The virgin Mary was asking for trouble when she submitted to God’s calling for her life. When she told the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), it was quite a brave commitment. Who was going to believe that her baby was not conceived illegitimately?

Not even her husband-to-be thought she was telling the truth. I can hear her pleading with Joseph, “I wasn’t unfaithful to you or to God—please believe me!” He didn’t. He decided to get rid of her, according to Matthew 1:19: “Joesph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” He didn’t want to humiliate her publicly, being a man of rectitude; he just wanted to end their relationship, so he “resolved” to abandon Mary to suffer the minimum consequences of adultery. It took a dramatic visit from an angel to convince Joseph that Mary was telling him the truth. Gabriel argued on Mary’s behalf: “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (verse 20b).

We don’t know how long Mary was in limbo with Joseph. The Bible doesn’t leave us a definite timeline. It just says, “as he considered these things” (verse 20a)—that is, as he considered how to implement his resolution to put her away.

Perhaps with nobody in Nazareth believing that Mary was telling the truth about her pregnancy, she may have fled the town in humiliation. We read: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a town in Judah” (Luke 1:39). This was no leisurely visit to chat with relatives about the coming baby. For a pregnant young woman to get out of town “with haste” and journey 100 miles or so under primitive travel circumstances, apparently alone, it must have been an extraordinary situation.  She must have been desperate to fellowship with—and possibly find shelter with—the only people in Israel who knew from personal experience about angel visits announcing miracle pregnancies.

Imagine how Mary felt when she walked into the home of Elizabeth and heard a Spirit-inspired affirmation: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (verse 42). So this young mother was blessed, not worthy of being put away by the man she loved. And her baby was blessed too, not the son of shame.

Mary found refuge in the safety of that friendly home for several months before she had to return to Nazareth with its suspicions and gossip. Ultimately Joseph believed her, thanks to the angel’s persuasive visit, and he married Mary before baby Jesus was born.

Lessons in Mary’s experience for us? Several pop out of the story. The main one I get is that faithfulness to God can disrupt our lives, perhaps plunging us into seemingly dire circumstances. It may even alienate close loved ones, as persecuted converts today in many parts of the world can testify. Ultimately it will be worth it, though, Paul said: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

So let us say with faithful Mary, “Behold the servant of the Lord, do with my life whatever you will.”