I remember the first time I discovered what “favor” means. I was told that it means someone is smiling upon you. If you have favor with God, then God was smiling upon you and blessing you. If you have favor with men, then people just want to do things for you. So if I’m waiting in line at the grocery store and the woman in front of me with the full cart invites me to go in front of her, that’s favor. If a doctor’s office reduces my bills, that’s favor.
But recently, before Christmas, our radio station was telling the Christmas story. I was hanging Christmas cards, I think, when they read these words from Luke 1:30: And the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
I froze, for in that instant I thought about how Mary’s life was different from all the other women around her–women who apparently hadn’t favor with God.
Mary had to endure the stigma of being an unwed mother.
She had to flee the country because the king wanted to kill her son.
She had to watch her son die the most awful death imaginable.
She had to watch at least one more of her sons die (James), because he followed her first son.
To put it bluntly, Mary’s life was far from easy! And why? Because she found favor with God!
I have to admit…until that moment, I always assumed that “finding favor with God” was synonymous with “my life getting better.” And that, of course, meant that my life should get easier. Didn’t it?
I remember turning around to my sister, who was visiting, and saying, “You know, finding favor with God doesn’t necessarily mean your life gets easier, does it?”
She looked at me, and I think it struck her the same way, because she got that look in her eyes, and she said something like, “Lots of people in the Bible found favor with God. And I don’t think any of them had easy lives.”
Noah found favor with God…and then had to live through years of ridicule while he built an ark, and then had to endure an entire year in that ark with the animals, and then had to start his life over from scratch, completely.
Joseph found favor with God…and was sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into jail, and forgotten.
Moses found favor with God…and he had to deal with a million cantankerous, complaining, rebellious people. And he had to do it for forty years because of the people’s sin!
Daniel surely found favor with God, though it doesn’t say those specific words…yet he was carried away into captivity as a youth (and mostly likely never saw his parents and family again), rounded up under sentence of death not long after because of a king’s crazy ideas and other people’s failure to please the crazy king, had the kingdom he’d become a leader in fall and the city captured (which couldn’t have been an enjoyable experience), was surrounded by peers who were so insanely jealous of him that they plotted and succeeded in getting him thrown into the lion’s den (which, at that moment, would have made me doubt that I had God’s favor), and who knows what else he went through.
Jeremiah must have found favor with God, in order to be chosen as a youth and told that he was being given the power to overthrow kingdoms…yet his job was to continually preach to people who ignored him, he was thrown into a well, he had the work he’d slaved over destroyed, he was carried away into captivity, as well as a lot more that I just can’t think of at the moment.
And, of course, Jesus found favor with God, yet his life was full of temptation, persecution, never being home, knowing that his life was sought…and of course, a death so terrible that I cannot really imagine it.
All of that leaves me wanting to know what it really does mean to find favor with God, because it’s obviously somewhat different from when He gives us favor with men.
Honestly, I feel like I’m missing something really important here. There appears to be a piece of the puzzle that I just don’t see. And I want to see it. I want to know what God’s favor actually means.
What do you think it means to find favor with God? And after reading through the list above, do you still want God’s favor on your life?