This is the time of year we think about and celebrate the birth of Christ. But have you thought about the fact that we can relate to Mary through the eyes of a bereaved parent? I recently spent some time studying this out and discovered quite a bit about Mary that I had not realized or thought about, until I had a child who died.
Mary did not have an easy life, and it was all because God gave her Jesus as her son! It started as soon as she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
- Mary found herself as a young pregnant woman with no husband, which left her at the mercy of being stoned to death.
- When she was “heavy with child” (fully pregnant), she was forced by law to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem which was around an 80-90-mile journey of hills. (And transportation at that time sure wasn’t what it is today!)
- The city was so crowded, there weren’t any hotel rooms available. Someone out of kindness offered his barn out back. This is where she gave birth to her very first child. I think I may have been close to being terrified if it were me. (Was Joseph able to find a midwife quick enough in a town he knew nothing about so at least one person knew what to do?)
- If this is where Joseph had to go for the census, it means all of his family had to go there also. Where were they in all of this? Where did they stay? Why didn’t his family make sure he and Mary were taken care of? Could it be that they were ostracized because of her becoming pregnant out of wedlock, and instead of Joseph having her stoned, he married her anyway, to raise this illegitimate child as his own?
- It seems that the first visitors were smelly shepherds… not her mom, a sibling, or someone we think as the normal first visitors, especially when it is the first child.
- It seems her husband, Joseph, died at some point before Jesus’s ministry, since he is not included in any scriptures beyond when Jesus was 12. (The next time we see Jesus with his family, it was with his mother and brothers at a wedding.)
- Based on Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, Jesus had at least 6 siblings. Imagine being a widow with 7 children!
- And beyond that, John 7:1-10 tells us that His brothers were not believers in who He At one point, they even went to go drag Jesus away from where He was because they thought He had literally lost His mind (Mark 3:20-21).That must have been SO hard for Mary, because that means her own children didn’t believe her story about the angel coming to her and being a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit.
Thirty-three years after He was born, with such a hard life because of her first-born son, Mary is standing at an execution stake, watching that son being torturously executed for a crime he didn’t commit. (We need to remind ourselves here that she had no idea that Jesus was going to rise from the dead three days later. When He tried to tell his followers this, no one got it.)
Have you had a hard life? Maybe, like Mary, much of it was because of your child who died. The thing that resonates with me is that God gave Jesus to Mary, knowing the heartache she would have, both with His life and with His death.
We each have an appointed time to die; our days on earth are numbered. God knew those days when he placed your child in your womb, but He chose you to nurture that child and be his or her parent for those number of days. He also knew any sorrow and heartache your child would give you while he or she was alive.
Would you rather He chose someone else, and left you never knowing that precious son or daughter? I don’t think Mary would have thought that, and I don’t think you do, either.
You just might want to take a minute to thank God for giving you the gift of your child’s life, even though it meant going through the pain you have had to endure.
Twice in the Bible, we are told Mary pondered something in her heart about Jesus; she thought deeply about it, treasured it and wondered about it. The first (Luke 2:19), was when the shepherds came to worship her Son who had just been born in a smelly barn, was wrapped in strips of cloth and was using an animal feeding trough as His crib.
The second time (Luke 2:52) was when Jesus was twelve and was accidently left in Jerusalem and they didn’t realize it until they were already a day’s journey toward home. That meant it took another day to get back to Jerusalem and it took them three days to find Him! I can’t even imagine the sheer panic she must have felt, not knowing for five days where her son was! (Unfortunately, some of you reading this may be able to relate to this.)
There is something really important between those two events we need to look at. When Joseph and Mary went to the temple to have Jesus dedicated to the Lord according to Jewish law with the first-born son, a prophet named Simeon told Mary a sword would pierce her heart. It doesn’t say Mary pondered that, but I am sure she must have!
It took over thirty years, but when her Son died, Mary felt the pain Simeon told her she would have – the piercing sword of grief that we all know too well.
After His death, do you think Mary spent time pulling up the memories of Jesus that we were told she pondered and treasured in her heart?
Memories are all that we now have of our children. We may not have some of the crazy memories that Mary did, but we have ones that are just as precious. At first, those memories can be so very painful! But I want to encourage you that it won’t always be that way. It takes a while, but at some point, those memories will warm your heart and make you smile. Thinking about your child won’t be as painful as it is now. Allow that to be a hope that rises up in you.
We will look at the other two things in the next blog.
Until then, you might be interested in listening to the podcast series People in the Bible Who Lost a Child. Just click on each individual episode below to read the description and listen to it directly on the GPS Hope website. (You can also find each one on your favorite podcast app. Just look for the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast.)
49: The First Death in the Bible was a Son Who Was Murdered (Adam and Eve)
50: The Rainbow Baby in the Bible (King David lost an infant son before Solomon was born)
51: Three Things we Can Learn from Jesus’ Mother After the Death of Our Child
53: Trying to Find God in the Midst of Our Deepest Pain (A look at Job)
54: Why Did God Allow Me to Suffer Like This? (Job’s suffering after the death of all ten of his children)
55: From Fullness to Bitterness to Fullness Again (Naomi)
56: Reunited with Our Children (Jacob and Jairus)
57: Our Grief is the Same, Yet Different (two groups in the Bible who had children mass murdered)
Note: On each podcast, I announce the name, birthday and forever age of our children who are no longer here with us, the week of his or her birthday. If you would like to share your child with our listeners, just click here to fill out and submit the form with the needed information.
Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
- Check out the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope weekly podcast
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