Women of Hope: Mary the Mother of Jesus

Oh Father, I have tried to understand what Simeon meant all those years ago when he told me that a sword would pierce my side too – I had no idea what depth of pain he alluded to. But, as I watched that soldier unsheathe his sword to puncture Jesus’ side, Simeon’s words came flooding back to me. And my heart shattered as I experienced their truth.

My grief is so overpowering that I have no words to soothe myself and very little strength to keep looking to You. Yet as I force my eyes upward toward heaven, You bring to mind the words I spoke when your Son was a babe in my womb, “my soul magnifies the Lord,” and my heart skips a beat. I feel the flutterings of hope in my soul as I remember the faith I had as a young mother-to-be.

So, as I gasp for breath between my sobs, I grasp onto the ribbons of faith that believe You extend mercy to all who fear You. Be my mercy! Build my faith – so that despite what I see and and feel, I can trust You are still at work. That You still have a plan. And that your Son’s work is not yet done. I remain your servant…

Mary, the mother of Jesus. Widow. And grieving mom. A woman like no other, who truly experienced the one and only supernatural conception of God’s offspring. A woman who chose to be God’s servant and vessel despite the pain of that path. I’ve tried to imagine it:

  • What if my teenage, virgin self had a holy visitation by an angelic messenger of God and was told I’d have a baby – God’s Son?
  • What if I had to go to the man I was engaged to and tell him I’m pregnant – but not by him? 
  • What if I had to look at my parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends to tell them of my pregnancy – with a story of conception that sounded crazy?
  • What if my son was actually and completely perfect – never making a mistake or giving into his raging, teenage hormones? But his siblings and friends were not so… perfect?
  • What if my son’s wisdom made wise men look foolish – and embarrassed?
  • What if I had to watch my son, who only days before had raised a man to life, hang on a cross – His perfect body bloody and lifeless?

In a few words – I. Cannot. Imagine. 

What Mary carried in her mother’s heart – all those feelings and thoughts and experiences – must have been vast and immense. The weight she bore for her son – for God’s Son – must have been burdensome as she battled worry – was she raising Him “right?” Would He turn out the way He was supposed to? The scorn she endured from all the doubters and naysayers. The fear she felt each time the enemy – in all his forms – tried to destroy Him. The love for Him that carried her through every moment of doubt or despair.

The hope she must have held onto for all the good He was bringing into the world.


Maybe it’s because I’m a mother of three sons, but my imaginings about the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of Mary seem to have no end. I easily put myself in her shoes and marvel at her responses. And I wonder how she did it. 

As I’ve been working all this out in my own heart and mind, I have come to realize – rather embarrassingly so – that it was Mary’s faith in God that rooted her, grounded her, and kept her from spinning off into the frenzy of life like one of those crazy fireworks shooting and screaming in every direction. It’s not to say that Mary didn’t have feelings or thoughts that weren’t a bit spinny – she was not the perfect human, after all –  but it’s the fact that she could always get herself back on course that dumbfounds me. And has me asking, HOW?

Photo by Michael Heise on Unsplash

How can you and I live with the kind of faith that steadies us and keeps us aligned with the heart and mind of God? One, single line captures it for me:

“Mary rightly puts her story within the context of God’s redeeming work in the world.”

The Women in Christian History Devotional, Dec.221

By putting herself and the happenings of her life into context with what God was doing in the world – that of redeeming it back to Himself – Mary always regained perspective. She could lay down her worries when she allowed herself to remember that God was working out a greater plan in which she was but a small (yet significant) piece.

I want to learn how to do that – consistently, if not constantly.

So, as I look to the mother of Messiah, I recognize her holiness but also her humanness. I allow myself a moment to ponder all the what-if’s of her life in order to regain context. She was a servant of the Lord. She wanted to live her life as God wanted so that His plans and purposes could be achieved. And the only way she could take all the pains and passions and problems that come with life and not lose heart was to keep perspective – her life in context with God’s plans.

Maybe that’s why Mary was always treasuring things in her heart (Luke 2:19,51)! She was storing up all the evidence of God at work so that when dark days descended, she could keep her perspective by remembering the context.


Another way I see Mary keeping her faith alive and fully fueled is by keeping connections with like-minded people.

Not long after she becomes pregnant with Jesus, Mary heads off to cousin Elizabeth’s home – and it’s not just a random family visit. This is connection with someone who understands the upside-down, supernatural work of God. Luke is so good to include the dialogue between the two expectant mothers-of-miracle-babies. Their conversation becomes affirmation for Mary that she does indeed carry the Lord at a time that most people would not believe (Luke 1:42).

The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary. St. George Church, Kurbinovo, North Macedonia, 1191 AD

Even when Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth after Jesus’ birth and their harrowing escape to Egypt, she does not isolate herself. She remains firmly established among family and friends (Luke 2:44). She nurtures friendships in such a way that she looks out for their best interest (John 2:1-5). She sticks with the group of followers that Jesus assembles (John 2:12; Matthew 27:56). At His death, Jesus ensures His mother will never be alone (John 19:27). And after His death, Mary remains with the disciples, the leaders of Jesus’ new church (Acts 1:13-14). 

