Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5: 3-5
As a woman I often marvel at the high calling on Mary’s life. I think about what it must have been like to have been asked to carry her Savior in her. To be asked to be a mother to him. It seems unfathomable and almost dreamy. And yet, I probably don’t have that anywhere near what it actually was like for Mary while she was going through it all.
She was a young unwed expectant mother. Her fiancé, by all rights in that culture, had the right to not only call off the wedding, but to have her stoned to death. Fortunately, he did neither, which I’m sure raised more than one set of eyebrows in their community. But, for the sake of this post, let’s keep to Mary. Remember a few posts back when I talked about “would we know it was a miracle if God showed up”? Well, I’m not sure many believed her when she started sharing about Gabriel showing up and telling her that she was going to carry the coming King of kings. She would have faced disgust from family and friends. She would’ve been ostracized for her “predicament”, and yet we see in Luke 1 that she responds with “I am the Lord’s servant”. She readily takes on the calling despite knowing the way it would appear outwardly.
I think about Mary and her character and what she said and did. I think about how often I have allowed my circumstances to define me. We experience something difficult and suddenly we are the product of that hardship. We become victims so to speak. We become the barren women, the abused, the product of a divorce, the addict, the mother who can’t get it right, the workaholic, the person with “that” disease…I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s those “things” that cause people to treat you differently and not necessarily in a good way.
Mary could have allowed herself to be the unwed, unfaithful young woman that others were seeing her for, but she didn’t. She could have allowed her attitude and behaviour to be changed to play into what others were saying, but she didn’t do that either. She knew undoubtably, despite what others were saying, that she carried Christ in her. She knew who she was not because of how others defined her, not because of how the external circumstances appeared to define her, but because she knew her role in God’s Kingdom was much larger than the way it appeared initially. She took on a role of a servant to her Heavenly Father instead of falling victim to the way others were defining who she was.
Just like Mary, we are not defined by our sufferings. They will most definitely alter our character and change who we are either temporarily, or permanently, but we were not meant to dwell on them and become the victim of our suffering. Just like Mary we can see through the initial circumstance and carry the same hope that she carried in her, the hope of our Savior. This hope is what defines us, not our pain and suffering. We are not defined by our external circumstances. We are defined by our faith in God as we become His humble servants walking WITH our Father as he guides us and builds us. In fact, we are being carefully moulded through ALL circumstance to have the character God needs us to be to be able to carry out his work on earth. No matter your situation, your suffering, your trial or triumph, it comes with the hope that God sees us as more than our circumstance. What freedom Mary must have found in knowing that she was free of what others told she was. What freedom can we also have knowing that we do not have to feed into or play the role that others have pegged on us based on a circumstance. Rather, we are God’s humble servant living to please him, living to bring him glory.
Know that your suffering isn’t the definition of who you are, but instead it is a pothole meant to slow you down and cause a few cracks so the Potter can rebuild you better than before. Remember 1 John 4:4 and the council it provides in times of trouble:
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
As we get closer to the new year, I challenge you to think about how you see yourself. Are you a victim of your suffering? Have you allowed your circumstances and the way you are seen by others dictate your attitude and the way you see yourself? Or, are you a Mary, a servant, who sees past the way it must look to others and know undoubtably, with confidence, that you too carry the hope of Jesus with you.
PS- if you get a chance to listen, here’s my most favourite song about Mary. When she said “I am the Lord’s servant” I wonder if she fully understood. By the way, this version is by the original writer of the song: