It seems bloggers everywhere are oozing with enthusiasm, emotion, and eager anticipation for the approaching holiday season. Descriptions of fireplaces and hot cocoa, plaids and sequins, lights and laughter are so vivid they feel like an attempt to scatter glitter from every screen. Be warm, be filled, be happy. Let the dazzling delights of the season satisfy.
But for many of us the holiday glitter only magnifies a blinding glare on our loneliness and losses. I have a friend whose son and daughter-in-law are divorcing. Their situation is unbelievably complicated by a beyond-healing medical condition. How does my friend find joy in this season?
My daughter has lots of friends, godly young women, who long to be married but are waiting again this Christmas for that long-prayed-for but still-unanswered prayer. Yes they know marriage is not the answer for all, but the ever present images of happy children opening gifts with smiling moms and dads is a constant reminder to these delightful young women of their aloneness.
Another young friend recently lost her near-term baby. She and her husband will stuff away the newborn First Thanksgiving outfit and candy cane-footed PJs to celebrate the season with empty arms and aching hearts. It seems our prayer list of dear friends, family members, and many acquaintances is more than ever littered with challenging medical issues and broken relationships.
Where do they, and we, find joy in this season and beyond?
Isaiah 33:6 is one of my favorite verses that answers this question, “And He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.” Though our eyes constantly look for the outward to satisfy, to fill us, to bring us joy, it is only found within. No matter the current national or world crisis. No matter the present personal or community crisis. No matter the secret scars on our hearts. We have a foundation of hope. David, the psalmist, knew the source was in God alone and begged, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:10).
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 recently shared, “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 tear up just reading those words? I do. Do you shake your head incredulously at her impossible-to-comprehend circumstances? I do. And I marvel.
She goes 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.
But God eagerly waits to meet me, and you too, when we come with our losses and broken hearts to His welcoming embrace. That is where joy is found in the holiday season: 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!