Delight. Reflections on Mary
December 3, 2017 | Didi Bacon
Anxiety is the plague of our time. Sarah Fader, a 37-year-old social media consultant in Brooklyn who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, texted a friend in Oregon about an impending visit recently, and when a quick response failed to materialize, she posted on Twitter to her 16,000-plus followers. "I don't hear from my friend for a day—my thought, they don't want to be my friend anymore," she wrote, appending the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike. Thousands of people were soon offering up their own examples under the hashtag; some were retweeted more than 1,000 times. You might say Ms. Fader struck a nerve. "If you're a human being living in 2017 and you're not anxious," she said on the telephone, "there's something wrong with you.”
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. Luke 1:26-17 NIV
Mary was a young woman living out her story. She was engaged to be married to a good man named Joseph. I have to guess like most girls Mary romantically dreamt of being a wife and a mother. From all that we know about Mary, we know that she was a good Jewish girl. She was pure and honorable. Just thinking about Mary at this moment, I would guess that everything was falling into place with her life and the story that she expected to be living. I think we can all look back in our lives and see parts where things were going along as planned. The hard work is paying off. The job is coming together. Mr perfect is being dated. Miss perfect said yes to my proposal to get married. Bills are paid. The house is bought. God is good. I am good. I am in the driver seat. The story is all happy, happy. I think that is where Mary was at this moment, the moment before Gabriel broke into her story with a message and an assignment from God.
And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. Luke 1:28-29 NIV
I looked up the original meaning of words “very perplexed.” The base word is to literally stir up or figuratively to trouble or upset. It has an adverb attached to the word which adds intensity to the action. She was very upset. An upset that did not go away. Because it says she “kept pondering what kind of salutation this was…”
What causes anxiety in our lives? It is when something happens that we did not script in our perfect life stories. An expectation is not met. A grade is not achieved. A relationship has a conflict. An illness occurs. A pain is experienced. These things happen and we begin to change the story we had for ourselves. We begin to construct tales that take us down paths we do not want to go. We begin to create monsters where they do not exist. We begin to come up with conclusions about ourselves, about life, about God that are not based in truth - but become true to us because we believe the negative story we tell ourselves. This is how anxiety operates. The pressure is usually not from the outside, it is from the inside in the stories that we tell ourselves. Mary’s perfect story was interrupted by a messenger of God bringing news of things that were far beyond her control.
The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Luke 1:30-33 NIV
Do not be afraid Mary. Do not be anxious Mary. Why? Because you have found favor with God. The reception of God’s grace is the reason why you do not need to be afraid. Anxiety is cured when we accept the truth of God’s Word and rest in trusting Him. Jesus means that we can be brought into a greater story than our own. We can know the one who has History in his hands. We can have access to God to whom we can to pray and ask questions like Mary asked when she tried to comprehend what the angel just said to her.
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God." Luke 1:34-37 NIV
It is important to understand the full ramifications of Mary’s question. I think this was more than the physiological how can I get pregnant since I am virgin? It was also a question that involved her relational, moral and social worlds. Mary would have to deal with facing her fiancé Joseph. She would have to go to him and tell him - “I’m pregnant. But I did not cheat on you. It was the Holy Spirit.” Which tells me that in our own moments of struggle - our moments of fear, worry and anxiety - it is ok to ask God. Lord how can this be? Can you help me deal with this. Can you provide help for me to cope with this, get through this, trust you in this. God was gracious to Mary. Through the angel he explained how she would conceive of the Holy Spirit. He also gave her a sign to give her confidence. He told her that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant. A woman who had never been able to get pregnant. A woman now too old to have a baby. The angel says something that is foundational for us who struggle with anxiety. It is a call to faith. It is a call to trust God. To let go of being the author of our story. Gabriel says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” The NIV says it this way - “For no word from God will ever fail.” The gift of Jesus will provide a means of delight to those who struggle with anxiety because Jesus means that there is nothing impossible with God. Whatever your greatest fear, whatever the cause of your anxiety - relax in God and trust that no word from God will ever fail. Even if things are hard and hurtful. Even if things are disappointing and depressing. Jesus means that nothing is impossible with God. It means that we can choose to get up each day and say with Mary…
… "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38 (NASB)
The story of Mary means that Jesus brings joy to the anxious. If we will daily submit to Him the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we are going and what people want from us - we will be able to be set free from anxiety and to live by courageous faith. The gift of Jesus means that there is nothing impossible with God. We can trust him because we know him. We have access to him through his Holy Spirit in our lives. We can cast our cares and anxieties on Him daily. We can be set free to live in truth and not in the stories we tell ourselves that are mostly based on fiction. We can remember Mary and say with her - “Behold the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your Word.”