Cattails, Rabbit Trails, and Thistlefish: When a Blessing Doesn't Feel like a Blessing

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When a Blessing Doesn't Feel like a Blessing

Have you ever been in a situation or a place in life that you know you'll be thankful for later, but in that place or situation you really, really don't want to be there?
I feel like that's how my life has been in Maryland.
Yes, this job is a blessing.
Yes, it's going to be a huge help for paying of student loans.
Yes, it's great that Jon and I can work in the same place.
Yes, I should be thankful.
But honestly, I'm not!

I've tried to stay thankful, and I've tried to keep things in perspective, but seriously, this is hard. I just don't want to be up here.
Jon and I have made it our goal to be faithful with the small things, especially now with a new family that is literally small. We feel like that means starting off by dealing with our student debt. That makes a job necessary. That makes this job a blessing. That means that this job is (dare I say it) from God.

But I thought things from God were supposed to be warm and fuzzy and comforting and secure and refreshing?
Psht. I've known God long enough to know that is false. He wants more for me than a life of ease and comfort!
At first this felt unfair, but then I wondered if people of God have ever felt like their blessings from God were actually curses?
And how did they respond when God's blessings lost their excitement and no longer felt like blessings?

This brought me to Mary.

Mary's Struggle

I tend to think of Mary as this angelic young lady that must have been perfectly patient and meek and beautiful and said "Yes, Lord, I am Your servant, do whatever You need to do" and then didn't complain.
I mean, who could complain after an angel showing up saying "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you"?
But look at her reaction:
"...she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be." (Luke 1:29).
This doesn't sound like the trusting, angelic Mary I had in mind. In fact, it kind of sounds like my relationship with the Lord, constantly trying to figure out what He's doing!

The next clue comes from the angel's response to her silence:
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God," (1:30)
It's not uncommon for people of the Bible to be afraid in the presence of angels; they are huge and warrior-like and other-worldly! But somehow I've always picture her as standing there (still meek and angellic) simply waiting for the message to be delivered. She could have, contrarily, been freaking out (like I would be in the situation).

The angel goes on to tell this young girl that she is going to have the great privilege of bearing God's Son in this world.
"How will this be, since I am a virgin?" was her response.
Was her question asked in the innocent, wide-eyed wonderment like I had always imagined? Or did she have a thousand questions in her mind, and in her panic, that was the only question she could think to ask before this heavenly being disappeared?
The only answer that she was given, in a nutshell, is "Oh, the Holy Spirit will take care of that!" and "By the way, your cousin is going through something similar."

Her response to this was,
"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
Angelic Mary is back.

But in reality, imagine those few moments after the angel left, and the questions that would have been spinning through your head.
What will my family think?
How would I tell them?
Can I tell them?
What will Joseph do?
What will my friends think?
Will they treat me different?
Will they believe me?
Should I even tell anybody?
How do I even tell anyone about what just happened?

The Word of the Lord was not common in those days, and the time spanning between the Old and New Testiment are generations and generations. There were not many people in her time saying, "Hey, I saw another angel yesterday!" or, "Guess what the Lord said today."

Not only that, but a pregnancy is not easy to hide. She only had a month or two to keep this knowledge to herself.

Not only that, but then she would have a baby. Son of God or not, you can't hide a baby either. Would she always be shamed? Would those who didn't believe her see him as a child of shame?

Mary's Comfort

Thankfully, the story doesn't end there. 

The greatest comfort Mary found was in reminding herself of who God was/is. Her song in Luke 1:46-55 continually focuses on who God is and what He has done (for herself and others): 
" spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
He who is mighty has done great things for me...
holy is His name...
His mercy...
He has helped His servant Israel..."

Mary exemplified Psalm 91:4
"He will cover you with His pinions,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler"

She used reminders of His faithfulness as a shield against the lies and the feelings of doubt and isolation.

I also think it is significant that she had a song for these characteristics that were comforting to her. I imagine in times when she felt isolated and misunderstood and her blessing felt like a curse she would start humming the melody and singing in her head, or go somewhere she could be alone and sing it at the top of her lungs to build her courage.

What I Learn

I have a choice in times like this.
I can be offended that God would put me in an uncomfortable situation
or I can respond like Mary constantly remind myself of the goodness of the Lord. I can literally use His faithfulness - which I have seen an abundance of over the years - to shield my heart and my mind from the flaming lies that attack me like arrows.

While I may feel isolated or discouraged, away from home and community, I can take refuge in testimonies of His faithfulness and know that He will never leave me, and has good plans for me. In fact, He always does far more than I could ever ask or imagine! It's in His character (Eph. 3:20).

What are some testimonies of God's faithfulness in your life recently? Testimonies build faith! (And mine could obviously use a boost!) Please share:)

1 comment :