When You Don’t Feel Favored

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be (Luke 1:26-33)

Some of you woke up this morning feeling anything but favored.

Favored means that things are going your way. Life is working according to plan. Forget the plan – favored means riding high on a wave of unplanned and unexpected blessings. Everything is falling into the ‘w’ column. That’s what favored folks look like and that’s not you. At least not today. Not right now.

You could be greeting the day feeling frustrated and forgotten, bored with the same old stuff or burdened with new stuff you never saw coming.

The job came down to you and another candidate. You weren’t hired.

You thought you needed a simple oil change. Turns out you need far more than that, or so you’re told.

For months you’ve been looking forward to attending a family wedding. Weather forces widespread fight cancellations. You won’t get there in time.

My daughter loves a cooking show in which chefs are presented with a basket of random ingredients and given thirty minutes to make an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. The chefs present their dishes to a panel of judges who taste and evaluate what was prepared. The chef who didn’t quite measure up is told, “You’ve been chopped.” Getting chopped is the opposite of being favored.

The favored win. The favored are applauded. And right now, you’re not hearing any applause.

A Disruptive Favor
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he did not address her by name, at least not initially. His opening line named her ‘favored one.’ A careful reading of Gabriel’s words has him using the proper name Mary only once. The word ‘favor’ shows up twice. She is called ‘favored’ and told that she has ‘found favor’ with God. The same Greek root shows up in both of those words.

The detail that strikes me as a little unusual in Mary’s story is her response to God’s favor. Mary the favored one is troubled at Gabriel’s greeting. After Gabriel’s first attempt at an explanation, Mary still has questions. What she is told didn’t seem to land with her as favorable. Her life was being interrupted in a way that few would applaud. God’s favor would demand much of Mary. Her obedience would be costly. God’s favor comes to Mary as something disturbing, perplexing, confusing.

Simply put, as Mary tries to understand what God is doing in her life, she probably doesn’t feel favored. And this brings us to one of the most significant things we can take away from Mary’s example of faithfulness: Favored isn’t a feeling.

If we try to define God’s favor by how we feel, or if we search for it by tallying a scorecard of pleasant v. painful circumstances, we might miss the favor that God intends for us to know and experience.

Favored’ Might Mean You
Of course, God is the giver of every good gift. When things are going well, and blessings flow our way fast and freely, we are right to see God as the source of all that we enjoy. We might say we feel God’s pleasure. We sense his favor upon us.

But God doesn’t show his favor by giving us what we want or by making sure that everything breaks our way. God’s favor is experienced as he works through us to accomplish his work in this world. As we listen to Gabriel’s words to Mary, we notice that God’s favor is closely connected to God’s presence. ‘The Lord is with you.’ To be surrounded by God’s presence and used for his purposes. This is the Lord’s favor.

You might not find that encouraging today. That’s not to say you don’t believe it. But you take little comfort from it. At the very least be sure of this as you move through this day and days to come. God’s favor can be found in the hard things that you don’t understand, the surprises you never sought or asked for, the path that leads to something you cannot see.

What are you dealing with that makes it hard for you to sense God’s favor? Remember, ‘favored one’ might mean you, whether you feel it or not.

Let Mary’s faithful response to your favor be ours, O God. We are your servants. Do your will in us and through us. Save us from the tyranny of what we feel from day to day. Help us to know your favor by being a part of your saving work and walking in your presence, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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