Once when giving a retreat for a group of college students, I met a young woman from Korea. She shared a story with us of a harrowing experience that happened in her native country when she was about thirteen years old.
She was a passenger on a bus that was speeding along the side of a mountain. The road had sharp curves and no guardrails. Everyone on that bus was panicking, except for one young boy, fast asleep, in the row ahead of her.
“Wake up,” the girl said to him. “We’re going so fast. We’re in great danger. Aren’t you afraid?” The little boy looked up and said, “No, I’m not afraid. The bus driver is my father.” Now that’s trust!
There used to be a bus company slogan that said, “Take the bus, and leave the driving to us.” God says something similar to us: “Put your life in my hands, and then let me lead you!”
Our Lady experienced situations we could describe as “out of control,” or at least out of her immediate control. But instead of panicking, she turned the situations over to God and trusted him to take care of them.
For example, when St. Joseph realized that Mary was “with child” and did not know how the child had been conceived, he was considering divorcing her quietly. This had to have been a trial for Mary, as it was for Joseph. She realized his anguish over her pregnancy, yet she did not attempt to “resolve the crisis” on her own. She trusted that God would resolve it for her earthly spouse. She did not give way to fear or panic. Like St. Joseph, who was considering prayerfully what to do in the situation, Our Lady prayed that the Lord might intervene. And he did!
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Another situation that was out of Mary’s control was King Herod’s attempt to kill the child Jesus. In the face of Herod’s cruelty, Our Lady placed herself and the child Jesus under St. Joseph’s loving care. She followed the directions given to her spouse by an angel in a dream: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matthew 2:13). There was no panic, no fear. Our Lady knew that God was in control, not Herod. The conviction of her trust was that nothing can ever happen unless God either wants it or permits it! That same conviction must be ours.
A third example of a situation seemingly out of control for Mary was the loss of the young Jesus in the temple for three days. This was, no doubt, a source of much sorrow and concern for Mary. She even admitted as much when she addressed Jesus: “Son, why have you done this to us? Did you not know that your father and I would search for you in great sorrow?” (see Luke 2:48). Mary and Joseph were concerned for Jesus’ well-being and safety, since he had been specially entrusted to their care. It was their confidence in God’s good purposes that allowed Mary and Joseph to continue their search until Jesus was found.
When Jesus at times tests our trust in him by seeming to be “lost,” let us allow the example of Mary and Joseph to encourage us. The situation may seem to be out of our control, but it is always under God’s total control.
Fr. Andrew Apostoli is a member of the community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. This is excerpted from Following Mary to Jesus: Our Lady as Mother, Teacher, and Advocate. To order the book or to read another selection, visit wau.org