Don’t you love it when everything works out according to your plan? When things run on schedule? When your life obediently follows the course you’ve mapped out?
- You find the cutest shoes…on sale…and they have your size!
- You get the job promotion
- You make the team
- You meet “the one”
- You’re trying to have a baby and get pregnant
It’s just a lot easier to have hope when things go the way you expect them to go.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to be hope-filled when things don’t go the way you planned. It can be challenging to hold on to confidence in God when the course of your life takes an unexpected turn that doesn’t seem to make sense.
- You lose your job
- You don’t make the team
- You receive an unexpected health diagnosis
- Your marriage hits a breaking point
- Your kids are struggling
- You lose a loved one
How do you remain steadfast in hope when things appear to be falling apart around you?
How do you remain confident in God when your life takes an unexpected turn and you feel like it’s spinning out of control?
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving and after last year’s Thanksgiving debacle, I decided to keep things really simple – a quiet day at home with the family followed by a leisurely Thanksgiving dinner. However, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I received an unexpected phone call around 2pm.
One of our children had borrowed Gregg’s car. Because of the holiday, there were unanticipated parking restrictions (which our child failed to notice). Upon returning to the car, our child discovered that it wasn’t there. It had been towed to an undisclosed location. Our quiet afternoon turned into a frantic search for our car, a rushed meal and a family field trip to the impound yard.
Thankfully, my family is much more adaptable than I happen to be. They were able to take this unexpected inconvenience, adjust their schedule and laugh through their way through it.
But how do you respond when life knocks you down hard and just getting out of bed in the morning is a victory?
How do you hold firm to hope and reclaim your joy when the laughter ceases, darkness shrouds your life and God seems distant?
At the beginning of the book of Luke, we’re introduced to a young teenage girl named Mary. You’re probably pretty familiar with the story, but try to see it with fresh eyes for a moment.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:26-27
Before this encounter, it had been 400 years since the Jewish people had heard from God. Four hundred years of waiting and hoping that God would hear their cry for help.
For 400 years, God had been silent and seemingly inactive.
How do you maintain hope and faith in God when God seems silent and there is no evidence of His activity in your life?
The challenge is for us to learn to trust him when it’s hard to find him.
When we can’t make sense of our lives.
When we’re handed events that don’t seem to fit into our plans and desires.
So after 400 years of silence, God breaks his silence and speaks to Mary, a teenage girl, and reminds us that even when God is silent, He is not necessarily still.
And even when God is silent, He’s still at work to accomplish his plan.
And even in the darkness and confusion, He’s able to bring light.
When we meet Mary in Luke 1, Mary’s life was pretty much planned out.
- She was getting married to a wonderful man named Joseph.
- She was planning her wedding (well, probably not like we would plan a wedding, but she probably dreamed about her wedding day).
- They would have kids and start a family.
- Joseph was a carpenter so she was guaranteed great furniture.
Mary’s life appears to be seemingly normal and somewhat average – not much different from any other teenage girl in town.
Read now, as her life dramatically begins to change.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Luke 1:28-29
Interestingly, when the angel approached Mary with, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” scripture tells us that Mary is troubled, confused and disturbed.
Why would Mary be troubled by such an AWESOME greeting?
But the angel said to her, “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. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:28-33
Honestly, Mary probably didn’t hear anything after, “You will conceive and give birth to a son”. How crazy is this? Can you even imagine the thoughts racing through her mind, the questions she had, the fears? In a brief five minutes, Mary’s world is COMPLETELY turned upside down and FOREVER changed.
Yet in the midst of what may appear random and chaotic, the angel assures Mary that this will happen.
God provides Mary with certainty and assurance in the midst of her greatly troubling and confusing circumstances.
Put yourself in Mary’s place and attempt to identify with the wide range of emotions she must have experienced in the months following this interaction with the angel.
Consider the turmoil, the shame and the relational conflict Mary had to confront during her pregnancy as an unwed teenager from a devout Hebrew family.
Ponder the judgmental criticism that was probably tossed her way.
Reflect on some of the labels that were given to her by the community. People can be so mean.
Try to relate to the extreme loneliness she must have faced as she confronted her new reality.
How did the community view her? How did her friends treat her? How did her parents respond? How should she approach her fiancée with this one?!
How do we remain steadfast in hope and confident when our life circumstances change and our life seems uncertain and maybe even like it’s falling apart around us?
In part two, we’ll read Mary’s insightful and hope-filled response and God’s abundant provision.