I think of Mary often, even more so as we enter the Christmas season. The visitation of the angel of the Lord to Mary in Luke 1 is well known: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:28-30, NKJV).
Mary found favor with God. What an incredible place to be. God was with Mary, and He approved of her. It is the best place to be, but we often don’t feel favored even when God’s favor is on us. We’re not so unlike Mary that we wouldn’t also be troubled by an angel’s greeting.
Our God is unchanging, and He still addresses our initial reaction to the unexpected, “Don’t be afraid.”
The story of Mary displays the opportunities presented to faithfulness. Mary was favored. God was with her and wanted to do something miraculous through her. When she wondered how it could be, the angel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35, NKJV). Two thousand years later, the Holy Spirit still accomplishes the miraculous. Only when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and the power of the Most High overshadows us, is something supernatural birthed. God has a way of working, and He fills empty spaces with His Spirit and breathes life where there was none.
In Acts 1, Jesus promised His disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. On the Day of Pentecost, God showed His favor and fulfilled His promise. God’s stamp of approval couldn’t have been more evident.
Mary found favor with God, as did countless others who lived a life of faith and feared God—men like Noah and David. We don’t need more examples of God’s favor on His people to recognize that God’s favor doesn’t mean an easy road and a life void of struggles, sickness, or suffering. Living a life enveloped with God’s favor is often hard, with unanswered questions. Following God’s call may lead you through painful and broken places while mocking voices of unbelief taunt you. But never forget, this is the road of favor and great grace. And God is with you!
Mary, David, and Noah found grace and favor because of their faith and because their faith was demonstrated in their response to the Lord. Mary’s response echoes through generations: “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). David repented and determined to try again every time he fell. Noah believed and obeyed God in the face of adversity and built an ark for the salvation of his family. They trusted God. And He trusted them.
Our response affects more than just today or our salvation—our faithful obedience can impact future generations.
Often, we think God’s favor is found in blessings, mountaintop experiences, and answered prayers. But what if His favor is most palpable in the painful places, in the fellowship of His sufferings, in trusting Him when we know that He can, but, in His infinite wisdom, He doesn’t? Are His favor and His grace still sufficient for us (II Corinthians 12:9)?
Maybe in this season of celebration, you find yourself frustrated. You’ve remained faithful, yet you ask, ‘Where is the favor of God?’ Maybe God’s promises don’t seem to align with your reality. The angel told Mary: Your Son will be great, and He will reign. We know He reigns, having conquered death, hell, and the grave. However, Mary sat at the foot of the cross and watched her child die. She’d likely suffered through whispers and rumors as she’d carried and raised her baby boy, and now this soul-piercing loss.
Where is God’s favor? Friend, you are walking in it. Hard roads are not the absence of God’s favor but an opportunity for His grace to be felt deeply and displayed gloriously. His favor is not fleeting but for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for a night, but a shout of joy is coming in the morning (Psalm 30:5). There is coming a day when, instead of a broken cry, a shout of joy will again echo in your home.
You are favored. Don’t be afraid. God is with you and has trusted you to carry this precious, treasured truth in an earthen vessel. He’s called you, favored one. Yes, you. We get to carry the truth. God is with you and in you and is working every element of your story for His glory to be manifested in you and through you.
He knows the end from the beginning, and in the last chapter, we’re still standing, worshipping with abandon, crying “holy” because His favor and grace kept us.
Be it unto us according to Your Word!
Rachel Gates is originally from New Brunswick, Canada, but lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, with her husband, Anthony, and two young daughters. They serve as part of the leadership team at Levende Kirke (Living Church). Rachel enjoys a good cup of coffee, family time, audiobooks, trying new recipes, and baking enough to share.