28 “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”
Luke 1:28 (NIV)
You have faced adversity in sports. You have torn your ACL, had to sit out for grades, got benched or cut.
Maybe you have thought those are God’s ways of holding you back from success. Maybe you thought those trials were proof of God’s disapproval.
Think again -- they may be God’s way of favoring you.
The angel Gabriel told Mary she was “highly favored by God.” When I think about Mary’s life, “highly favored” does not come to mind.
Mary bore the shame of being pregnant while engaged. While pregnant she traveled on rough terrain, probably by foot, for many days to be counted for a census. When she gave birth she labored and delivered where animals lived.
When Jesus was a baby, she and Joseph fled their homeland for Egypt as refugees because King Herod sought to kill male children under two years old. Again, they traveled many days, this time carrying a baby. About 30 years later she watched her son die a public and gruesome death.
I would say Mary was “cursed,” not “favored.”
Apparently, we need to redefine the words “favored” and “blessed.”
In America we typically think being blessed has to do with comfort, wealth, health and materials. This thinking has seeped into our Christianity.
We say things like, “We have a nice house and plenty of clothes. We are blessed.” “I did not get sick all winter. What a blessing.”
Not that those are not nice extras from God. But when we use that language, we imply that if we do not have a nice house or if we get the flu, then we are not blessed, which is not true.
We can be “blessed,” in the deep sense of the word, and be ill or homeless. (Picture joyful Christians in a third world country in a hut with a dirt floor.)
I wonder what Mary and Jesus would think of how we use the word “blessed.”
Mary might have understood that being “highly favored by God” meant that things would not go her way. But in our culture we say we are “blessed” if things go our way. We tend to think we are "blessed" if things are easy and convenient for us, or if we have success.
Athlete, this sounds crazy, but do not measure your degree of blessedness by how well it goes. Rather, measure it by whether God has called you and given you His mercy, presence, love and pledge.
Those highly favored in the Scriptures were shipwrecked, homeless, persecuted, bitten by snakes, stoned and crucified. The highly favored life is not an easy life.
I am not even close to having a biblical understanding of being “favored” and “blessed.” I do have the American understanding down though.
Reflect: Name two pivotal events in your life where you felt like God was holding you back from success or punishing you. Count them blessings.