Joseph & Mary: A Journey of Trust
How can God use your words to build trust with your husband?
Joseph and Mary didn’t have a Military marriage, but they certainly faced unique challenges. Their trust in God—and one another—defined their marital journey. Just like intimacy, trust is a journey that takes time and is not without risk. Sisters, building lasting trust takes effort. Together, we can pray for small moments that give us big opportunities to trust.
About This Journey
God says that it is not good for man to be alone. Life is better with the buddy system—in the Military and especially in marriage. It gives us a greater reward for our work, someone to help us when we fall, and a shoulder to rest on. In “Devoted to My Husband”, we journey with six women through intimacy, trust, communication, healthy boundaries, generosity, and teamwork.
This Week's Readings
Joseph & Mary: A Journey of Trust
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.-Luke 1:26-27
“Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.” These words from Scottish novelist and theologian George MacDonald cause me to stop and consider the importance of trust with my husband. Do we share that kind of trust? If so, how did we get to that place?
Just like intimacy, trust is a journey that takes time and is not without risk. I cannot allow my fears to overcome the risk; I must nurture trust. What sort of trust journey makes the risk worthwhile?
Three essential elements of trust are respect, vulnerability, and commitment. We exercise these aspects of trust best in frequent and unhindered interactions with our spouse. But military life usually leads to separations—deployment, training, assignments, and career progression—that can hinder the development of these elements. And the priority of the military mission for every service member can also compete with trust-building in marriage.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke introduce a young couple that risked a journey into the unknown. Joseph and Mary did not have a military marriage but they certainly faced some unique challenges. Their trust in God—and one another—defined their marital journey. They were willing to risk obedience and in so doing they offer us an exceptional example of trust in marriage even apart from their irreplaceable roles in caring for the Savior of the world. Gossip likely followed this young couple throughout their married life. Yet they trusted God’s plan for their lives, which included his plan for their marriage.
Just as a beautiful custom home is built brick by brick, trust in relationships does not come ready made. Relationship expert John Gottman reminds us that a couple builds trust in small moments. Everyday small moments between husband and wife—an encouraging word, a thoughtful deed, a guarded glance, an attentive pause, an honest answer—shape a strong fortress of trust that protects their relationship.
Sisters, building lasting trust takes effort on our part. Often, as with Mary and Joseph, we need intervention from God to shore up the trust factor in our relationships when we exceed our natural human ability. That’s a relationship you can trust!
What areas of trust do you find are challenged by military marriage? How can you combat these challenges?
Lord, I pray for small moments of trust-building between my husband and me today. Don’t let me miss or waste the moment! Amen.
Your Name Is Safe
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.-Matthew 1:19
You may have heard the story of the young teacher who asked her class to define love. One child responded, “When someone loves you, your name is safe in their mouth.” This well-crafted word picture illustrates how to respect another person. If the story is true, this child has wisdom beyond their years!
Joseph had every reason to think the worst of Mary. He had pledged himself to her, but then she turned up pregnant and he knew he was not the father. In their culture, he could have made a case for her to be stoned to death. No one would have blamed him for criticizing, humiliating, or embarrassing Mary. The law was on his side and he had the right, as well as the expectation, to sever the relationship.
Yet, Mary’s name was safe in Joseph’s mouth. Matthew informs his readers that Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame and instead determined to take care of the situation privately. We can easily admire this man Joseph. Even when he questioned Mary’s integrity, he did not degrade her reputation publicly. He displayed both righteousness and kindness by his action to protect Mary’s reputation.
With his choice not to shame Mary in public, Joseph paints a powerful portrait of respect. In one of her columns, military wife Julia Plaff includes mutual respect as one of the traits of a successful military marriage. “Successful couples,” Plaff explains, “fully appreciate and respect each other. They recognize that the ‘jobs’ of the military member and the military spouse are difficult and challenging. The sacrifice of one partner is no less important than the sacrifice of the other. Each spouse is committed to the success of the other.”
This journey called marriage provides numerous opportunities to exercise respect or disrespect for actions either known or suspected. Follow the example of Joseph and choose to respect your spouse. How safe is his name in your mouth?
How do you build trust with your words? Examine the last things you shared about your husband with someone else. How safe would he say his name is in your mouth?
Lord, I know words are powerful. They have the power of life and death. Help me to speak words of life to and about my husband. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14). Amen.
Steps of Commitment
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.-Matthew 1:20-25
Commitment is a word military folks know well. Joining the military requires an obligated time commitment. And for many military personnel, commitment includes not only a timeframe but an ideological ideal accompanied by a strong sense of duty.
Joseph and Mary would have made a good military family. Individually and as a couple they rank high on the commitment scale. Consider the comment by Mary in Luke 1:38 following the angel’s announcement that she would carry a child conceived unnaturally: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” In that moment Mary made a commitment to yield to God’s will and to trust God with the next step. She rose from that place of divine encounter and set out on a journey of unprecedented trust.
Now consider Joseph, who took a colossal step of commitment in marrying Mary. This was no easy commitment—an angel had to appear to him in a dream for him to say yes! Yet Joseph too made a commitment to yield to God’s will and trust God with the next step. He too, rose from a place of divine encounter to set out on a journey of unprecedented trust.
