October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So in honor of that, I want to highlight some of the women in the Bible who experienced grief and loss, particularly surrounding children or family.
Mary isn’t usually one that I connect with grief and loss, though she does experience quite a bit in her lifetime. Traditionally, Mary was quite young when she was betrothed to Joseph, a much older man. Mary received the news from the angel that she was going to have a baby while still a virgin. When Joseph finds out she is pregnant, he plans to divorce her quietly. This is not what is reflected in the law. It was well within his right to stone her.
In Deuteronomy 22, if her family couldn’t prove her virginity (which would have been hard to do with a growing belly), the men of the town were supposed to stone her to death. If they found the man who was sleeping with her, they were supposed to stone him, too. But Joseph is called a righteous man in Matthew 1:19, he wanted to protect Mary even before knowing who she was carrying in her womb.
While Mary is pregnant, she says a prayer recorded in Luke 1, glorifying God and prophesying the amazing impact that this little boy will have on Israel and the world. She even knows his power pretty early on. When attending a wedding banquet, she is the one who approaches her son when they ran out of wine.
And yet later, as Jesus is teaching, she shows up with her other sons wanting Jesus to come speak to them. And Jesus replies,
Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.Matthew 12: 48, 50
I don’t think he was disowning Mary as his mother. Mary was special to him. In fact, on the cross, Jesus asks John to care for his mother once he was gone. But Mary had to learn to let go of her son, letting him fulfill the calling God had for his life. Which brings me to her biggest grief.
Mary watched her child suffer and die. The one she knew was a gift from God, a strong, intelligent, kind boy who grew into a powerful and loving man. One that valued his mission, even when she didn’t understand it, herself. I just can’t imagine hearing voices demanding my child’s death by torture. I can’t imagine the helplessness of watching my son die.
But at the same time, I wonder at the strength of Mary. There weren’t many witnessing the death of Jesus. Most of his apostles and followers had dispersed and were even hiding. But she stayed with him until his last breath. Maybe she was expecting another miracle. Of course, she didn’t know what was coming, but in that moment at the cross, I can’t imagine that overwhelming loss.
Even though her story seemingly ends at the cross, we know it didn’t stop there. Jesus would rise and show his power over death and sin. He really would change the world with his life. And Mary got to see it from first cry to last breath, and beyond. Mary’s prophetic prayer was fulfilled. And we know that whatever grief and loss we experience isn’t the end of the story. Jesus came to fulfill scripture, to seek and save the lost, to redeem the broken. He will wipe our tears away as promised in Revelations. And just like Mary, we, too are a part of that beautiful redemption story.