As you may or may not know, 2007 has been a pretty rough year for our family. Just two weeks into the year, Alan was diagnosed with a rare liver disease and underwent a corrective surgery. He was 10 weeks old. We stayed in the hospital 15 days.
Around the same time, Greg began to go through a lot of trials at work. A lot of things weren’t right. “Unfair” seems a rather childish and mild way to put it, but without going into details, “unfair” will have to do.
We often found ourselves wondering “why now?” Wouldn’t just one of these problems be enough?
2007 also brought hardships to our siblings and parents and their families. And because we love them, we hurt along with them, just like they hurt with us. Soon, we found out Alan would need to be listed for transplant. We felt the pain of another blow, and again we wondered “why?” Why do these things keep coming? What will be next?
I say all this, not to play “poor us” or complain, but to share the following thoughts with you. It is a familiar story, but suddenly this week, I saw it in a new way.
Over 2000 years ago, an innocent, unmarried young woman suddenly found her world shaken to its very core. Weeks before she was to be married, she found out she was pregnant. Even though she was completely pure. Oh the shock she must have felt. The fear. Thousands of questions and scenarios doubtlessly played through her mind. But Mary accepted these things. She trusted God. She told Him she was His servant, and then she submitted herself to His will.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t heartache. And questions. And tears. And strains on relationships.
First there was the relationship between Mary and Joseph. Even if Mary never knew Joseph considered divorcing her, she had to wonder. And fear. And surely it grieved Joseph to think of divorcing Mary. That couldn’t have been an easy decision. His heart must have hurt deep inside him to think of losing Mary, and wondering what she had done. Had she betrayed him?
Then there were relationships with parents, siblings, family, friends & neighbors. Surely there was gossip. And surely Mary & Joseph and their families were aware of it. If you have been pregnant, you know how long 9 months can be. This was the daily life of this couple and their family. There wasn’t a day that went by that some question or decision or wondering came to mind. Of course, at the same time, there was much joy. A baby! Not only a baby, but the Son of God! A visit from an angel! I am certain Mary and Joseph found themselves on a roller-coaster of emotions (although something tells me that’s not how they described it ;) ).
And then, each time they found themselves accepting and dealing and moving forward with obedience, they were dealt another blow.
You must go to Bethlehem. Late in the pregnancy. Long, difficult travel. No mother, aunts, sisters to be there with you for your first birth.
You must stay in a stable. No bed, no comforts.
You must travel to Egypt. Traveling with a young child. Not going back to family, for them to kiss and cuddle your first-born child, of whom you are so proud.
We are used to seeing this story condensed down to a few passages. But this was their life. We hear it and read it, and we know how it all worked out. They didn’t know. They had each day. One day at a time. Without a doubt they struggled: with decisions, with fears, with trusting God through it all. And when history looks back on the story of Jesus’ birth, we don’t see those daily struggles. The conversations. The heartaches. Those are all washed away with time, and what is left to shine through is God’s perfect plan. God knew Mary and Joseph’s hearts. He knew the questions in their minds. And surely he loved them as much as he did his own Son that he had entrusted to them for such a little while. The Son whose life would one day be given for them, and for us. He hurt when they hurt. He provided peace when they had questions, and joy when they had fears.
In 2000 years, God has not changed. When we are mired down and seemingly surrounded by troubles, He provides peace when we have questions, and joy when we have fears. He has provided a Savior who came as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem to offer us eternal life. And to give us an eternal perspective. This life and all its struggles is temporary. Threaded through it all is His perfect plan, and someday, when we are spending eternity with Him in heaven, we will look back, and that is all we will see. That, and the most remarkable, unending love ever known.