“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.'” — Luke 1:38a, NLT
As a mother, I can relate to Mary. I look back at myself during my first pregnancy, all of the uncertainty and concern that first-time mothers go through; the weighty responsibility of incubating a tiny, precious life. Magnify that by about a thousand, since Mary knew before she was even pregnant that her child would be special.
Mary, as a Jew, knew the Law. She was aware of the prophecies about the coming Messiah. Consider how much more she must have dug into the details after finding out that she was blessed to be His mother. I think back to the birth books and prenatal guides that I read while expecting our first child, and I imagine that Mary did the same with regards to those prophecies. She may not have known the specific details of what was to come, but she certainly grasped the idea that her son’s life would not be an easy one.
I think of Mary, marking Jesus’ milestones, noting the differences between him and his siblings, the emotions that any mother experiences watching her children grow. I understand her abject fear and complete exasperation at her twelve-year-old son who decided on his own to stay behind in Jerusalem without telling her or his stepfather where he was (Luke 3:41-49). I imagine her concern over her son’s future, having a only general idea of what he may be facing as he grew in understanding of himself and his purpose.
Last year, my brother-in-law committed suicide. He wasn’t your garden variety get-along-at-family-gatherings type of brother-in-law; I first met his family when we were seven or eight years old. Our parents were very close, and his older sister was my best friend. Our families attended the same congregation, played volleyball, went to picnics and and on bike rides and to theme parks together. There aren’t many memories of my childhood that don’t contain him or one of his siblings. He and my younger sister began dating in their late teens and were married for just shy of fifteen years when he took his life.
I remember that Tuesday as one of constant prayer. The call from my mother, the calls to my sisters, my calls to my husband’s sisters to request their prayers. I sat on my bed, tears streaming down my face, searching my Bible for comfort. Romans 8:35-39 was reassuring, as were the Psalms. And then I read Ephesians 5:20.
“And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — Eph 5:20, NLT
How is this even possible? What is there to be thankful for in such a time of darkness, of pain and immeasurable suffering for my sister, for my family, for her husband’s family and all who knew and loved him? This scripture and Romans 8:28 are often offered as comfort by well-meaning friends, but the pain they bring in times like these… Again I prayed, and this time my prayers were specifically focused on his mother, for her suffering at the loss of a child, her oldest son, not quite 36 years of age, gone long before his time.
Imagine if, at the time our children are born, that we could see the future. As we acquaint ourselves with the contours of the tiny face before us, we would know the joy and elation, the sorrows and suffering, the beginning and the end. It would be too much for our human hearts to bear. Yet multiply this feeling times billions, and that is the knowledge God has for each and every one of us. He knew the beginning and the end of my sweet brother-in-law’s life, knew both his joys and sorrows, knew his pain and suffering (Psalm 139:1-6).
What a blessing that his mother did not need to bear that knowledge before its time.
Mary birthed her son, saw him grow, become a man, assume the mantle of the Christ and all that it entailed. She watched his crucifixion. How she must have prayed, how she must have doubted, how she must have wavered. Yet, through it all, ultimately, she remained “the Lord’s servant.”
What comfort we can draw from the example of Mary’s faith and motherhood.