I know, I know. Last week I was confessing that there were too many Marys in the Bible to keep them all straight and yet, here I go introducing another. Stick with me, though.
Mary of Bethany is someone I’ve known all of my life, but I felt like I had more in common with her sister than I did with her. Maybe its because I have this thing about feet and she always seemed to be about the feet. I don’t know. With half-hearted enthusiasm, I reached out to Mary of Bethany earlier this year and was surprised to find that we not only connected in a couple of ways, but she has since become a woman I deeply admire and want to be like.
You see, I’ve always had this prejudice where Mary was concerned, this judgment of her as the lazy sister, leaving her sister to pick up the slack while she did her own thing. The more time I spent with Mary, however, and the more attentive to her testimony I became, the more I saw her in a new light – as an example of a female disciple. Jesus called His male disciples to leave their work and follow Him. I saw clearly for the first time that this was what Mary was doing, as well. I became ashamed at how I had always viewed her, leaving all the work to her poor, burdened, responsible sister, Martha, when what she was actually doing was following Him, just as His male disciples were. And she was praised for her choice.
If you’ve held off on getting to know Mary of Bethany, let this be the week you decide to invest in that relationship. She’s not your average Mary. And she is about so much more than just feet.
Click here to meet my new friend, Mary of Bethany.
Naomi is one of those women that you know of, but have never really known. Because of her more famous daughter-in-love Ruth, the spotlight has always just missed her. About three years ago at a Women’s Bible Study, that all changed for me. I connected with Naomi over the fact that we had both endured the unspeakable – the burial of our children. This is a club few are in and none want to belong to; when you come across other members, you tend to gravitate toward them. That semester was eye-opening for me as Naomi (with Ruth) shared her heart, hurts, and healing with our group.
I reconnected with Naomi last summer for a week and I learned even more from this wonderfully pleasant woman of God. Through her losses, Naomi remained rooted in the knowledge that God is sovereign. She is the first to confess that her losses weren’t easy to endure. (She actually renamed herself “Mara” for a time, which translates bitter.) Her grief was often ugly! Her faith in His sovereignty wasn’t rooted in her feelings, however, as mine tend to be. For Naomi, His sovereign control was a firm & unwavering fact. She knew (with the great Patriarch of her faith, Job) that God gives and God takes away. He is sovereign in the giving and He is still sovereign in the taking away.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21 (NASB)
I invite you to spend some time with Naomi this week. She is a woman who has journeyed through the valley of the shadow of death many times. Because of that, she is uniquely qualified to lead you as you learn to trust in His sovereignty through your own valleys.
I met Hannah’s son, Samuel, several times at church when I was young. Like all the other boys and girls, I was more interested in the kids like me than I was in their parents. Because of that, I never paid much attention to Moms before I became one myself.
Hannah and I got together several times last summer and I got to know her less as “Sam’s mom” and more as a kindred spirit. I was genuinely surprised to learn that we shared so much in common! God has given us both three sons and two daughters. We both raised one child fewer than we birthed, those children no longer in our household from the tender ages of 2 or 3 years. We both have attentive and devoted husbands who love us deeply and desire our lives lived with them to be happy. We’ve both experienced heart-deep sorrow that can only be (partially) purged through tears and crying out to God. We both have transparent faces. Our hearts are displayed in our countenances.
I learned so much from Hannah as we spent that time together. The two things that stick out most are the differences in our responses to heartache and acceptance of God’s timing in response to our prayers. Hannah’s heartache drove her to her knees, to the Lord in prayer, whereas my own usually takes the scenic route to God, preferring to drive by a person “with skin on” on my way to Him. I was encouraged by her example to cry out to Him first. Hannah is also the most persistently prayerful person I know. Her persistence in prayer (even in the midst of what appears to be unanswered prayer, even though His answer took years to become sight) encourages me when I don’t yet see His fingerprints in answer to my own long-prayed prayers and am tempted to give up.
I invite you to get to know Hannah this week for yourself. She’ll rub off on you, in the best way. Click here to meet Hannah.
My grandfather died when I was in elementary school. My remaining three grandparents followed suit over the next twenty years. My father died on my 23rd birthday. My mother died a few years ago. Within seven months of one another, my husband’s grandparents died (separately) and my second-born son, Jude, died. After my son’s death, we grieved with three separate families at church who also buried their children. Loss has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The fear of loss has been around just as long. It would be accurate to say that I have held those I loved in a death grip most of my life, always fearing the worst-case scenario would be the one that played out. Two years ago, when I read . . .
For I am the Lord your God, the One Who takes hold of your right hand, Who says to you, “Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.” Isaiah 41:13
. . . it was like God reached over to place His giant, gentle hand on my two clinched fists, and said, “It’s okay. You can let go now. You don’t have to be afraid because I am here. I am helping you.”
PONDER: What are your hands holding, clinched in a death grip? Do you trust God enough to let go?
PRAYER: Father, please help me to loosen my grip on these things that I hold dear. Help me to notice when I begin to clinch my fists, holding tightly to anything other than Your hand. Thank You for wanting to help me learn to trust you more fully, with everything.
Death Grip is one of thirty devotionals I’ve written as part of a friend’s devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.