December 24, 2015
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus’”– Luke 1:30
I’ve been finding myself asking for the Lord’s favor quite a bit lately. Not to conceive a child named Jesus…or any other name, for that matter…but for other things that sound more favorable. I’ve been asking a lot for favor over my job search. I love doing photography and the past few months have been invaluable time to focus fully on building my business, but the past few months have also been a bit lonely for me, and some more consistent income would be nice. However, the job search has been disheartening as I look for a job that will properly value my education and abilities, while also allowing me the flexibility to fully pursue my dreams alongside Evan.
I’ve been asking for God’s favor in our church hunt. There are a LOT of churches in Atlanta, but none so far that both Evan and I have felt excited about calling home.
I’ve been asking for God’s favor in our marriage – that God would radically transform me into a graceful and loving wife. Miracles happen, yeah?
My prayers aren’t all selfish. I’ve been asking for God’s favor over many of y’all too. I’ve been praying for God’s continued favor over my Dad for years, and he was just announced cancer free for the first time in three years – our very own Christmas miracle. Evan and I have also been praying for God’s favor over our friend Locklyn each night for the past few months. She’s a beautiful 17-month old who has been battling health issues and has been in and out of the ICU a great deal this year, but is fighting bravely alongside her parents.
These are not all bad things to be praying for. In fact, you could even think them to be noble. Health, community, career, marriage. I believe God would consider those all to be good things.
This morning I continued my advent study by She Reads Truth and this verse from Luke caught my eye. I’ve read the story many times, even this verse specifically. Maybe because the words “you have found favor with God” is something I’ve been longing to hear in my own heart. I couldn’t help but notice that Mary’s favor with God changed her life radically, and it wasn’t all baby showers and maternity bliss. It was being wrongly considered a whore by her community. And giving birth in a barn. And raising a child just to watch him die a horrendous death for a crime he didn’t commit.
Mary isn’t the only one God found favor with in the Bible.
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” – Genesis 6:8
I wouldn’t think twice about building an ark in Conyers this week, but Noah was told by God to do so in the midst of a lifetime-long drought, being ridiculed by his town in the process, and then go on to live on that boat with his family for 40 days and 40 nights. Some kind of reward, right?
“And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty.” – Exodus 3:21
As in Pharaoh Pharaoh, Oh baby, let my people go…to wander the desert for forty years, surviving on the bare necessities before finally walking into the Promised Land.
“And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.” –Judges 6:17.
That was Gideon speaking, a scared young man with self-esteem issues. God did show him a sign, and then commanded him to attack a great army with a few men and some trumpets. I guess that’s almost every boy’s dream.
Should I even mention Job, of whom the Lord said, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” God restored his fortunes double in the end, and gave him new children, but can his first children really be replaced? I don’t think that kind of pain can be bought back.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” – Luke 2:52
Jesus. God’s own Son perhaps had more favor from God than any other man or woman in history, and rightly so since he is the only human to ever earn it. Yet Jesus was given the greatest and most difficult task of all, and like his mother Mary, responded with “not my will, but Yours be done”.
All these people knew something that I often forget. Our purpose in this life is not our comfort or even our happiness. Many of my requests for favor are just that – things that I believe will make my life, or the lives of those I love, easier or more enjoyable. My search for God’s favor in the Bible, however, tells me that having favor with God does not always lead to a comfortable life. Sometimes He calls those He finds favor with to lead the most difficult lives in order to glorify Him and bring salvation to the world.
Believe it or not, all of these people’s stories do have happy endings, but not necessarily in most of, or even any of, their lifetimes.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, not because a baby was born to live a happy life, but because a King was born to die for you and me. As we reflect on this gift and seek favor from the Lord, may we do so with open hands and the heart of Mary, looking to the eternal reward in Heaven that will be given to those who believe.
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”