Do you doubt God’s love because your life is difficult?
Then I invite you to consider the life of the Virgin Mary!
Before we begin, let me assure you I agree with you: life is tough. In fact, I started writing this article when I was having a very challenging day. I can easily list ten reasons any of us might consider life difficult on any day, even without a global pandemic in the background. In the depth of our despair, we may be tempted to question if God truly loves us. If we equate God’s love with “comfort,” “prosperity,” “lack of problems,” or “material goods,” we may have a strong argument, but we would be disregarding strong evidence to the contrary: the life of the Holy Virgin Saint Mary.
I stumbled upon a “sermon in an image” by Father Daoud Lamei online. The essence of the reflection is this: No one had a more strenuous life than Saint Mary, but no one doubts our Lord’s love for her. As such, we should not doubt His love for us when we face difficulties. I have this image saved on my phone, and I refer to it when dark clouds overshadow my thinking. The more I meditate on Fr. Daoud’s premise, the more peaceful I feel. Below, I invite you to reflect on the different stages of Saint Mary’s life, how each one was loaded with difficulties, and then compare it to your own, as I did. And then maybe we can revisit the question: Do you doubt God’s love because your life is difficult?
Orphaned at a young age
Saint Mary was born to Joachim and Anna, a hitherto childless, pious couple, well advanced in age. When she was three years old, they presented Saint Mary to the Temple and lost her parents shortly after that. She lived at the Temple, with no family, for another 11-12 years before she became betrothed to Saint Joseph and left her familiar surroundings to go live at his house. You can read her life’s account here.
Imagine a culture where adulterers are stoned to death! Now imagine being an unwed, pregnant teenager (we believe that Saint Mary was 14 or 15 years old) at the house of your in-laws, alone with your heavenly secret. Can you imagine how Saint Mary must have felt? For my fellow mothers, can you imagine going through your pregnancies without the support of your family, friends, doctors, health practitioners, and the hundreds of other resources that we had at our disposal? And some of us still found it difficult, even though we had access to a hospital bed and an epidural–not a stable and cattle for roommates!
On the run
Quick recap: an orphan, pregnant at a young age, betrothed to an older man, caring for Baby Jesus alone. Now let’s add to this: escaping the only home you ever knew and seeking refuge in a foreign country, by travelling for an extended period, after recently giving birth, because a madman is trying to kill your only child who happens to be the King of Kings. Easy-peasy?
By all accounts, Saint Mary did not have a luxurious life, not even middle class; she was most likely “poor.” Saint Joseph was a carpenter, an older carpenter, hardly a moneymaking proposition, and there is no mention that Saint Mary contributed to the family finances. While life was simpler then, it still required money to live.
At the Cross
Is there a more terrible feeling for a parent than to watch their child suffer? I remember how frantic I was when my son had an ear infection at nine months old. At the time, we did not know that it was an ear infection. All we knew was that he had been crying for many hours, and nothing soothed him or calmed him down. It took more hours for the diagnosis to come back. The emergency doctors checked everything first, ruled it out, then checked his ears as the last resort. In the interim, I had shed many tears and imagined the worse. I can’t even contemplate how Saint Mary felt watching her Son on the cross, with a crown of thorns and His Holy blood trickling all over His body.
Fr. Daoud concluded his reflection by stating that if God could have “taken it easy” on anyone, He probably could have started with His mother. That her life was very difficult does not mean that He did not love her. His first miracle occurred out of love for her, before His intended time! I guess it is time for one last question: Do you still doubt God’s love because your life is difficult?
Other articles you might enjoy: A Hymn for the Holy Virgin Saint Mary
Recommended Children’s Book on this topic: Philo, Rose and the Joy SuperHoly
Additional Coptic resources on this topic: Our Faith: The Holy Virgin Saint Mary
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