Life often leaves us feeling empty and lost. As the holiday season approaches, for many, those feelings are overwhelming and hard to cope with. The holidays are a time filled with memories and traditions that are best when shared with loved ones. But relationships can be complicated, and circumstances can be devastating. In difficult times, we don’t always see clearly, we are vulnerable, and the worst thing we can do is isolate ourselves whether by silence or distance.
God desires us to be in community. He designed us to be relational and He blesses us through others. When we don’t have this community, one where we are loved and accepted for who we are, where we feel safe to share our challenges and hurts, we feel disconnected.
There are times in life when the community we are in is broken and not as God intended. One Christmas in particular stands out in my memory as especially difficult for me. My family was broken. I was just 18 and my parents had been divorced for a year. The reality of two separate households was a revelation that unfolded slowly, like pulling stitches from a tender wound, one bleak insight at a time.
It was Christmas Eve and being a devoted daughter, my game plan had been to do whatever I could to please both my parents (not much of a plan!). With good intentions I headed to mom’s only to find that she was having her own struggles with our new reality that were coming out in odd and uncomfortable ways. Despite my best efforts, when it came time for me to head to House #2, my mom was not ok. I left on a sour note and found that it was not much better at dad’s; he was not in a good place mentally or emotionally so, despite our best efforts, Christmas unfolded that year like an unrehearsed melodrama staged by party clowns, strange and hard to watch. It wasn’t pretty, but hidden within the struggle was a purpose.
As I got in my car to leave at the end of that cold winter night so long ago, I saw through an open window a family smiling and celebrating. It was a family I’d known for many years, a family like ours used to be. My heart hurt to think of the terrible loss of our once close and devoted family. I knew on a deep level that it would never be like that again for us. The sadness overwhelmed me.
In that moment, Christmas was all about my pain and my circumstances, Jesus was nowhere to be found. I had pushed Him out; there was no room with so much pain and sadness swimming around in my heart and mind.
I wish I had known then that if I had let Him in and kept Him the center of my world, Christmas would have looked very different! I could have ministered to my hurting parents and my own suffering would have been diminished under the sheltering wing of God’s eternal love and peace.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
More than 20 years later, I can testify to how God has restored our family and used our trials for instruction and a greater purpose. In the moment, I could not see how anything good would come of our situation and the ugliness that surrounded us. We let our circumstance overshadow the Truth.
The truth is, the Family of God is Eternal and rooted in love. The beautiful truth about our pain and suffering is that God can make beauty from ashes, he redeems our brokenness, and by His grace all we need is faith.
To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3
Dear God, Help us keep our eyes on you this Christmas! The birth of Christ is a light into the darkness of our world. Help us rejoice, even in our suffering, for the glorious gift of Jesus.! You came to heal the broken ,save the lost, and love the unlovely. We stand in awe of you. Fill us with your strength, peace, and holy joy so that we may overcome whatever difficulties we face in this world. Bring us into community Lord, and help us to be more like you as we love the people in our lives in a way that reflects who you are and brings glory and honor to you, Father God. We praise you and thank you, in Jesus’ name, amen!