In the Gospel of Matthew, when Joseph finds out that Mary is supernaturally pregnant, his initial plan is to divorce her quietly. But an angel appears to him and tells him to take Mary as his wife and that he is not to fear.
It’s easier said than done. In marrying Mary, Joseph would have risked social rejected and judgment.
We don’t know a ton about the life of Joseph after Jesus was born.
But the gospels give us a few snapshots, and it was hard. In Luke’s narrative, when Jesus was born, there was no room for them.
In Matthew 2, when Jesus was just a baby, King Herod had heard about this child who was born who was said to be the King of Israel and he had all of the young males in Bethlehem killed.
The family was forced to leave Judea and go into hiding in Egypt. So we see an inhospitable world, danger, exile.
Church tradition holds that Joseph was already deceased by the time that Jesus began his public ministry.
Joseph is told to fear not.
Because he was following the will of God.
But again, that doesn’t mean that following the Lord will be easy.
The disciples followed the Lord. But they had lives of difficulty and persecution, ultimately leading to the martyrdom of all but one of them.
We celebrated Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago. I always think about the Pilgrims who came to this country in the 17th century.
They came here in order to live out their faith. And they probably never could have imagined it at the time but they set forth a legacy which has extended into America to this day. The rich religious history that we have in this nation.
Was it wrong of them to come? Was it a bad idea to come?
But half of them died by that next winter. They had lives of hardship.
I think of the great missionaries over the centuries.
People who were serving a purpose greater than themselves. But the centuries of missionaries who have faced persecution and death for that calling.
I read about the great missionaries. The work they did, the challenges and hardships they faced.
Father Damien was a priest who served a leper colony in modern day Hawaii. He served people who were the outcasts of society. He contracted leprosy himself in 1885. But he continued to serve until he died of the disease four years later.
Maria Taylor was the wife of Hudson Taylor, perhaps the most well known missionary of the 19th century. He ministered in China. Maria herself had been the daughter of missionaries. Born in Asia, her parens both died when she was ten years old.
She was sent to England to be taken care of by family but married Hudson Taylor when she was 16. In China, they faced opposition, persecution, and financial hardships. Of the nine children she birthed, only four reached adulthood. She died of cholera when she was just 33.
That’s so often not what today picture as the Christian life.
Sacrifice, difficulty, hardship. Why would anyone want that?
Because of the great God we serve. Because of the great savior we have in Christ. Because of the great cost that he paid for our forgiveness.
God gives grace.
His power is perfected in our weakness.
God sanctifies us through our difficulty. As we serve the Lord through challenges, and walk with him, it is also an opportunity to grow with him.
It makes no sense in the eyes of the world.
But God is the only thing that truly matters. And if all we have is God, that is all we need. Again in the eyes of the world, that is laughable. It’s worthy of mockery.
Why would a good God allow his most sincere followers to suffer so greatly?
It’s a byproduct of doing ministry in a world that is fallen.
We have a savior who can identify. Jesus went to the cross. He suffered.
Everything that’s truly worthwhile and worth doing involves hardship and suffering.
Marriage is a great blessing.
Marriage has its difficulties. It’s difficult seasons. Difficult conflicts.
But its’s worth it.
Having kids is a great blessing. But it’s hard.
Now no one forces you to get married. No one forces you to have kids.
You choose those things, even though they’re difficult.
I think of those great missionaries. They had difficult lives. But still they chose that life. They could have walked away. They could have left the mission field. At the first sign of danger or death, they could have given it all up.
But things that are worth doing are hard.
I’m fascinated by the Navy SEALS. I’ve read several books by SEALS. They talk about their training. And one of the really interesting observations I’ve heard them make when they talk about the difficulties of their training.
Hell week, they call it. They’re up for basically five straight days with just a few hours of sleep. Near constant physical endurance challenges.
That’s what it takes to be elite.
And it is completely optional.
I’ve heard accounts form SEALS in that training where they bring up that they’re colder than they’ve ever been, more tired than they’ve ever been, and they realize that they’re going through something that they’ve chosen to go through.
They can quit at anytime. Instructors won’t beg them to stay. No one is making them go there.
All of those challenges bring their own blessings, in spite of the hardship.
And truly living for God, in spite of the difficulties brings the blessings of knowing God and growing with God and living to the glory of God.
It’s not always easy.
But it is always worth it.
God is not always leading us to what’s easy. But he is always leading us to what’s right.
And so Joseph is told to fear not.
Not because it’s easy. But to fear not because of who is God is and who our God is.