The Suffering of Mary and the Sovereignty of God

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’” Luke 1:26-33

So there she was a young Jewish woman betrothed to a man whom she loved, and now this angel had appeared and told her this life-defining news.

This wasn’t something Mary was looking for.

We can tell from Luke’s writing and the words of the angel that Mary was someone devoted to the Lord, but she had never thought to ask for this from God. And what did all this mean?

Mary would give birth to her son Jesus, and he would grow up in front of her very eyes.  The Bible tells us little about his childhood, but we do see some insight that reveals he loved his parents (John 19:26-27). Mary went on to have other children (Matt 12:46), but none whose birth was celebrated by angels (Luke 2:14).

Mary had spent 30 years watching Jesus grow and had begun to see the miracles that he was performing as his ministry began. But only three years into his ministry, he was arrested, tried, flogged, beaten, spat upon, punched, mocked, pierced and crucified.

This is somewhat confusing because if you read the passage above, it says the angel said, “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’” And yet here we know from Scripture that Jesus, Mary’s firstborn son, was murdered in front of her.  How then could an angel of the Lord say that Mary is “favored?”

Scripture has this answer to offer:

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:1-9

The angel could say that Mary was highly favored because of her son.

While Mary was giving birth to her son, the world was getting its Savior.

While she was raising a man, the world was groaning to be set back to right (Rom 8:20-21), and while Mary was watching her boy die, the way to being reconciled to God was being paved in his blood.

God knew how this was all going to work out. He knew that He was going to ask Mary to endure great suffering and loss in her life, because He wanted to offer forgiveness.  He wanted to show the value that His creation has in His heart.  That at great cost to Himself He showed His deep love for His children.

Why is Mary favored? Because she was and is a servant of the Most High God, and for every Christian, the suffering in the service is only possible because of the One we serve.

If God knew that He would ask Mary to endure this suffering for the sake of the gospel, what might He be asking you to endure today?

We must keep in our minds what Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”[1] Jesus was clear in His statement of what He asks of His followers, “‘…If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matt 16:24)’”

Our Lord may have you walking through an incredibly difficult journey, but didn’t He ask you to “take up your cross?” What if Christ is using your tragedy, your heartbreak to bring others to Him? Can you endure as Mary did?

This comes down to knowing Who the Lord is and that He loves you. That He knows your pain and doesn’t desire you to suffer, but will use your suffering to proclaim the gospel to yourself and others; this is a hard truth, but a glorious one.

Today, ask the Lord for strength as you endure suffering. Ask Him to show you how He is using it for your good and His glory, and seek His face in the hardest times as you are driven to your knees.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7



[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship, 89.

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