Supporting Actress: Mary

by Carolyn Hope

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)

Mary was an ordinary girl who found herself in an unexplainable position. One day she was engaged to be married and the next day she was told she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.

When Gabriel came as the mouthpiece to a divine message, he did not ask Mary to be the mother of God’s son; he decreed it as though it would be. “You WILL be with child … He WILL be great … his kingdom WILL never end.” Just as certain and sure God was of Jesus’ future greatness and kingdom, He was certain and sure that Mary would be his mother. It’s almost like Mary didn’t even have an option. There was no, ‘If you don’t want to do this, I can find someone else.’ Gabriel didn’t say, ‘Are you okay with this?’ God didn’t seek Mary’s approval of His plan; He simply decreed and declared what would be. Mary could have said no, but that was very clearly not what the Lord planned or desired. He wanted Mary, and He was so convinced that He didn’t even speak of the situation as though it was optional.

Mary believed this message and submitted to the dangerous call. Thus began her plight … or so we often think.

Mary said that all generations to come would call her blessed. While much of the church honors and respects Mary, we often view her predicament as a burden, not a blessing. We treat her pregnancy as a task, and not a gift. She seemed to believe that it was an honor and a joy to be the chosen mother of the Christ. We tend to focus on the negatives. ‘There was risk involved. She could have been killed. She was scarred with supposed scandal for the rest of her life. She almost lost Joseph.’ We forget all the joys and blessings that came with this divine and beautifully orchestrated call. Mary had a miraculous pregnancy and birth! She had a perfect son (I feel bad for Jesus’ siblings), who came to save all of humanity. Every parent has at least some bias toward their children, but with Jesus, no bias would be too much. His destiny, his call, his purpose was greater than any other human has ever known. Mary got to see what God looked like in human flesh. She was the first voice Jesus heard, the first to feed him, the first to be intimately close with him. She watched her God, her Lord and King, grow up in her own home. How special. How incredible. How beautiful.

Sometimes we view Gabriel’s visit to Mary as the great interruption; her life was flipped upside down (and maybe even ruined) from that point forward. Actually, it was probably one of the greatest days of her life! That was the day that she was chosen for something greater than herself. That was the day that God brought his dream for her and turned it into a reality.

I wonder if Mary had always felt different. If she had sensed that she was made for more than a normal life. Then one day here comes an angel, and suddenly all the strange longings in her heart made sense. What if, instead of totally freaked out and stressed and afraid, Mary was excited to give birth to Jesus? What if instead of being something to put up with, Mary’s call brought her exuberant happiness? What if this was everything she was waiting for? Yes, there was risk. Yes, there was danger. Yes, she could have lost everything. But think of all she gained! Think of all the blessings bestowed on her!

God has a call on your life, and it’s not meant to be a heavy burden that crushes your heart. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, there will be trials and danger. Don’t let that deter you. Far greater than the reality of the risk involved in your destiny is the reality of joy and peace. The life God has for you is the best that could ever be. When you follow after Him with all your heart, you will walk into the fullness of His goodness and mercy.

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Fruit #2: Joy

by Carolyn Hope

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)

Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes during the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. Some of the Jews had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, but the city was in disarray and broken down. The walls and gates were diminished to rubble. When Nehemiah received reports of the city’s deteriorated state, he wept at the news. He spent much time mourning and praying to God for Jerusalem. Then he developed a plan, and with the king’s permission and a determined heart, he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In just 52 days, the walls and gates were restored.

Nehemiah shares the secret to his success when he told the Israelites in Jerusalem, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!” We frequently quote this phrase to loved ones who are down or weary. In order to truly understand this sentence, however, we must first realize the context of what Nehemiah went through. When he heard of Jerusalem’s condition, he was not ‘joyful’; rather, his heart was broken, and he cried for his city. Then, Nehemiah rose up, and throughout the rest of the story, he walked with confidence and encouragement. What caused the transformation? From his declaration mentioned above, it can only be one thing: a joy that comes from the Lord Himself.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Read the book of Nehemiah, and you’ll see that the journey to rebuilding Jerusalem wasn’t an easy or pleasant one. There were many opportunities for Nehemiah to experience all sorts of negative emotions; and most likely, he did. He never let his circumstances or feelings deter him from his work. That is what joy is. It’s the power to overcome the negative emotions you experience and to press forward to do what you know God has called you to do. It is the choice to keep going as if everything is as it should be, so that everything will be what it needs to be. It’s the refusal to be hindered by what other people say, what you think, or how you feel.

Whether or not you feel ‘happy’ is not what determines your joy. You must choose joy, regardless of how you feel. Your joy isn’t based in emotions or circumstances, but in the love of your Father, a love that is always steady. You can have joy in every season, test, or trial, because Jesus is with you, and He will give you His joy.

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