I have been paralyzed for almost 5 years. I have met many people along my journey at different stages of their journey. Some have been in a chair for a long time and others are brand new to it. One thing I enjoy doing is sharing how God has worked in my life to comfort my heart and how He has poured His grace out to make the daily not only bearable, but enjoyable. For those who have been paralyzed awhile like me, they share their hearts and agree that God has also moved in their lives the same way. But, when you share with someone new to this life, you feel the doubt in their hearts. To think that God will work in their lives the same way is too much to believe. They can leave discouraged that they don’t feel as you do, and you can feel discouraged that you haven’t successfully cheered their hearts and given them hope for their future. A life in a wheelchair is a really tough pill to swallow and to think that you can have genuine happiness again is just too much.
In Sunday School this morning, our teacher was taking about the miraculous conception of Jesus. He recapped the story of the angel coming to Mary, and then how the angel came to Joseph to bear witness to Mary’s story. I don’t know why these things happen to me this way, but I tend to relate everything to my life and how it fits in. As the teacher finished recapping the story of Jesus’ birth, my mind took a little journey.
Before we are told about the angel coming to Mary, we are told of another couple – Zacharias and Elizabeth. They were an older couple who were never able children. It was Zacharias’ turn for Temple duty and while he was performing his duties, an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that Elizabeth would conceive. This was a miracle! Even Zacharias doubted that this was possible and because of that the angel told him that he would be mute until their son was born. He was to be called John.
Then we are taken to the story of the angel visiting Mary. When the angel told Mary of her own miraculous conception, Mary asked how could it be since she was a virgin? The angel told her about Elizabeth and her miracle, and shared that nothing was impossible with God.The angel leaves and Mary immediately takes off to visit Elizabeth. I can’t help but wonder if she was looking for someone to relate to. Someone who understood what it meant to be doubted by others, to think you were crazy for saying an angel came and talked to you, someone who got it. Mary was not disappointed. Elizabeth was thrilled for her. Elizabeth and Mary shared their songs of joy. They were on this journey together, they knew in their hearts what had happened in their lives, they knew reality and nothing could shake their faith in God and His promise to them about the sons they carried in their wombs.
Then Mary returned home. When she returned, she was 3-4 months pregnant. Her belly was pooching and Joseph knew she was with child. He knew that she had been gone for 3 months. He loved her and he wanted to believe her. More than anything, he wanted to believe her wild story of an angel coming to her, the Holy Spirit overshadowing her as she conceived the Son of God, and that she had not cheated on him while visiting her cousin, Elizabeth. But it was too hard. As much as he wanted to believe her, he just couldn’t swallow it. In those days, because of the rules of that culture, Joseph could have easily had Mary stoned for what he believed was her unfaithfulness to him. But Joseph was a good man. He loved Mary and did not want her put to death. He decided instead to put her away quietly and walk away from her. To believe that they had a future together was too much. He just couldn’t move past the fragility of his human understanding.
So, is that it? Is Mary left in her room crying and discouraged that she could not get Joseph to see and understand what she and Elizabeth and Zacharias understood? If they believed her, why didn’t Joseph? It was of God! It would be okay! God did have a plan and this was part of it! God was working miracles and they were included! God had chosen she and Joseph for an incredible journey that they did not choose. Why could he not see it?
Is Joseph left to a very typical reaction? His logic was flawless, his heart was trying to be kind, he wanted to do the right thing, but this was just absolutely too much. How could Mary expect him to believe this? Did she not know how his heart was bleeding? Did she not know that his future had just been crushed? How could she act excited and happy over what was happening? Had she lost her mind?
While Joseph was left considering all of these things, it happened. It was all too much for Joseph to comprehend. It was more than he could bear. When being told to just believe was too much, it happened. Joseph went to sleep. It was a troubled sleep I am sure as all of these thoughts rushed through his head. As he looked at the empty spot in his bed where he was waiting for a wife, his heart broke. But as he slept that night, God knew it was more than he could bear. God sent an angel to Joseph and told him that all that Mary said was true. It was a miracle and he did not need to be afraid to take her as his wife. Joseph did take Mary as his wife…as soon as he woke up! He didn’t waste anytime joining the ranks of Mary, Zacharias, and Elizabeth.
The change in Joseph was not because of Mary. It was because God saw that he needed help. The situation was too hard to believe. I can’t tell you how much I think this applies to the newly disabled, or to anyone trying to come to terms with some new, hard circumstance in their lives. As someone who loves to be a mentor, I need this also. I want to do my part to be an encouragement and show them through my life that there is happiness and peace to be found in these circumstances, but it has been because God has helped me. I must remember that God is the One that will help them too…not me. And they must remember that God will help them…not someone else. We must all try to encourage and do our part to bear a burden, but ultimately true belief happens because God works in a very personal way that no one else can impart to another person.
If you are struggling with something that just seems to hard to believe, and you fight hard feelings towards others who seem to be father along in their acceptance journey than you are, don’t despair. If you are seeking Him, God will show up for you. He will help you because He knows that without Him, our future is hopeless. When we are at that place, when it is too hard to believe, God will show up for us. He will affirm things in our hearts and lives that the greatest intentions of all humans could not do. We will then share the testimony of the angel to Mary, that “With God, nothing is impossible“