After Gabriel tells Mary that she will soon give birth to the Son of God, he also mentions, as extra confirmation, that her cousin Elizabeth is expecting a baby in her old age. Mary receives the news, believes, and then goes immediately to Elizabeth’s house. Upon arrival she hears these wonderfully, welcoming words from Elizabeth:
“Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
And then Mary sings.
It seems she had always believed there would be a fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, and now it’s happening. The lyrics of the song are all praise, remembrance, and gratitude. The Lord has come through for her, just like she knew that He would.
Friday night I crawled into bed, and the tears came. I never know just when this might happen, but I know the potential for it is never buried too deep. I wish I could anticipate it better, because then I might do something to prevent it. Stop. Rest. Take a day off. (“Might” is the key word here, unfortunately.) I’ll think I’m doing okay, (a much better place than I was a couple of years ago) and so I go, and I go, and I go, and then it hits, and then I know. I know I’m already past the point of no return, and the tears of weariness come. And then the hopelessness speaks louder. The restlessness rears up. Discouragement prevails and sadness settles in again. And I can’t ever quite put my finger on any good reason why.
Then a patient husband rolls over to talk and embrace and pray, and it helps. But then guilt washes over and is joined by other voices of condemnation.
You’ll always be this way.
He’ll get tired of listening.
How could you possibly be sad?
You are so blessed.
Obviously you are just selfish and ungrateful.
Crying makes me even more tired than the things (whatever they are) that I was crying over in the first place, but I pry my puffy eyes open the next morning and open my Beth Moore Esther study, my Bible, and my journal (a brand new one!) before I even get out of bed.
I’m on week 9, day 5. It’s entitled “A Time of Happiness.”
Hmmmm…don’t think this is going to be especially relevant, but in obedience (my specialty) I forge ahead.
The Jews have just experienced a “great reversal” as Beth likes to put it. They have just received word that a previous edict, the one that guaranteed their impending annihilation, has been countered with a second edict: the right of the Jews to assemble and defend their lives. There is now pure happiness among them. When the first edict went out there was “mourning, fasting, weeping, and wailing.” ( chap. 4, v. 3) With this new edict, there is “light, feasting, gladness, and joy.” (Chap. 8, v. 16-17)
It is a great (and quite obvious) reversal.
From mourning to light.
From fasting to feasting.
From weeping to gladness.
From wailing to joy.
Hmmmmm….so maybe I can relate to this. We’ll see….
Then Beth suggests to me, “Maybe you could use a reversal right now. Write four words that describe the condition of your soul, and then four words that would be a great reversal of those negatives ~ positives you wish He’d enact instead.”
Well, okay. But haven’t I been doing this for two years? Yes, I have. In fact, as I glance back to the previous day’s journal entry, I realize that I went through these same exact motions just yesterday (and those without Beth’s prompting!)….
Please, Lord…I keep asking that you would right and renew my heart ~ for you and for your people. Remove from me negativity, anger, hopelessness, and depression ~ and fill me with hope, joy, and passion.
On this particular day my four descriptions were only slightly different:
From weariness to rested strength.
From discouragement to hope.
From sadness to joy.
From restlessness and discontentment to acceptance and contentment.
Then Beth exhorts me to, “Stop right this moment and pray in Jesus’ Name for God to bring a great reversal in your life with these exact results. Confess to Him the negative conditions you’ve suffered, and then express your deepest heart’s desire for Him to turn them around.”
I stop and do just as I am told. (More dutiful obedience. I’m really good at this part.)
I finish praying, get out of bed, and begin getting ready for the day. It’s Saturday and there’s breakfast to fix, dance class to get to, groceries to buy, Christmas cards to write, packages to mail, and a dinner invitation to keep. I gaze into the bathroom mirror while putting on mascara and I almost audibly hear these words:
But you don’t believe that I’ll do it.
You’ve asked the same thing for years now, but you’ve never actually expected me to come through for you ~ not with the healing and transformation you long for. You’ve resigned yourself to a rigidly defined temperament, and you’ve decided that it will just be a life long battle. You trust me on behalf of others, but you don’t trust me for yourself. When C calls to tell you about her despondent husband, you speak hope to her that I will repair the brokenness. When R lets you know her oldest is rebelling and failing classes, and that her finances are depleted, you tell her that I will provide for her, that I am a God of miracles, that nothing is impossible with me. When G tells you she’s so worried about the future and her current performance in life ~ worried enough to hurt herself, you pray and tell her that I accept her unconditionally, care about her deeply, and desire her to be made whole.
So, why don’t you believe that I think and desire the same things for you?
Tears and mascara don’t really work well together, and so I just stop and confess: You’re right Lord, and I don’t know why I still keep resisting your fatherly love and intimate concern for me. Show me how to receive it. Show me how to believe it.
Sunday comes, and the sermon at church is on another “great reversal.” The one who is born in almost complete obscurity (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) ~ the one who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” is the also the one whom eventually “God highly exalted” and gave the “name which is above every name.” In fact, before that unknown baby in a feeding trough, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. A great reversal ~ all the work of a loving father ~ all on behalf of a believing, obedient son.
The centurion believed ~ with greater faith than any Jesus had seen in Israel, and without even laying eyes on his paralyzed servant, Jesus healed him…
“Go your way; let it be done to you as you have believed.” Matthew 8:13
And the disciples were encouraged to believe…
“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Matthew 21: 22
Lois and I listened to a Tim Keller sermon on the way home from a baby shower on Sunday. The title was “Praying our Tears.” That patient husband of mine just happened to have uploaded it the day before and put it in my purse before I left on the 2 hour drive. Tim reminded us that upon conversion, we are given a heart of flesh to replace a heart of stone (Ezek 11:19), and so we should fully expect the tears, because hearts made of flesh feel more sensitively and hurt more deeply. Then we should invest the tears, like a farmer sows his seed intentionally in the fertile soil. And then we should pray the tears.
I tried it out this morning. I got up early and knew that the Lord was leading me to read and pray Psalm 40.
Please give me something to believe for this coming year, Lord.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay;
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth ~ a song of praise to our God…”
Psalm 40: 1-3
A song. A new song. I’m believing Him for a fresh new melody ~ not the same melancholy song of resignation and despair, but a new one. A song, like Mary’s, of praise. A song of rested strength, hope, joy, and contentment. A song of belief and trust for the great reversal.
I believe He is able ~ even for myself this time.
And blessed is she who believes.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…
…and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Hebrews 11: 1, 6