Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Job 33:4
My flight was canceled—for the seventh time that day. What I’d planned to be a refreshing girls trip, had quickly spun into a stress-filled travel debacle. I had set my heart on this trip, buying a ticket guaranteeing (or so I believed) my passage from Point A to Point B. But the weather and the airlines had different plans for me. I’m not going to lie; it’s hard for me to stay positive when my expectations start falling apart. And based on the mood in the airport that day, I’d guess most people don’t react well to unwanted change.
A delayed vacation is such a little thing compared to, say, the unexpected pregnancy of a virgin. I used to think it was strange that Mary was afraid when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. He’s an angel, after all. Shouldn’t she be amazed or awestruck? While fear is hardly an uncommon reaction to encountering angels in the Bible (Matthew 1:19-25; Luke 2:8-20), Mary’s story leads me to believe that perhaps angels do not appear like the gentle white-clothed, feather-singed, harp-carrying creatures we’ve imagined them to be.
Now try to imagine a young, teenage girl with a formidable creature appearing before her, saying that, while there is no logical or scientific reason she should be pregnant, indeed she is! This makes it seem quite natural for Mary to respond with fear and then disbelief. And so she asks the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). She’s basically saying, This cannot be happening—can it? Who hasn’t felt the same way at some point or another?
What’s unique about Mary’s reaction is that she moves from fear of the angel, to disbelief of the situation, and then on to obedience to her God. I don’t know about you, but I tend to move from fear to disbelief to frustration to defeat—only landing on obedience after a long internal struggle. Mary doesn’t do that. She doesn’t tell God He will have to take her kicking and screaming into His will. Lo and behold, her betrothed Joseph follows suit—his heart moving from fear to disbelief and, ultimately, to obedience.
I think the secret to Mary and Joseph’s faithful response lies in their true identity. It’s significant that after the angel Gabriel breaks the shocking news, Mary quickly identifies herself as “the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). She could have objected to God’s will, aligning herself with other identities instead, arguing, “But I’m a virgin!” or “I’m un-wed!” or “I’m still young!” All of those things were true, but Mary’s truest identity came from her relationship with God.
When we fight the will of God, aren’t we just prioritizing another identity over the one He’s given us? In our hearts, aren’t we quietly saying that we want to be lord over our own lives, rather than abiding with Him as His faithful servant? Thankfully, we can gladly choose the role of God’s servant because we know the Lord is a far better and more gracious ruler than we could ever be to ourselves.
Instead of struggling against the good things God wants to do in and through our lives, let us imitate Mary’s reaction to a shocking and wild calling. Even better, let us emulate the obedience of Jesus Himself before His Father (Luke 22:41-42). Although fear and disbelief naturally arise, let us lean into the Lord’s calling with obedience. Only then will we find the peace that can only come from walking in relationship with the Most High.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.