The saying goes: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry (from To a Mouse by Robert Burns). Or to quote the true source: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).
From the onset, Mary’s favor and blessing were mixed with a pierced soul. She was all set to marry Joseph and raise a normal Jewish family in Nazareth. She expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She was probably already dreaming of how she would keep her kitchen, raise her children and organize her days. But all that changed in an instant.
Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.Matthew 1:18b–19 NIV
Mary’s life was upended. With her pregnancy came the potential to destroy the normal life she had imagined—husband, marriage, future children, reputation in the community, extended family. And by Jewish law, she could even lose her life if Joseph so chose to exercise his right to stone an adulterer.
While I believe Mary was spiritually mature for her age and that she trusted God, she was human like you and me. This change of plans still took readjusting, rethinking, dying to dreams. And a fiance’s intentions to divorce would cause pain. Upended! Pierced!
Yet Mary responded to this sudden interruption to her carefully planned life with surrender—Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38)—and praise—The Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is his name (Luke 1:49)!
And God’s purposes prevailed. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son (Matthew 1:24–25). Joseph and Mary were married immediately. The fear of rejection gone. A husband and father provided. Protection for her and her unborn son.
Upended! Pierced! I remember sitting in a team meeting with tears flowing down my cheeks. I could not shake the strong sense I had that life would never be the same, that I would never again be with this group of people in this room. God was nudging my husband and me to leave our ministry of twelve years, but the future was unclear. It didn’t happen in an instant, but life did change. I was prepared to be in Indonesia until I retired. I didn’t make it past 40 years old. My dreams were upended.
Anything can change our plans in an instant. A diagnosis of cancer, children struggling, a spouse not finding the right fit, parents failing health, a marriage proposal, the loss of a partner, a visa denied, a job lost. Even when we know the truth that God is changing the plans, it still pierces! It doesn’t mean we don’t trust God or that our faith is weak. It means we have to surrender and praise because:
He alone is [our] protector and deliverer. He is [our] refuge; [We] will not be upended.Psalm 62:2 NET
What sudden loss of dreams or change of plans have you experienced?
How can you respond with surrender and praise?
Lord Jesus, thank you that while we make plans, your purposes prevail. When my plans are upended, I take refuge in you. In you, my soul will not be shaken. Amen.
Next in series: At-Risk
For the edited (and better written!) version of this, please purchase Favored, Blessed, Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, available on Amazon.