Let me tell you about my current season of life.
I have two boys, age three and under, which means my schedule is a disaster. I live and die by my infant’s naps, and I am never, ever alone. Forget about long, undistracted writing sessions. Forget about quiet, awe-inspiring moments in God’s Word. Most days, I read my Bible on my iPhone, at the gym, while the good people at the YMCA watch my kids in the complimentary childcare.
That’s where my life is right now. And I gotta tell you, I FEEL it. Like right now, sitting here in front of my computer, I feel it. I’ve sat down about a dozen times to write this blog post, but it’s like drawing water from an empty well. Right now, in this season, my life is not set up for spiritual flourishing–or flourishing of any kind–which means I have to be intentional about it.
Last month, I spent a lot of time reflecting on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her own crazy circumstances. Her life was not “set up for flourishing” either. She was a teen mom, unwed, facing possible abandonment by her husband and her family. Her future was legitimately frightening. And yet she faced it with courage.
I really marvel at Mary, because her pregnancy had to feel like a wilderness. Nine months of wondering what would happen next. But Mary didn’t perish in her wilderness. She didn’t wither, and she didn’t die. She somehow managed to flourish and bear fruit, and the more I studied her life, I realized why.
Mary did three things that are essential for the flourishing life. These three practices kept her grounded in truth, and centered on the Lord, and they are still essential today.
1. Find Your People
Do you know what was the first thing Mary did after she learned she was pregnant? She found a friend. Mary visited Elizabeth, a cousin who was also pregnant, but more importantly, a woman of faith. In Luke 1:39-45, Elizabeth speaks truth and love all over Mary. She encourages her, affirms her, and supports her.
The friendship between Mary and Elizabeth is one of the best visions of what female friendship should be. It also points to the inherent value of female friendships. Studies have shown that women experience physical, therapeutic benefits when they spend time with one another. Our bodies release a hormone that literally heals our bodies, and this tells me one thing: God designed women to be friends with other women. It’s how we flourish.
That means women should never feel guilty or selfish for spending time with other women. God created us that way, and it’s an investment into ourselves–and into the people around us–when we make time for female friends.
So if you’re in a hard season, or a desert season, and the well is running dry, find your people. Find the friends who love you but will also speak truth into your heart. God created you for it.
2. Praise God
This is such a counterintuitive aspect of flourishing. When you’re in the desert, when you’re weary or afraid, the last thing you want to do is praise God.
And yet this is what Mary does. After hearing the news of her pregnancy, Mary pauses to worship God (v. 46-55). By doing this, she remembers to be grateful, and to remember what is true. By doing this, her spirit is lifted, her vision refocused, and her courage recharged.
It’s also no coincidence that David, who wrote countless Psalms of praise, wrote many of them in times of darkness. He didn’t praise God in spite of his circumstances, but in order to endure them. That’s because praising God isn’t only for the thriving, but for the barely surviving. It is the thing that feeds our souls.
3. Know the Word
One of the things that is so amazing about Mary’s words of praise is that they were not hers. Not originally. In verses 45-55, Mary echoes a passage of Old Testament Scripture known as “Hannah’s Song.” In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah is a newly pregnant woman who thanks God for His faithfulness, and Mary knew this story. She knew it so well, in fact, that she immediately called it to mind when facing her own miraculous pregnancy.
I love that about Mary. She wasn’t super-spiritual or naturally eloquent. She was just a simple girl who knew what was true, and applied it to her circumstances. Anyone–I mean ANYONE–can do this.
Mary’s knowledge of Scripture also reminds us that knowing God’s Word isn’t about “getting something out of it” when you sit down to read. Instead, reading Scripture is an opportunity to write truth onto our hearts. The better we know God’s Word, the more easily we can call it to mind when we need it.
In my experience, the people who face hardship with the greatest amount of grace–they do these three things. They have a strong support network of friends, they know Scripture inside and out, and they praise God from start to finish. And these people, they don’t just flourish. They GLOW.
If you’re in the desert right now, maybe it’s time for a girls night. Maybe it’s time for a little Hillsong while you fold clothes. Maybe it’s time to open your Bible app while you wait in the car line at your child’s school. These are not big steps, but they are steps in the direction of life. So I challenge you to take just one step–or three–because you may be in the desert, but you don’t have to die there.