Advent: A Willing Heart

It’s easy to read the stories of Zechariah and Mary, both visited by the angel Gabriel with unlikely and hard-to-believe messages, and wonder why Zechariah was struck dumb when he asked a question but Mary was commended.

The difference is heart attitude.

26-28 Then, six months after Zacharias’ vision, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a Galilean town, Nazareth by name, to a young woman who was engaged to a man called Joseph. The girl’s name was Mary. The angel entered her room and said, “Greetings to you, Mary. O favoured one!—the Lord be with you!”

29-33 Mary was deeply perturbed at these words and wondered what such a greeting could possibly mean. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; God loves you dearly. You are going to be the mother of a son, and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be known as the Son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather, David, and he will be king over the people of Jacob for ever. His reign shall never end.”

34 Then Mary spoke to the angel, “How can this be,” she said, “I am not married!”

35-37 But the angel made this reply to her—“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. Your child will therefore be called holy—the Son of God. Your cousin Elisabeth has also conceived a son, old as she is. Indeed, this is the sixth month for her, a woman who was called barren. For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled.”

38 “I belong to the Lord, body and soul,” replied Mary, “let it happen as you say.” And at this the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38 PHILLIPS

Zechariah was a priest who had studied the Torah and should have understood the sovereignty of God. He didn’t ask a question about how Gabriel’s prophecy would come true, he asked for proof that it WOULD come true.

He questioned God’s character and faithfulness.

Mary was a poor young woman who was (most likely) unfamiliar with Scripture except what she had heard in the synagogue.

She knew how babies were made and asked a very practical question.

She wasn’t suggesting God COULDN’T do it, she simply wondered HOW He would do it.

It is portrayed so sweetly in Christmas plays and Christmas movies:

Mary bowing her head in response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she has been chosen to bear the Savior.

I don’t know what went through her mind before she answered.  I’m not sure she had a clue what submission to God’s will would look like as it played out across the months and years.

I only know that she was willing.

And God honored her willingness to bend her knee and her heart regardless of the unknown cost.

I’m not as noble as Mary.  I didn’t answer quickly when God allowed my life to be turned upside down. I kicked and screamed and resisted as long as I could.

But who can fight Almighty God?

How can I carry on if I resist the Only One Who can carry me?

My heart still balks.

It. Is. Still. So. Very. Hard.

But I bow my head and heart each morning and ask for the grace to make it true:

“Behold, I am the servant of the LORD; let it be to me according to your word.” ~Luke 1:38



  • I know most of the people reading this are bereaved parents. While Mary was indeed “highly favored” the role for which she was chosen was one of heartache as well as honor. If you knew then what you know now, would you have still chosen to bear and love your child?
  • It is absolutely OK to bring our questions, doubts and fears to God. Do you see the difference between Zechariah’s and Mary’s questions? Or do you think there was a difference? Why or why not?
  • Have you reached a point of submission regarding the loss of your child? If you have, how did you get there? If you haven’t, what lament do you need to offer up to God so His grace and strength can fill your heart?
  • It’s easy to read Bible stories like make-believe fairy tales and discount the flesh and blood humans who lived them in real time. Does it help your heart hold onto hope to realize that none of them could see the end from the beginning? Does it encourage you that they were able to rest in the Lord’s faithful and unfailing love? Why or why not?


Father God,

Oh, how I long for Mary’s faith! How my heart yearns to be always willing, always wanting to let You do whatever You deem good and right. But I balk at giving up control-even as I admit I have no control-to You or anyone else.

I am often dismayed and even angry at the things You allow. I am distraught that You don’t intervene when You most certainly can and I think You most definitely should.

Help me submit willingly to Your plan. Help me wait patiently for the fruit of obedience. Give me strength to endure even when the road is long and the path inky darkness.

You are Faithful and True. You are Light and Life. Help me hold onto that truth and rest in Your goodness and love.


Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

8 thoughts on “Advent: A Willing Heart”

  1. Thank you for your insightful words, Melanie. I wanted to answer your question, “Have you reached a point of submission regarding the loss of your child?” First, some background. On 8/30/2017 we suddenly lost our first grandchild, Johanna. She was not yet 17 months old and she died unexpectedly from meningitis. On 12/20/2017 we lost our youngest son, Connor, aged 19, to “surgical complications” for treatment of testicular cancer. This was also unexpected. With Johanna’s death I had deep questions as to how/why this could happen. While I was still questioning, Connor passed away. I was in disbelief and angry and sought answers from the hospital as to what happened. What I learned only increased my anger and my quest to get accountability. That quest lasted four (4) years and didn’t allow me to continue through the grief process. When I had run out of options for accountability, through the legal system, I was able to get on with grieving and eventually came to a sense of peace about. Then, on October 28, 2022, we lost another grandson, Theo, to some kind of infection that took him suddenly. For about 1 1/2 days I was in disbelief and very angry. Then, I had a revelation that has given me a sense of peace, again. The revelation was this: there are simply things that happen on Earth that I will never be able to understand or make sense of, while I am alive. I stick with this revelation as it allows me some peace, peace that I truly need as I also grieve over the lost members of our family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have come to say that I’ve learned to live in the mysterious space between what I can know and understand on Earth and what I will never know nor fully understand until Heaven. It took me awhile to get there too.

      Thankful the Lord has given you some measure of peace in this life as we wait for the next. ❤


  2. Once again your words speak directly to my heart… and me answering the questions truthfully at the end have brought such personal revelation. I have never connected Mary’s willingness as a “point of submission” of God’s will. I now prefer this phrase instead of acceptance. For years I would only acknowledge my son’s death and came to accept only when I was reminded that Jacob’s best day was my worst day. Thank you for your willingness to impart God’s truth to your hoard of kindred spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Melanie, You’re writings and story have been so meaningful to me as I walk this painful journey. We lost our son, Jonah, October 10, 2019 and I echo the other moms comments. I want to surrender and submit and I hope to get there someday , it’s just so , so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for writing this. I have always put my trust in the Lord and lean on Him all the time. I needed Him before Joe died and I need Him still. “It. Is. Still. So. Very. Hard,” is still so true four years, one month, and four days later. My grief isn’t like it was in the beginning of this particular journey, but it’s still a struggle. Even though I have complete faith that Joe is resting in the arms of God, it just doesn’t seem to get much easier. Prayers for you and all those bereaved throughout the Christmas season and always.

    Liked by 1 person

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