As some of you have heard, my 11-year-old lost her much-loved rescue pony, Pippin, this week to a freak accident. She lost her pet rat the next day, and went to school the following day for the first time after her best friend moved away. It's been quite a week of heart-breaking loss for one little girl.
As we've been grieving, finding comfort in Christ's love, and missing the ones we've lost (especially our sweet little Pip! - happiest horse I've ever known), I've been thinking of Simeon's "blessing" to Mary. In Luke 2, he takes baby Jesus in his arms, says a prayer and a blessing, and then says this to Mary: "A sword will pierce your own soul…" It is his blessing for her. A strange blessing. But I am understanding it more this week.
So, for everyone who has felt the soul-piercing sword in their own lives, here's a bit from WRESTLING WITH WONDER that I've been pondering this week, that has encouraged me. Maybe you will find hope here too:
Chapter 6 Excerpt:
“A sword will pierce your own soul,” Simeon says, “so that ...” In the Greek, it’s a tiny conjunction: hopos. Most simply, it means “in order that.” But in reality, it means so much more. It means that everything Simeon has spoken of—division, opposition, and the piercing of the soul—doesn’t happen for nothing. There is purpose in the pain. There is meaning in the suffering. And that matters. It happens not just so Mary can suffer, so we can suffer, but it happens “so that ...”
So yes, Mary was called to suffer. But not for suffering’s sake, but for a purpose—for revelation. “So that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” Simeon says, using the same word that appeared just a few verses above when he sang that Jesus would be a light of revelation (apocalypto, in the Greek) to the Gentiles. Revelation: meaning something we cannot know unless God himself shows us. We can’t see it unless he pulls back the curtain with his own hand. This is a seeing, an understanding, that comes through the work of God himself, God alone.
And according to the Spirit’s words through Simeon, revelation comes through suffering,
through the sword that pierces all the way to the soul. Through suffering, the thoughts of our hearts are revealed. Through suffering we see the hand of God.
Our souls are laid bare in our suffering.
And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
There is purpose in the pain.
So is Mary intended to suffer? Are you? Am I? Simeon says yes. It is part of walking with him, being his. Falling, rising, division, opposition, rejection, piercing pain ... leading to revelation.
Because since the promise of the coming Messiah has been fulfilled, favor and blessing now must include the soul-piercing sword. God has redefined favor. He has introduced a new type of blessing.
Yes, we are meant to struggle. We are favored with sorrow. We are blessed with suffering. We are called to be like him. It’s not intended to be easy. It never was.