Last year there was a trend on social media where people created these 3×3 grids of picture highlights for the year. I created my own grid and enjoyed reminiscing about the highlights of the year that was.
This year was very different.
If I had to create a collage of the events that shaped me this year, it would be missing a few pieces. I could show awesome photos of our trips to Cape Town, Sedgefield and the USA, but that would just add up to less than 10% of the year. I could post some selfies of special dates we went on and the food we ate, or maybe of my birthday fiesta. But that would not tell the whole story.
There are many moments that are not captured by a lens because we would rather not remember them, yet they are forever etched into our memories and shape who we become. You don’t take photos of the loss of a dream, dear friends, a grandparent or your beloved dog. You don’t take a selfie when you’re holding on to your person for dear life and crying your heart out. There is no way to physically capture a world crashing down or trying to build that world back up again.
There is no photograph of a spirit mending with the help of family, friends, therapy and medication. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
So, how are we still standing? How can it be that we are not just surviving, but thriving, after the toughest year in (extensively recorded) memory? How is my heart full of joy in this season?
It is a miracle. It is a gift from above.
That’s the only explanation.
If you had told me a year ago that my prayers would go unanswered but I would be joyful and fulfilled in my life, I would have thought you had lost your mind. There are many people I admire who can remain joyful in the midst of horrendous circumstances, but I’ve never been one of those people. I have a strong tendency to be anxious and worried about every little thing.
In such desperate times you search for any answer, any glimpse into the plan of God. I begged for any word or revelation. So began a year of getting to know God better through the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to know how a loving God could not change heartbreaking circumstances when we were so convinced that he had heard our prayers.
In this previous post I explore the cause of dark and painful times. We don’t know the specific reasons for our personal hard experiences because it is beyond the limitations of human understanding. We just don’t know why. So we should stop asking.
Instead we should focus on the gifts of promises we can unwrap this Christmas time and throughout the year.
- We know God sent his son to save us from this broken world (John 3:16)
- Through Jesus we have eternal life. (John 3:36)
- We know that because of Jesus we can look forward to God’s prosperous and hopeful plans for our eternal future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- We know that we don’t have to be afraid because our God will always be with us and never forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).
- Whether we go through deep waters and fire (Isaiah 43:2), or dark valleys (Psalm 23:4) we should not be afraid because God will comfort us and protect us.
- Jesus taught us that whatever we ask for in prayer will be ours… (Mark 11:24)
- …And that He will meet all our needs through his glory of. (Philippians 4:19)
- We know that if we trust in God he will give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)
- We know that all things will work together for our good of we love God and live according to his purpose for us. (Romans 8:28)
- We are assured that God can do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
- We believe that if we trust in the Lord with all our hearts and submit our will to him, he will direct our ways. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- We have the assurance that if we seek God first above all, he will take care of the rest. (Matthew 6:31-33)
- We know that the Father wants to give us good gifts. (Luke 11:9-13)
- Finally, we trust that if we wait on the Lord, He will renew our strength so that we won’t become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
The Bible teaches us that God loves us and cares deeply about our wellbeing. We can trust in him and his eternal wisdom. This should fill us with great joy and peace. These are eternal and precious gifts that cannot be obtained through our earthly circumstances.
Do you think Satan wants us to celebrate these gifts this Christmas? Do you think he wants us the celebrate Jesus and his love for us? Do you think he wants to see us joyful in the midst of hard seasons? Do you think he likes it when followers of Jesus get together and thank God for all he has done for us and will do for us in the future? Absolutely not! He hates community, he despises our love for Jesus and he cannot stand a joyful disposition, so he will do anything in his power to rob us of our joy.
Satan uses the good intentions of Christmas to remove us from God. That is how cunning he is. Think about it: the malls are crazy busy because everyone’s searching for the perfect gift; families can’t stand each other because of misunderstanding and irritation instead of love and compassion; feelings of lack and unworthiness fill our hearts because we compare our lives to Insta-perfect.
Don’t let evil win. Fight Satan every step of the way. James teaches us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. Imagine a perfect Christmas without the influence from the evil one. You cannot change the way the world celebrates Christmas, but you can change what you allow into your heart and into your home.
That is why I did 90% of my Christmas shopping online this year and am doing my best to resist the temptation to over-spend this silly season. I have many books and Bible reading plans I’m attempting at the same time to force my mind and heart to remain focused on the true meaning of Christmas:
He is the reason for this season.
He is everything and he is enough.
The true miracle of Christmas is celebrating the love of Jesus with joy and peace in a broken world.
For today’s track I include this arrangement of Joy to the World by Mack Wilberg. This piece has a very special place in my heart since I had the privilege of conducting a mass choir and orchestra last year during the visit of our Chief Apostle to Pretoria. One of the highlights of my life.
Wishing you a joyful and peaceful Christmas, dear friends.