“Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope…” – Romans 5:2-4, CEV
As we come together to celebrate the birth of our Savior this weekend, I can’t help but think about what came before the greatest gift of all. I think about what it took for Mary and Joseph to get to that day, to that place, to that moment. And as I think about it all, it’s both unimaginable yet completely relatable.
Last week I spent some time researching what Bible Scholars said about their journey to Bethlehem. From what I found, all my mind could picture is the toughest journey of their lives—pure suffering.
90 Miles at 9 Months Pregnant
Scholars say that Mary had to have been 9 months pregnant and that the journey was 90 miles long. In order to make it on time, they spent a week traveling 10-20 miles per day. PER DAY at 9 months pregnant! WHAT?! If you’ve ever experience pregnancy during the 9th month, I am sure you are gasping with me. At 9 months, you are miserable—your entire body aches constantly, you can’t get comfortable, you have to use the restroom every half hour, and all you feel is this intense pressure and urge to push a human being out of your body. During that month with all three of my children, I found myself yelling “why God?!” on a daily basis. But while we all know the “why” is the greatest miracle, that miracle can’t be experienced without the pain. As much as I wanted to just push and hold my gift that I waited and waited for, I had to experience the torment. Because without the 9 months of pain and suffering through things I never even knew my body could and would do, there is NO WAY I would’ve been able to endure the birth pains. An endurance was produced through each and every pregnancy that has forever shaped my character. God was building Joseph and Mary’s character for a lifetime through the 90-mile endurance test they experienced. My homegirl, Mary needed that strong character for all that was to come…
Uphill and Downhill
It’s also said that the trek was uphill and downhill through a cold and wet Judean desert. And most likely, they had to fend off animals. First, you’ve got to travel that much daily that far along in your pregnancy and now you’ve got to fend off animals in the cold and hilly terrain. No thank you. But just like with anything we all suffer through, we can let the endurance produce a character that is both hopeful and willing or…not. With every physical challenge I have faced, I always battled the animals and hills. Whether it was a rabid wolf that wanted to keep me hiding and fearful or a hill that felt like a mountain I would never get over…there was always something. BUT HOPE. Hope can keep us going through anything. Mary and Joseph had to have been hopeful in order to make it that many miles. They must have held onto God’s promises through the visions and dreams He gave them both before the journey. They knew what was to come—they knew the hope of the world was soon to be delivered.
What are you suffering through today? What are you enduring? What are you hopeful for? This Christmas, whatever journey you’re on…this time of suffering is NOT in vain. Through the suffering of Joseph and Mary, a gift was born—the GREATEST gift. Their suffering was not in vain. And I know without a doubt in my mind that when they held Jesus in their arms, every hill, every ache, and every battle they faced on those 90 miles was the furthest thing from their minds. They were holding the hope of the world.
Hold onto the hope of the world this Christmas. I encourage you to let this unlikely gift of suffering produce an endurance that will build faith and hope like never before. There is great reason behind what you are going through.
I am excited to keep sharing more on why this topic is so close to my heart through the coming months as I continue writing my book. If you have been really close to me through the last 15 years, you’ll know why. But for the rest of you, I can’t wait to share my story.
To close…shout out to my homegirl, Mary and Merry Christmas everyone!