Joseph and Mary started their journey together lacking the answers to some major questions. But isn’t that the way it always is when we make vows in marriage? Our commitment to each other says, “I trust you without knowing all the answers.”
Sara Horn, an author and military wife, reminds us that commitment must be a starting point to any successful military marriage. “Loving feelings can come and go,” she writes, “but commitment creates a bond that is hard to break. When you both wholeheartedly agree, for better or for worse, to be there for the other no matter what, you are that much stronger to withstand the problems that will come.”
Military marriage takes a couple on a journey that will test commitment, but each step can give trust the space for unprecedented growth.
How has the military tested trust and commitment in your marriage? How are you allowing the military to grow trust and commitment in your marriage?
Lord, commitment means determination and perseverance in the no matter what times in my marriage. Keep my husband and me moving forward in our commitment to one another—especially in times when our commitment is tested. Thank you for this military life and the way you use it to strengthen my marriage. Amen.
Vulnerable is Not a Bad Word
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.-Luke 2:1-5
Take one pregnant woman, add a PCS order, and you have a textbook example of the word vulnerable. Online military forums feature questions about the wisdom of making a permanent change of station while pregnant. Questions come from both the spouse and the service member concerning everything from regulations to transfer of medical records.
Karen, a veteran military wife, recalls a PCS move from Texas to Georgia. She had an energetic toddler and was pregnant with her second child. Her family was more than ready to leave Texas, but there was no hurrying the process, Karen recalls. “It took forever! My husband’s out-processing was delayed. We had car trouble. My sister was coming to help me, and her flight was late. We did not even make it out of Texas when our car threw a rod. We had to buy a new vehicle en route. I describe that day as the day we made it to Waco, but I was wacko!”
Karen can look back now and laugh at the situation. But in the moment she felt vulnerable. She wanted to trust her husband during this time, but the circumstances made her question the wisdom of military service. Working through such a vulnerable situation requires trust.
Mary had to trust Joseph in traveling the ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Ninety miles does not seem far—until you consider Mary was pregnant and most likely traveled the unpaved hill trails on a donkey! As we saw, an angel visited Mary to tell her she would be the mother of the Son of the Most High. But Luke ends the account by stressing that “the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26–38). No biblical record mentions an angel traveling with Mary to Bethlehem. The road was dangerous! Wild animals were a constant hazard. Bandits lurked in the shadows; history records that some travelers gave over their wives to protect themselves. Mary had no way to defend herself. She had no way of knowing when the baby would arrive, or where he would be born. She was vulnerable.
It’s not a comfortable feeling. Yet in marriage, vulnerability can be a strength. As researcher Brené Brown explains, it can lead to trust: “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement.”
The whole scene begs the question of whether Mary would have gone on the journey if she did not trust Joseph. Her vulnerability validates her trust in this man. Even more, her vulnerability validates her trust in God.
In what ways has military life made you vulnerable? How can you use your vulnerability to build trust in your marriage?
Lord, I repeat: I don’t like to be vulnerable! Yet you can use the places where I feel weak and afraid to make me strong in you. Help me to trust you. Give me a willing heart to do the work of building trust in my marriage. Make me fully attentive and engaged toward that purpose. Amen.
Ready Or Not
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”-Matthew 2:13
Ready or not could be the tagline for military marriage. Army wife Ruth recalls the Christmas banquet she and her Ranger husband were attending when her husband received a call from his unit. He went outside to take the call and did not come back to the banquet. When she returned home, he was gone. A few days later, he was parachuting into an armed conflict in Panama.
Ready or not, such a call can come in the middle of the night, the middle of a dinner, or the middle of a vacation and usher your husband from your presence without a moment’s notice. Duty calls and he must answer. When the unexpected is the norm, we often struggle to build trust.
Mary and Joseph had several ready or not moments. One is recorded in Matthew 2:13. Jesus was about two years old, and King Herod, troubled by the visit of the wise men, was about to send men to kill all the male babies in Bethlehem up to two years of age to make sure he eliminated the newborn king-to-be. On the orders of an angel in a dream, Joseph awakened Mary in the middle of the night, packed up their belongings, and fled from Bethlehem to Egypt. If Mary had not trusted Joseph, she might have told him to go back to sleep and they would talk about it in the morning. Instead they began a trip that meant riding a donkey or walking for two hundred miles through desert, mountains, and wilderness—with a two year old.
I do not have to use much imagination to believe that Mary was less than thrilled with this PCS. Yet there is no indication that she doubted Joseph. She did not have time to plan or prepare for the midnight move. She could not check off her list of things to do because she did not even have time to make a list. Joseph had to take life-or-death action. She trusted that he had her and her baby’s interest at heart. At this point, she had to act out of the trust she had nurtured and sustained in her husband because of her trust in God.
The everyday uncertainties that come with military life make trust an essential factor in marriage—and make trusting in God paramount.
How would you respond if your husband asked you to do what Joseph asked of Mary? What are some of the ready or not moments you have experienced with military life? What part has trust played in those moments?
Lord, make me ready for whatever you ask of me. Help me trust you and trust my husband as we continue our marriage journey. Amen.
Resources & Info
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- Small Group Resource: Devoted 1 - Leader's Guide
- Small Group Resource: Devoted 1 - Participant's Guide