Sunday, December 12, 2010

Trials Don't Take a Holiday, Do They?

Last week I talked about my favorite Christmas, one when Jesus rode up on the white horse and saved the day. But not all of my Christmases have been filled with miracles. And I know that every year during the holidays there are many who are struggling.

We imagine that Christmas should be an exciting time full of parties and shopping and eggnog, but when we or a loved one is going through a trial or depression or loneliness, the expectations that we put on this time of year can really magnify our pain. Maybe you’re having a less than picture-perfect Christmas this year.

I want you to know that you’re not alone.

My dad suffered with depression and alcoholism since he was very young. There were many times he would be gone from home for days at a time on a drinking binge. The holidays were always an especially difficult time for him, and there was one year when I was about 14 that it became very apparent.

It was Christmas Eve and my dad had been gone for a couple of days. At some point during the day he stumbled into the house, went to his bed and passed out. The joy had been sucked out of our home. My mother, my sister and I sat on the couch together that evening to open our gifts, which was our tradition. There were no giggles or excitement as we opened our presents, only an overwhelming sadness. I can only imagine what my mother was going through.

My parents didn’t know Christ as their Lord and Savior, and my sister and I hadn’t yet given our lives to Him, so there was no hope of change, no joy of salvation, no understanding and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. That was a difficult Christmas, one of the worst. There would be others.

I want you to know that in Christ there is hope.

To have the hope of Christ you must first have Christ. Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. (John 14:6) There are not a thousand roads to God; there is only One, and that is through God’s Son. Two thousand years ago, Jesus died on a cross and wrapped up the gift of salvation just for you. That gift can be opened right now by believing in Him, confessing your sins and giving your life to Him. I pray you don’t let another Christmas pass by without opening this most precious of gifts. And if you do pray to give your life to Christ, please email me and let me know!

Next, know that there is no such thing as a picture-perfect Christmas. Perfect is in the eye of the beholder. So tuck away those expectations of perfection in a box and mark it “Heaven.” Only there will everything be made perfect and we will lack for nothing.

Until then, if you are going through a difficult time, know that God is with you. I don’t want that to sound trite and I know that when you’re in the middle of a dark and painful trial those words can sound that way. But sometimes in the darkness, when you can’t see or understand, all you can do is hold the Lord’s hand and let Him lead you. He has promised to be your Shepherd and He always fulfills His promises.

Put your hope in Christ, the Creator of the earth, the Almighty God Who has redeemed you from hell and the Holy Spirit Who is your constant Companion of comfort. He is with you right now and He has a plan for your life. Keep focused on Him and continue to pray, pray, pray.

I didn’t realize it when I was 14, but Jesus was with me and my whole family that Christmas Eve. There would come a day when first my sister, then myself, and then my dad would each receive Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Remember, we are only sojourners in this very temporary life. And we are here for a high and lofty purpose. Just as Christ came, not to live in comfort, but to bring unparalleled hope and joy to the world, so we have been given the awesome gift of carrying His Light in our hearts so that we can continue to bring that hope and joy of Jesus Christ to the world.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:6-10)

What an amazing thing! We may not be surrounded by everything the world says is needed for a successful life, (and I don’t even think they can agree on exactly what that is) but we carry in us something of far more intrinsic, eternal beauty than anything this world has to offer—the life of Christ!

So rise up and have hope my brothers and sisters in Christ. Hold onto the Lord Who has redeemed you. Remember that Christmas is not what the world has made it. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our King, Jesus Christ, the joy and light of the world.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

If you need someone to stand with you in prayer this Christmas, or at any time, please don’t let fear keep you from reaching out to someone. I would be honored to pray for you.

May your Christmas be filled with Christ!

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Thanks for sharing!