“No one understands!” she says between sobs. “I’m honoring God in my life. I’m keeping myself pure. And what happens? People are spreading lies. Judging me. Accusing me of things I never did. And now my family doesn’t believe me. My friends don’t want me. Even Joseph is thinking of breaking our engagement. No one understands!”
I don’t know if Mary ever spoke these words, but put yourself in her tattered sandals, and you’ll feel those thoughts welling up.
The slap of being misunderstood and misjudged can strike any time, but it’s usually most stinging for teens, when being accepted defines you, and being rejected devastates you. The mark it leaves on your face burns deepest when it comes for doing what is right and from someone you love.
Life had been good for this Nazarene teen. She was living to honor the Lord. The Lord also blessed her by bringing a man into her life who shared her spiritual values and goals. Joseph was so caring and careful with her. They talked about their desires to serve God. They both wanted to live out His Word. And then the young, village carpenter proposed and the plans for the wedding began. Mary no doubt longed for the day when they would be husband and wife. She would decorate the room at the back of his shop and make it a cozy home. And then they would start a family, Mary no doubt dreamed, as she planned and prayed through her daily chores.
The Gabriel Moment
One angel visit later, and Mary’s future as she imagined it was changed forever. See Luke 1:26-38. The first part of Gabriel’s message was the ultimate dream of every Hebrew woman: she would be the one who would give birth to the Messiah! Mary’s heart burst with amazement as she heard of her future Son’s deity, royalty, and eternal reign.
Overjoyed by the message, Mary asked the logical question, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Gabriel’s answer thrust Mary into the path of being misunderstood and reproached; this would become her life (John 8:41). To Mary’s eternal credit, Luke records how she accepted it willingly, trusting God (1:38). But she was under no illusion. Sure, Gabriel called her “highly favored,” but would her family think so? He had said, “Blessed among women,” but her neighbors would use much different words to describe her. Who would understand an expectant virgin? Who would believe her story about Gabriel’s visit? Who wouldn’t misjudge this girl from Nazareth?
Imagine if, at that very instant, Gabriel had vanished. Imagine if his heaven-sent message had stopped right there. What would Mary have done? Where would she have gone? Who would have been there to hold her, to listen to her, to understand?
Is that you? Misunderstood? Misjudged? Crying out to God, “No one understands?”
But Gabriel wasn’t finished. He was delivering a message from the God Who understands and cares deeply for teens, especially misunderstood and misjudged teens. The Lord would never leave Mary to struggle alone through the rolling eyes and accusing glances. He had prepared the heart of a most unexpected person to be there for her; a person who needed Mary as much as Mary needed her.
“Thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.” In other words, “Mary, you’re not alone!”
Now, wait a minute. This word “cousin” means “blood relative;” Elizabeth could have been Mary’s great-aunt. Other than being related somehow, there wasn’t much on a natural level to bring these two together: a teen from a despised village and a senior from a hilltop city in Judah; one, recently engaged to a lowly, village carpenter, the other married for years to a respected priest. Add the 100 miles between them, and you wonder how often they had even spoken before this chapter.
That’s the beauty of this match. The Lord had intersected their lives and experiences as only He could. Both were miraculously expecting sons, as announced by Gabriel, fulfilling prophecy. Both were spiritually-minded women overflowing with wonder as they anticipated the Messiah and His forerunner. Mary must have felt so secure with Elisabeth; no misunderstanding, no misjudging, just sharing and praising God together. Someone understood!
Who is Your Elisabeth?
We are not told how many judging stares or mocking words Mary endured before she “arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste.” No doubt the months were spent with Zachariah’s open scrolls, listening to Elisabeth’s compassionate words. The spiritual strength gained at the table of a godly couple led Mary back “to her own house.” Her neighbors hadn’t changed, but Elisabeth’s words rang in her ears, “Blessed is she that believed.” Think what they may. Say what they want. Mary was resting in God’s promises, and confident that she was not alone. She was a teen God could use!
Do you have your Elisabeth? Maybe she sits across from you Sunday morning. Maybe she has false teeth instead of a Bluetooth. Maybe you think she, or he, would never understand teen problems. Or, maybe your Lord is the same God Who cared for misunderstood Mary. Maybe He has worked in two lives to prepare you for each other, and the most caring and understanding ear will have a hearing aid, but a loving heart ready to pray with you and give you the strength from God’s Word to get through—to be a teen God can use (1 Tim 5:1-2).
Remember, our Lord is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses.” He was misunderstood. He was misjudged. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16, ESV). Have you been there? The help He sends might be an Elisabeth. Sit down beside her. When you think no one understands, the Lord will show you that someone does. He does! And she does!