My three-year-old daughter looked up at me with beautiful round brown eyes as she sang, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed; the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head . . . ” Her childish, high-pitched voice was delightfully sweet. While she happily demonstrated how much she knew of the song she was memorizing for the Christmas play, I pondered the words and what they meant.
Jesus didn’t even have a crib. Now, what kind of father doesn’t even give his own child a crib? What kind of father doesn’t provide a suitable birthplace for his son? Jesus had to be born in the same place the animals were kept–I wouldn’t feel comfortable birthing in a barn! If I were made to birth in a barn, I might question God’s wisdom. Wouldn’t you?
Think about the contrast, here. Mary, the mother of Jesus submitted herself to be the window through which God would send the Savior of the world. This child had a purpose for His life even before He was conceived. When approached by the angel Gabriel with the news that she had been chosen for this task, did she say, “I’m not ready yet! I haven’t finished my college education, we haven’t saved up for the future, and I don’t feel mature enough for this responsibility!” Obviously, she wouldn’t have worried about college since times were different back then; but, I’m trying to give the modern equivalent of the myriad of excuses she might have come up with, if she had wanted to. But, she didn’t. Thank God that she didn’t.
Then, to top it all off, she surrenders her whole will to God by humbling herself as His loyal handmaiden, and then He doesn’t even come through for her with a suitable situation to birth the baby in. What was He thinking? Did He have control of this situation, or didn’t He?
Nowadays, both men and women want to be “prepared” before they will consider having a child. They want God to respect their plans, and expect that He will; but, did they ever think that maybe it should be the other way around: shouldn’t they respect His? The truth is, just as God had a purpose for the Baby He planned to send Mary, He has a purpose for every child He plans to send us. Obviously, the means of conception will not be the same as for Mary, who conceived while a virgin through the Holy Spirit; but, God is still sovereign over, and directly oversees, the conception of babies in the normal way, too. We can either come up with excuses for how we aren’t “ready”–or, we can submit ourselves to His mysterious will and say, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
We assume that God expects us to “be responsible” and take precautions (meaning, use birth control) so that we won’t conceive a baby and not be prepared to care for it. But, if having an appropriate birthing place and a crib is what we consider being prepared, than God Himself failed at it! Obviously, He didn’t place as much importance on “being prepared” as we do. His timing and His plans are often above our human comprehension. If we can’t birth where we had hoped to: that’s okay! If we don’t have a full layette set out: that’s okay! We might be poor and in poverty, like Mary and Joseph: that’s okay! God’s priorities are aligned along a much higher plane than ours. While we look to the minor considerations, God is thinking in the long term.
As I read the Bible, I see story after story demonstrating God’s type of fathering: He let John the Baptist go to prison and be beheaded, He let almost all the disciples be martyred, He let Jesus die on the cross. He certainly doesn’t coddle His children and spoil them with a cushy life. We have a weird and unbiblical notion that if we are doing the right thing, we will prosper and be blessed and never have problems. For example, if we let God be in control of the quantity and timing of children we have, and then end up with debilitating hyperemesis gravidarum, do we assume that we must not be doing God’s will because of the hardship involved? If we give control of our fertility to God and let Him take charge of it, but then end up needing a caesarean, do we assume that we made the wrong choice? What is our gauge for “being in God’s will”?
It seems to me that we have a faulty gauge in many cases, and especially in this one. We take a look at people in poverty and say, “Of course they should use birth control. Their situation calls for it.” We take a look at our own lives and say, “Of course I should use birth control. My situation calls for it.” But, we commit a fatal error: we make our own subjective feelings and our own interpretation of our circumstances be the deciding factor; when instead, it should be the Word of God.
Obeying God’s Word doesn’t mean we will have no hardship. In fact, the opposite is true:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We need to obey God because He says so; how foolish of us to make Him wait until it makes sense to us. If Mary had done that, the Savior would have never been born, at least not through her.
My heart for all of us is that we would have eyes to see the beauty of allowing God to be God; of letting His will have free reign in our lives. God is asking each of us married women if we are willing to be His handmaidens. Are we prepared to give what it takes to accept whomever He chooses to send into our lives? To receive the babies He has planned for us? Or, do we need to do better than God, and have everything “prepared” first?
Yes, it is good to be responsible. It is good to be hardworking and wise and do our best to provide for our children. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do those things. We absolutely should! The Bible says that the man who doesn’t provide for his own family is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). But, perhaps we take “being ready” a little too far. Perhaps in our modern culture, our vision has become skewed, and we put too much emphasis on the wrong things. God will provide for us, if we believe in Him, obey Him, and trust in Him, just as He eventually provided for the infant Jesus: He sent the Magi to bring expensive gifts that probably supported the family while they were in exile in Egypt; He also provided for Jesus through his adoptive father, Joseph, who was a skilled carpenter and very hardworking, I assume.
They were never rich, and they most likely never experienced the comfortable life that we take for granted here in the US. And that didn’t matter to God. He had more important goals to accomplish. Does He have more important goals to accomplish in our lives and in the lives of our children than providing us with a comfortable income and housing? More than sports and music lessons and a closet full of clothes and separate bedrooms for each child and savings for college and funding for birthday parties and all the other stuff we think we need to give our children so they can feel special?
We need to stop worrying about all of that, and let God work! He will provide for us, too, in the way He deems appropriate. It may not be in the way that we want; but, it will be in the way that we need:
I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
He is ever merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed.
Depart from evil, and do good;
And dwell forevermore.
For the LORD loves justice,
And does not forsake His saints;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
And dwell in it forever.