The Yukon River Quest is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race. For days, the most elite teams from across the world race on a 444 mile stretch of the Yukon River, competing to win this world-class wilderness event. This event is so difficult that, in 2016, over 10 percent of teams that crossed the starting line in Whitehorse failed to make it to the finish line in Dawson City. Most avid kayakers would agree that the Yukon River Quest is an enormous feat. For those who have never kayaked, though, the idea of competing in the YRQ would rightly be considered to be an impossibility. Apparently, that thought had never crossed my brother’s mind, and it wasn’t long before he was trying to get me to see past the impossibilities of racing in the Yukon River Quest.
My brother, Dana, was in Italy for a summer working with sled dogs when he brought up the idea of us training to compete in the Yukon River Quest. Inspired by staying a summer with an Alaskan sled-dog racer, Dana was motivated to do the impossible himself and compete in this race—and I was now along for the ride. While Dana seemed to be riding on high aspirations, it didn’t take this Freshman in high school long to realize how impossible this was for two teenagers from Tucson! While we were chatting through Gmail, I remember asking my brother, “How are we going to afford all of the expensive gear that it takes for us to do this?” After a few moments, my brother responded, “Bro, we can get sponsors!” He then tried to convince me how easily we could get sponsors since we would be the very first team from Arizona to ever compete in the Yukon River Quest (perhaps he had also been watching the movie about the first Jamaican bobsled team, Cool Runnings). Dazzled by dreams of doing the impossible, I bought into the idea for a little while, until reality hit both of us. I look back on that time in my life and I wonder, how did I believe that? How did I buy into such an outlandish goal for two teenagers from Tucson?
It was difficult for me to trust in our ability to do something that had never been done before! Nobody else from Arizona had competed in this race, so why would I think that we could do it? As people, it’s difficult for us to believe in something that has never happened before: if we can’t see how it’s going to work out, then we choose not to believe it. This mindset is also present when we try to evaluate God’s personal plans for our lives. Many times, God calls us to do something that has never happened before, so we struggle to believe in God’s ability to make it happen. I believe this is similar to where Mary found herself when Gabriel announced the big news that she would be the mother of God’s Son
We don’t know much about Mary, but I imagine that she would have been similar to any other espoused girl in Israel at the time of this birth announcement. She would have probably lived with her parents, anxiously awaiting the return of her bridegroom Joseph, when they could finally get married and begin their life together. She probably found herself daydreaming often of what it would be like to be a wife—and, after a year or two, a mom. But one day, in the midst of her daily routine, God interrupted with some radical plans from His messenger, Gabriel.
With much joy, Gabriel announced to Mary that God had chosen her to raise the Messiah, the King and Deliverer God had promised to His people for centuries! Mary’s son would not live a normal life: His life would be the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of God’s people. Luke 1:32-33 paints a picture of the Deliverer that would come to earth through Mary:
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Now, most of us would be inclined to respond to that magnitude of an announcement like this, “God, why would you choose me? I feel so unworthy!” Not Mary. Mary just couldn’t get past the fact that she was a virgin. In Mary’s mind, God’s plan for her was obstructed by one big, biological impossibility. She just couldn’t see how God was going to make this happen, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34).
PLANS FULL OF IMPOSSIBILITIES
Mary’s doubts of God’s plan shouldn’t sound foreign to any child of God. Think about it: when was the last time God called any of His children to a task that seemed possible? Did it seem possible to Moses when the only way of escape for over a million of God’s children was through the Red Sea? Did the defeat of Goliath appear to be possible to a young shepherd named David? Once you think about it, it won’t take you long to realize that God’s plans always include impossibilities.
Have you found yourself asking, like Mary, “God, how is this possible?” Perhaps God wants you to pay down your debt, but you can only see impossibilities when you look at your current financial situation. God’s plan might be for you to overcome an addiction, but impossibilities flood your mind as you think of the incredible challenges you’ve faced the other two times you’ve tried to quit. In ministry, especially, it can be so easy for a leader to scoff at a plan God has revealed because they can only think of the impossibilities— “the people won’t buy into this” or “nobody is going to come to this event.” It seems like God is always at work in our lives, calling us to do what’s impossible at every new turn. Thankfully, whenever we have questions of doubt, God is so gracious to send us answers of reassurance.
GOD’S ANSWER OF REASSURANCE
God knew Mary would struggle seeing the possibility of a virgin birth. That’s why God brought some big news to Mary: He had already done the impossible on behalf of her cousin, Elizabeth (v. 36-37). Elizabeth was going to have a baby! Humanly speaking, Elizabeth’s days of conceiving children were long-gone, not to mention that she had already been declared barren during her child-bearing years. For Elizabeth to have a baby at her age would have been considered impossible! God brought this message to Mary at this time to say to Mary, “If I’ve already done the impossible through Elizabeth, what makes you think that I can’t do the impossible through you?”
When Mary looked at God’s plan to bring Jesus into the world, she only saw impossibilities, but Mary forgot God is not defined by our perception of what’s possible. Mary forgot that God’s plans only include possibilities. Possibilities aren’t defined by our past experience; possibilities are defined by what falls into God’s plan. It was God’s plan for enslaved Jews to escape Egyptian bondage, so there was no limit to what He could do to bring their deliverance. It was God’s plan for Israel to defeat the champion of the Philistines who mocked the God of heaven, so He made it possible for a red-headed boy to deliver the execution sentence. If God chooses to include a destination in His plans, then there’s no limit to what He can do to make His plans come to pass.
There’s no doubt in my mind that 2017 has some huge challenges in store for each person reading this post. For me, this year will go down as the year that I became a dad. I can’t even begin to express how small I feel when I consider the impossibilities of raising a daughter to love God in the 21st century. 2017 may be the year God leads you to break ties with a relationship you thought would last a lifetime. This may be the year God moves you into a new career field. No matter your situation, if God included it in his plan, then that must mean that He has deemed its accomplishment to be possible.
Be encouraged! We serve a great God—a God of the impossible. He just desires some more children who will trust in His plan, like Mary, and say, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”