T is for Troubled
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Here, at the announcement of Jesus’ birth, we see that Mary’s reaction is similar to Zechariah’s when an angel makes an appearance to pass along a message from God (emphasis my own):
“…the angel of the Lord appeared to [Zechariah], standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him” (Lk 1:11-12).
“And coming to [Mary], [the angel Gabriel] said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:28-29).
In the face of God’s messenger, both Zechariah and Mary give very human reactions. They are troubled. And they are afraid. And this is even before they’ve received life-changing, mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting (albeit, wonderful) news!
And I don’t know about you, but I find it somewhat comforting knowing that even Zechariah and Mary — folks who were faith-filled and must have had a pretty good connection with God if it was their homes’ that were chosen to nourish and cultivate the lives of God’s Messenger and Son, respectively — still had their doubts and fear.
What’s even more comforting, however, is that God doesn’t let that fear and doubt go unanswered or unaddressed. He doesn’t leave Zechariah and Mary hanging and say, “Suck it up and deal with it.” Through God’s messenger, we hear the words:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard” (Lk 1:13).
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk 1:30).
And then, even after Zechariah and Mary express their doubts at the angel’s huge announcement, God is still willing to give them signs so they might believe that what has been promised will come to pass (cf. Lk 1:20, 1:36).
In all these instances of fear and doubt, God is ever patient and embodies even more of what it means to be “God with us.” He sees when we are troubled, when we are doubtful and fearful and is willing to offer comfort, words of peace and solace, to remind of us ways he has come through for us in the past so that we might not be swallowed by our fear and instead be victorious over them.
The catch is that our hearts must be open and receptive to God’s communication to us, whether it’s through other people, through Scripture, even through the mundane, everyday interactions and dealings we have in our day-to-day. God speaks, but we must be tuned in to listen, we must be able to recognize when God is moving in our lives.
And so know this as you continue your journey through these last days of Simbang Gabi. God sees you, he’s had plenty of experience with people who’ve had doubts, who weren’t immediately willing to be convinced that God had their back (for a great example of that, just read about Moses’ commission in Exodus 3-4, one of my favorite stories because I can relate to it so well), and he is more patient than you’re probably willing to give him credit for.
So don’t be afraid to tell God if you are troubled, if you’re restless or not at peace. And take comfort in Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 14:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (v. 1).
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (v. 27).