Mary demonstrates for us life in holy community, which offers friendship built on truth and love and grace. There is power in drawing together with like-minded believers (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Which is why our enemy, the prowling lion, desires to isolate us because he knows how much more vulnerable we are to his attacks when we’re alone (1 Peter 5:8). 

Friends, Mary shows us how to contend with the “weapon of connection.”2 In an age when independence has become an idol, we have to fight for our friendships.2 We have to put forth the effort to forge relationships that are healthy and holy. And, armed with God’s truth, we resist the temptation to isolate ourselves. We need people. So, whether you’ve been listening to lies about your worth, hiding alone with shame, or telling yourself that you don’t want to bother anyone with your problems,2 step back into God’s truth. And move into the fold of fellowship. We really are stronger together!

The mother of Jesus was a human just like us. Despite all the doubts, disappointments, and the despair of grief, she chose to live within the context of God’s redemptive plan and the community of believers that offered her connection and strength. And these courageous choices made all the difference. We can follow Mary’s lead by keeping our perspective and surrounding ourselves with people who love God and love us. Then, watch out, Satan – the Women of Hope will stand even stronger!

Father God, how we long to live like your servant, Mary. May her life become a lesson for us to live by. We want to absorb the truth that You are constantly at work in the world, bringing comfort and healing, yes, but more fully bringing your redemptive plan into fruition. So, forgive us, we pray, each time we get swallowed up by our stories and lose sight of yours. Lord Jesus, in our grief and ingratitude, we fall to our knees before You – because everything in us knows that You alone are the One we can trust. You alone can forgive us. You alone can save us. So, we force our eyes upward toward heaven, and praise You because You extend mercy to all who fear You. And we take Mary’s words as our own, “my soul glorifies the Lord!” As we release our doubts, distractions, and discouragement, the flutterings of hope in our souls are a sign to us that You are with us and we are on Your righteous path. Faith rises within us as we set our minds on You! Holy Spirit, we pray that You would help us to continue building our faith in what we cannot see, trusting that the Father is still at work – in us and all around us. Lead us into friendships that are most healthy and holy so that we can love one another well, surrounding each other with compassion, truth, and protection. Knit us together like three strands of a cord that remains strong no matter the weight or the wind. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by John 5:17; 1 Peter 2:24; Psalm 147:3; 1 Corinthians 5:17-19; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9; Luke 1:46,50; Psalm 23:3-4; Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 11:1; Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:12-13; Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:12) 

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

*There is great debate over whether Shiphrah and Puah were Hebrew or Egyptian… Either way, their ‘fear of God’ is duly noted in Exodus and their faithfulness rewarded!

  • I wonder what you think of this week’s featured portrait!? I found the artist, Sara Beth Baca one day while searching for a public domain portrait of another Women of Hope. I fell in love! I promised myself I’d come back and purchase one of her “Women of the Bible” portraits ($25 to download). I’m so glad I happened to see Sara’s Puah-picture as I searched the web this week — because hers is the one with POMEGRANATES!!! You for sure want to check out her site! Here’s the link to her Women of the Bible series (y’all she sells them individually, as a flash card set — I’m so tempted — and as downloadables). She also has other series.
  • 1 – The Women in Christian History Devotional,^ Dec.22, has a few devotions about Jesus’ mother. This one contains THE line that so ignited my imagination and inspired me to see things a little differently.
  • 2 – Jennie Allen’s Get Out of Your Head: A Study in Philippians,^ p.86, offers great insights into this “weapon of connection” we’ve been given. It’s no coincidence that so many Spirit-inspired writers have published books on the subject of community recently. No time in history have we been so stinkin’ isolated as we are currently — and the enemy is having a heyday with our minds, hearts, and souls because we are so much more susceptible to his wiles when we’re by ourselves.
    • Jennie actually has a book that followed Get Out of Your Head, called Find Your People.^
    • And, her podcast, Made for This, has an entire season (36 episodes) based on Find Your People (FYP). Here’s the first episode.  
  • Of course, I had to include “Breath of Heaven” on our “Women of Hope” playlist — it is Mary’s song, after all. I’m certain as I re-listen to its lyrics that this song first planted the imaginings of what it was like to be the chosen mother of Messiah. The hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” can be our anthem as we seek to keep our eyes on Him through all we face and feel. I think I’ll listen again…
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Mary shows us how to keep resetting our focus on the One who is all love and truth, the One we can put our hope in. Let’s shift into the New King James Version this week. It says nothing new, but its word selection is just different enough that we might hear it in a new way:

      “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured portrait: “Madonna and Child” by Carlo Maratta as shared on FineArtAmerica.com. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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