In His Grip, December 22
How Can This Be?
By Sharon W. Betters
For our December In His Grip devotions, my wife Sharon, will encourage you with some of her thoughts about Christmas.
How can this be - that our son and his friend died in this car accident? How can this be that I haven't talked to Mark or seen him or touched him or ruffled his hair or heard his laugh in a week, a month, a year? Ten years? Almost twenty years?
How can this be...?
Perhaps you have asked this question when your husband announced he didn't love you any more, or your daughter declared her independence from your faith, or your mother suddenly died, or you lost your job.
Sometimes it's a rhetorical question - we don't really expect an answer. Other times, we can barely whisper the words or perhaps cannot scream them any louder. HOW CAN THIS BE....????
Mary, the teenager chosen by God to bear His Son, asked this very same question after the angel announced her pending pregnancy to her. How can this be since I am a virgin?
The angel's explanation creates more questions:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is gong to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.
Can you imagine her confused face, possibly her, "Huh?!!"
Ok, so, Angel, or whomever you are, I have no clue what you're talking about. Can you tell me anything else?
Remember, this account is from an eyewitness. The only human eyewitness is Mary. There may have been more to the conversation, but this is what Mary told Luke. And this account is what God wants us to think through.
Accepting the angel's explanation required faith. Supernatural, undefinable, inexplicable faith.
I believe that's true about most of God's answers to the question, "How can this be...?" Especially when it's asked in the context of great loss or dramatic, traumatic upside down changes in our lives.
Mary is not the first one to ask this question. Throughout Old Testament history we hear the people of old respond to God's totally unexpected plans designed just for them as part of His promise to provide a Messiah, with similar questions. Sometimes He gives a partial explanation as in Mary's case, most times very little direction except, "Fear not, I will go with you." When we review their lives, we must conclude that only by faithful surrender to His instructions and embracing the promise of His Presence could these normal people live such super-normal lives.
In my own grief journey, when I wrestled with this question, "How can this be....?!!"Sometimes whispering, sometimes wailing, there came a point when I had to accept, to surrender to God's response. "Fear not, Sharon, I will go with you. Fear not, I am with you." God's Word repeatedly challenges me to soak in that promise and to open my hands to receive whatever treasures God has designed to help turn my heart toward Him while taking tiny steps in a terrifying, abysmally dark place. And the only way to take those steps is for me to focus on what I do know about God's purposes and character - not on what I do not know.
Mary's stunning response to the angel's words:
I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be to me as you have said.
When I read these words our first Christmas after Mark's death, I was desperate to understand how Mary could surrender to God's mysterious plans when doing so meant embracing the unknown. What was her secret? How could she so graciously bow to such a dramatic turn of events? I longed to be able to make the same declaration.
My search took me full circle, back to the beginning of this story. I concluded that Mary surrendered to God's plans because she trusted the initial promise of the angel:
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
Isn't that the mother promise of God? God's people, those who are highly favored - that's everyone who knows Him personally, are highly favored because of His Presence. And when He repeatedly instructs His troubled children with this simple declaration, "Do not be afraid, I will go with you!" He wants us to trust that His Presence in enough. That His Presence equips and enables us to walk by faith on the pathway He has marked out for each of His children. Mary's surrender flowed from her choice to focus on what she knew about God. Luke gives us a glimpse into her personal knowledge of Him when he records her song, known as the Magnificat, in Luke 2:46 - 56. She chose to trust what she knew about God's character.
In our own grief journey, Chuck has often responded to my now rhetorical cries, "How can this be?" with, "If God explained why, would it be enough? Would you as Mark's mother, agree that losing your son was OK because God revealed His super plan? Maybe that's one reason God doesn't explain — because no answer would satisfy our human hearts. We are finite. He is infinite."
At a particularly difficult moment when nothing I did stopped the tears or longing for our son, Chuck handed me a pink envelope. Inside the envelope was a hand written note from a long distance friend. On the opening flap she had written these words:
God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any way or degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down, relax my hold on you. Assuredly not! Hebrews 13:5, Amplified
I read the words, tears streaming down my cheeks, knowing this note was a "treasure in the darkness." A love note from God, written in response by my friend to His nudge. For reasons that don't make human sense, the promise of His Presence broke the physical ache in my chest for a few hours and I felt almost normal. What was it about that note? I knew that through Jesus and embracing Him as my personal Savior, that God was keeping His promise. These words reminded me of that mother promise - a strong exhortation to remember, "Sharon, I am with you. Let that be enough for now."
Throughout scripture, God responds to the fear and confusion of His people with words similar to the angel's exhortation to Mary:
Fear not, for I am with you. I will go with you. And that is all you need to know for now.
My friend, Mary, surrendered to that promise, not knowing, not really knowing, what she was surrendering to, except that God's Presence would guide and equip her for whatever came her way.
Mary doesn't tell us about her sleepless nights, unending tears, difficult days. We can only imagine. Perhaps she doesn't share those moments because in her mind, they were unimportant. What was important was for her to demonstrate how we, too, can experience hope and help when circumstances beyond our control turn our worlds upside down.
I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be to me as you have said.
As I finish up this devotional I am thinking of that one woman who might stumble across my words, desperately looking for something, anything, to help her get through the next 48 hours. And I wish we could just sit and share our journeys. The beauty of the Internet is that we kind of can do that. If you're that woman, I invite you to check out the free Grief Resources on my blog at Treasuresofencouragement.org.
I pray that today you will experience the greatest Christmas gift, His Presence. And if you are that broken woman and God uses these words to help turn your heart toward Him, I would love to hear from you.
In His grip,
Sharon W. Betters
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