I’m wondering today if you are feeling disappointed.
The Christmas holidays are almost over. Though we are still surrounded by decorations and lights, for many of us the sparkles only magnify our loneliness. Our losses.
Were you alone this Christmas, even if you weren’t alone?
Did you watch your children not getting along? You tried to help, to bring perspective, but your words came back when you were in bed rehearsing what you could have done differently.
Are you living in a state with restrictions or did quarantining keep you from seeing your parents or family?
More than ever this year we need the truth of Christmas, that God came to dwell with us as our Emmanuel, even if our holiday experience was much less than we’d hoped or were accustomed to in the past.
A letter was written ages ago to a group of people who were living in circumstances that were radically different than what they’d always known. These families and individuals were forced to flee their homes because of persecution and find places to live that were safer. While I imagine they were relieved to have found refuge, there were undoubtedly friends, foods and familiar places they missed profoundly.
Writing to this group, Peter sympathized with their trials and sufferings but then challenged them to “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13, NASB).
As painful as our circumstances might have been this year and even this Christmas, is it possible that God is calling us to look honestly at where we place our hope? I know He is telling me that my hope is too often in people or things other than in Him alone.
In times of hardship nothing is more life giving than “the living abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). So here are some living abiding true words for you to read that can bring life to your sorrows:
“And He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6)
“ … knowing you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers … with the precious blood of Christ …” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession …” (1 Peter 2:9).
No matter the current national or world crisis, and though our eyes constantly look for the outward to satisfy, to fill us, to bring us joy, it is only found in One Person.
David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He knew the source was in God alone.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who I am honored to know as a friend, gives me the perspective I need. For 45 years she has been bound to a wheelchair and to the constant need of others caring for her physical needs. She said this past year in an interview, “In the morning when I wake up, I know they’ll be coming into my bedroom to give me a bed bath, to do my toileting routines, pull up my pants, put me in the wheelchair, feed me my breakfast and push me out the front door. I lie there thinking, ‘Oh God, I cannot face this. I’m so tired of this routine. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. But I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. Can I please borrow your smile? I need it.’”
Do you shake your head incredulously at her impossible-to-comprehend circumstances? I do. And I marvel.
She went on to say, “I make myself be happy. I make myself sing because I have to. I choose the Holy Spirit’s help because I don’t want to go down that grim, dark path to depression anymore. Cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weaknesses because that is what He promises.”
Her faith stuns me because mine feels so shallow in comparison. But God eagerly waits to meet me and you when we come with our losses of any size and our broken hearts to His welcoming embrace. That is where joy is found in the holiday season, and in our everyday lives: in a real vital alive relationship with Jesus Christ who willingly shrunk His deity to a single cell to then be born on Christmas day for our sake.
Come to Him. Give Him your broken heart. Adore Him always as Christ the Lord. Then sing for joy that He has not abandoned us. Not for a moment will He forsake you or me!
One of my favorite Scripture passages is worth remembering every day, especially as we finish out 2020, a year of collective national and worldwide losses. This is a paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-19a, from the ESV and NASB translations:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, and no fruit be on the vines.
Though the olive tree should not yield, and the fields produce no food.
Though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength … ”
Amen. May this be true of all who call on His name!