we envision and want him to bless, but his plan is best and will accomplish his eternal purposes. Our prayers are often our attempt to convince God to bless our plans, but I believe that he wants us to align ourselves in prayer with what he is doing in and around us.

Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a few minutes. Here was this Jewish girl, probably a teenager, engaged to be married to Joseph. What might her dreams have been? Probably to be happily married to Joseph, have many babies, live comfortably, and enjoy old age with Joseph and her grandchildren. She may also have longed for a deliverer to break the Jewish people free from their Roman oppressors. Perhaps Mary prayed for God to bless her upcoming marriage, family, and nation. She probably did not realize the adventure she was about to participate in.

It started when she was engaged to Joseph, and an angel shows up to give her the life-changing announcement that she has found favor with God and  will give birth to  Jesus (Luke 1:26-56). So Mary is basically freaking out when the angel first greets her. Then when she’s told that she’s going to give birth to a son, she’s totally confused. Like, how is this going to happen when I’m still a virgin? The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and reassures her that God still does miraculous things by telling her that her barren older cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant. Then in v. 38, Mary submits to God’s plan and accepts that this crazy circumstance is God’s will for her. She then visits Elizabeth and gets confirmation and encouragement from Elizabeth. A song of praise comes from Mary’s mouth and heart as she declares her gratefulness and trust in the Lord and exalts his character.

So as God breaks into Mary’s life with His story, Mary goes from shock to confusion to surrender to praise. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through that sequence a few times. Shock, confusion, surrender, praise. We have our nice little ideas about how we’d like God to work in our lives and bless us, but then God answers our prayer with a crisis that we didn’t ask for. He has something different in mind; something that is going to further His eternal purposes, not just make us happy and comfortable.

I’m sure that Mary’s adjustment to God’s will was a process that involved many peaks and valleys. How many of the people in Mary’s town would have believed that she was a pregnant virgin? I’m sure that some looked down on her. Think of what it must have been like to raise a perfect child as your firstborn. Pretty cool. But Mary had at least 7 more children, who weren’t perfect. That probably generated some interesting sibling rivalry that Mary had to manage. There was the time that the family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and on the way home realized that they had lost Jesus, who was about 12 years old at the time. Time to freak out again! But when she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, teaching the teachers, they were amazed. Who is this special child?

He learned his father’s carpentry trade and then began at the age of 30 to preach, teach, and heal people. How proud of her son she must have been. Then, when Jesus was only 33 years old, she had to watch him suffer and be brutally killed. Her husband, Joseph, had probably died by then, judging by Jesus’ instruction to John to take care of Mary in his stead. So she lost her husband, and now her firstborn son is hanging on the cross. That was probably not what she had prayed for. It was probably not what she expected as a faithful woman of God. Then came the amazement of the resurrection and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Wow! This is incredible! Between those two events, Jesus leaves her again…to ascend to heaven.

What can we learn from Mary’s life? That God has a plan, and he invites us to be part of it. It’s going to be an adventure! And it’s probably not what we would have planned or prayed for! And when we hit a crisis, once we’ve recovered from the shock of it and the confusion of wondering what we did to deserve this, we can accept that this is God’s will for us, and we can surrender to him and pray for *His* plan to prosper. And God will put a song of praise in our hearts!

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

 

Annunciation 39

 

 

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