Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Favored and Blessed

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said “Hail favored one. The LORD is with you!” (Luke 1:28, NASB). Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, told her, “Blessed among women are you” (Luke 1:42b, NASB). When God declares it so, we can hardly disagree, but I sometimes wonder about Mary’s blessing. Unarguably, being Mother to the Son of God is a tremendous honor and blessing. However, Mary did not live a charmed life.

We aren’t told much about her, but Mary’s response to Gabriel would lead us to believe that she had outstanding character and was devout. She was certainly not one that neighbors would expect to need to rush her wedding date. Her blessing led to her reputation being tarnished, to shame for herself and her family.

But her problems didn’t end there. Circumstances then forced Mary to take a long journey on a donkey over rough terrain - right at the time her baby was due. Since there was no room for her, she had to give birth in a filthy barn, laying her first child, her tiny newborn son, in a feeding bin. Do you think Mary felt blessed?

As if giving birth in a stable was not enough—though totally innocent—Joseph and Mary then had to sneak their baby away in the night. They were forced to flee to another country to save Jesus’ life.

Jesus would have been a delight to parent, but I sometimes wonder if His siblings became jealous, thus creating family tensions. Even though Jesus was without sin, as a twelve-year-old He still gave His mother quite a scare when He stayed at the temple and was lost for three days. I’m sure that did not feel like a blessing.

However, it probably deepened Mary’s appreciation for each day she had with her son. Later, her anguish would be unbearable as Jesus was reviled, falsely accused, shamed, beaten, and crucified. Favored? Blessed? Mary was helpless as she watched her firstborn son unjustly persecuted and brutally killed.

And yet, Mary was favored and blessed among women. She was chosen by God to bring the Savior into the world. However, in spite of such a singular honor, at times her life did not seem blessed. Mary endured significant suffering because she birthed the Son of God. Her blessing was the source of suffering.

As I look at Mary’s “blessed” life, I realize that when I’ve asked for God’s blessing, I’ve looked for personal gain. I’ve hoped for financial increase, recognition, comfort, or advantage. All such desires focused on my personal benefits. I didn’t consider that God grants favor and blessings for His goals, not mine—and they often come with hardship.

Can we expect blessings without suffering? Is there even one biblical hero that didn’t suffer? Hardship is inevitable. Why do we dream of a life without suffering? Jesus said we would be persecuted. It is through affliction that we grow in the knowledge and character of Christ.

Instead of seeking personal blessing and a life of ease, we need to focus on the second part of Gabriel’s message to Mary, “the Lord is with you.” In fact, if we join God in what He’s doing, rather than seeking what we want, we will be favored. When we encounter suffering with the blessing, we can draw from His strength and provision.

We also need to be aware of our own favor and blessing. If we know Jesus, He lives in us. Therefore, like Mary, we have been chosen by God to carry the life of His Son to the world. Because Jesus lives within us, indeed, like Mary, we are favored and blessed.

Also, just as with Mary, God is with us. He will give us grace for each day. It won’t always be easy, but He promised that He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

We can know that whatever trials we face will be used for good if we love God and are called according to His purposes. Our suffering will not be for naught. (Mary’s suffering was great, but think of the good that came from it!)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we can rejoice, even in the midst of a struggle, because we are favored and blessed.

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