These are the time when I have often found the lives of Paul and Peter to be a source of comfort. These men served God and on a regular basis took a beating for it.
But never, before this year, have I ever realized that there's someone else who we know—know it from the very mouth of an angel—was favored by God and from the moment of that proclamation—suffered.
Think about her for a moment. A young virgin with life cruising along as planned. Getting ready to marry a great guy. Then an angel shows up and says “God thinks you're awesome and He's going to give you a remarkable gift. You get to be the mother of the Christ.”
What the angel didn't say? "Oh, by the way, you'll live the rest of your life under a cloud of scandal. And you'll have to flee the country in a few months. When He grows up, He'll traipse all over the country doing miracles. And people will talk. Oh yes, they will talk.
But none of that will compare to what's coming. There will be a day when you will watch Him beaten to a bloody pulp, groan under the weight of a cross, hang from that cross, and eventually, breathe what everyone will believe is His last breath."
We don't know how much Mary understood. We know that from day one, she'd been pondering everything. The angels, the shepherds, the star, the wise men. We know she'd been warned, when He was only a few days old, that a sword would pierce her soul. You can bet she never forgot those words.
We know from the very beginning of His public ministry that she knew He could perform miracles.
But we don't know how she coped. Did she live all of His thirty-three years wondering when it would happen? Was she ever able to look at Him—tiny baby nestled against her, chubby toddler wrestling with His brothers, gangly teen helping Joseph craft a table—and enjoy being His mom without wondering how it would all end?
Did she know that the end would be the beginning?
When she watched Him hanging there, even if she knew He would return in three days, would it have mattered? Would it have lessened the agony? Would if have prevented the tears?
I don't think so. You won't find this spelled out in Scripture, but my mother's heart tells me that on the day He died, no one hurt the way she did.
Knowing the rest of the story, we can say it was worth it. Mary undoubtedly would agree.
But in the moment, Mary suffered.
I wish the Bible gave a us picture of the reunion. The joy on Mary's face when she saw her resurrected son, her resurrected Savior. I'm sure her tears dripped onto His nail-scarred hands. Surely He held her close. Thanked her for being a great mom. Assured her that it had all been part of God's plan.
Can you see it?
He'd like to do that for us as well.
When life is hard. When the loneliness is overwhelming. When the pain won't go away. When it's all over. When nothing will ever be the same.
His sacrifice makes Joy possible. Continuous Joy. Even in suffering. Not because we think pain is fun. But because we know there's a purpose. There's a plan.
There's a future.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 (ESV)