Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Reality of the Holidays

 When I was a child, I remember thinking that there was nothing better than Christmastime!  It’s time for presents and music and sweet treats and church activities.  It’s time to celebrate the birth of Christ as we sing “Away in a Manger.” Nothing could possibly be wrong with the world! 

As I’ve gotten older, however, I have realized more and more that the holidays are not always filled with happiness.  I have watched two families from my former church lose their teenage sons and have a funeral right around Christmastime.  I know people are battling cancer and miscarriages and unknown diagnoses.  Christmastime may be filled with happiness for some people, but a lot of people are also hurting too. 

What can we do as Christians to lift up others who are suffering?  Or, what can we do when we are the ones going through a painful time?

  • Remember from where our suffering comes.  Suffering comes as a direct result of sin, and God has NO sin in Him. But, Satan wants to do all that he can to cause sin to prevail. It is hard to understand why things happen sometimes.  Sometimes, for example, a person is healed of an incurable disease, and other times, we beg God to save a loved one and they don’t make it.  During these times, we can begin to question why God allows things to happen.  Satan so wants us to turn our back on God during these times.  We have to cling to the fact that this wasn’t the way God originally intended for it to be.  But, we are the ones who rebelled against God and our sin left us separated from Him.  We must stand firm in our faith when Satan puts doubts in our minds.  He is cunning, he is crafty and smart, and so we must be ready:

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11

  • Even what Satan means for evil, He can turn it around for our good. Romans 8:28 is a verse that often gets misquoted.  For example, when a tragic event happens such as last week’s shooting of 20 kindergarten students, people may say: “well, that must have been God’s purpose.”  Then, they will quote Romans 8:28-“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  I think this verse is saying something different, though.  God never wanted sin to prevail…that was never His purpose.  So, He would never want 20 kindergartners to be shot and killed. We are the ones who chose to reject Him and follow after our own evil desires.  Because we have turned away from Him, our world is full of evil.   But, here is the great part:  He can still bring hope to an awful situation.  That is what Romans 8:28 is all about.  We can rest in the assurance that God never wanted sin to prevail, but if we will cling to Him, He can cause something good to come out of our terrible situation. 

 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5  

  • Grieve. Sometimes it’s easier to try to push away the pain instead of dealing with it.  God can use our grief, though.  By grieving for others, it allows us to step into their shoes for a moment and to lift them up in prayer.  If we just push it away then we miss out on ministering to them and on humbly coming to the Lord on their behalf.  God can make us more selfless and fill us with His love, mercy, and kindness when we grieve on behalf of others.  And, if we are the ones who are affected, we must remember that it is okay to grieve.  We are not a weak Christian because we are grieving.  By coming before the Lord and crying out to Him, we are telling Him that we are upset but that we want Him to fill our every need….to be enough. We see Job, a righteous man who feared God, grieve:

“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!’ In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” Job 1:20-22

  • Look forward to the Hope we have in Christ. Jesus told us that we would have many trials and sorrows on this earth, but He also told us that He has overcome it all.  Yes, we may face trials, but we can look forward with eager expectation and hope to the day when we will see our Lord in all of His glory:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.  All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” Jude 1:24-25 

God has opened up my eyes to the reality that many people are hurting right now.  I want to grieve with them and pray for them and do all that I can to minister to them.  I also want to celebrate Christ through all of it, however, because He has overcome it all.  Death has no power over Him.  This Christmas season as we are celebrating with family and friends, may we remember that Christ is enough.  Even if we are battling a terrible situation or have received terrible news, let’s remember that He has overcome it all and that we are alive in Christ!
“And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:8-11

These are they lyrics to a song by Aaron Keyes that is a powerful reminder that God is in control.  Listen to it here

Aaron Keyes – Sovereign Over Us

There is strength within the sorrow,
There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding,
You're teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper,
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined,
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens,
Reaching down in endless grace
You are the Lifter of the lowly,
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me,
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good,
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You are working for our good,
You are working for our good and for your glory 

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