Christmas is that time of year when we celebrate the birth of our savior. It is a time of wonder, delight and sometimes strife. It can feel like the devil’s using this time to strike. We have only to look at the world around us: home grown terrorism, ISIS, job layoffs and medical issues. It makes us want to scream out “Stop the World, God, I want to get off!” Oh, I know that difficult times are not seasonal, but this year I am feeling the sadness even as I decorate, shop, and plan my Christmas dinner.
This week sadness touched my heart personally. A family member’s lifetime of addictions and unhealthy living is preventing him from completing an extensive rehab program. In essence he is running from the arduous long term task of maintaining health and wellness. I also received a call from a friend whose 29 year old daughter and mother of two young children received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She will be facing months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, surgery and more chemotherapy thereafter.
The dichotomy of these two people is striking. One is running from healthy living and the other would do anything to be healthy. Both are uncomfortable with their life right now. Both are battling a demon who threatens to destroy the life God wants them to have. Both face an uncertain future. In a season of celebration it can be difficult to get into the Christmas spirit.
How do we and they cope during what is supposed to be “the most beautiful time of the year”?
Praying for both of them I realized so much of what I am feeling is fear for them. What will happen if they don’t slay these beasts? What pain and loss will they leave their families? As I feel the grip of fear take hold of my heart I realize how destructive it can be. Fear prevents us from living in faith, from making decisions and most of all believing that things can change, that miracles can happen.
How do we relinquish the fear and replace it with the power of hope?
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
I pray that these two people will remain God strong, courageous and relentless towards their pursuit of health. Whether in the midst of addiction or pain of chemotherapy & surgery; I pray that they release any fear and hold fast to their faith and to hope.
Christmas time is when we often reach out to those we love and to those in need of love. Both need to know that friends and family are willing to help: cards, visits, meals, babysitting or just an ear to listen, and arms to hold and hug. Despite what each will face this Christmas, may they feel God’s presence in every moment of their lives. That it be manifested through God’s disciples (that’s you and me, folks). By being present, we become a living, breathing present we give at Christmas time and beyond.
Rick Warren tells us: “Life is like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. Happy moments – PRAISE GOD; Difficult moments – SEEK GOD; Quiet moments – WORSHIP GOD; Painful moments – TRUST GOD. And in every moment – THANK GOD.”
I am reminded that peace isn’t dependent on circumstances. Rather, it comes from a steadfast, trusting heart that is focused on God. It is an attitude of gratitude that surpasses our circumstances. It is a gift from God that came down to us in the form of a birth, a life that showed us how to live, a death for our salvation and a resurrection to manifest the magnitude of God’s love.
Jesus is our reason to live no matter how sad we are, how much pain we are in. He gives us purpose for our life and hope for our future whether here or in the hereafter.
So while I hold some sadness in my heart this Christmas, I hold more hope and faith. I will continue to decorate, shop, bake, plan my Christmas dinner and see the beauty that unfolds amidst the strife before me. While pain and suffering may fall like rain, somewhere there is the rainbow shining through. The spectrum of colors can be seen in small moments: the warm hug of a grandchild, holding hands with the one you love, treasuring the joy of a close relationship with your grown child – now your best friend, the twinkling of the celebration lights throughout the neighborhood, lunch and laughter with old friends, the dawning of a new day, and the quiet setting of the sun. For in each of these moments, we are convicted that God is with us, that He lives among us and in us.
Because of all this, I know that with God there is always hope. And maybe even a miracle or two.