It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (