With the advent of COVID-19 we are living in unprecedented and unexpected times. I’m sure we can all finish the sentence “I never expected to…” with a long list of things. I know I never expected to be a nurse in a pandemic without sufficient protective equipment in a first world country. I also never expected to not be able to see my church family for months on end. Many of us are facing loneliness, financial uncertainty, anxiety about our health or the health of those we love, and the list goes on.
Thankfully, we serve a God who is not surprised by this nor is His power compromised by this. This pandemic has not hamstrung our God or His ability to redeem our brokenness and pain. Recently, I was reading in Luke chapter one and I was struck by the unexpectedness of Gabriel’s visit to Mary. Gabriel appeared to a young girl in a little known town and gave her earth shattering news she certainly wasn’t expecting. She would bear the Messiah. The one promised to rescue the people of Israel.
While filled with opportunity, this news wouldn’t come without a cost. Mary would risk divorce, being stoned to death, as well as her reputation and relationships. Yet Mary’s response models for us how to respond to the unexpected. She says “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The word here for servant is the same word used in Paul’s magnificent description in Philippians two where he depicts how Jesus emptied himself of any privileges he could claim as God, took on the nature of a servant, and humbled himself unto death on a cross. This beautiful, humble, sacrificial love is what brought about our salvation.
By the grace of God, Mary was able to see her unexpected motherhood as an opportunity to show sacrificial love and obedience. Ultimately, Mary’s willingness to sacrifice to be our Savior’s mom points us toward His extravagant, sacrificial love. This challenges me deeply as I think about the unexpected things in my own life. The unexpected may bring pain and require sacrifice, but the unexpected will also provide me opportunity to imitate the sacrificial love of Jesus.
It’s easy to count the unexpected losses this pandemic has caused. Those are real and valid and to be grieved. But if I’m going to live as a person of Hope, I must choose to look for how these same losses and pains provide me opportunity to point others to Jesus. The world around us is hurting and needs the eternal hope of life and love to come. I hope that we can look at our circumstances through the eyes of a young girl who lived long ago and use the unexpected to God’s glory.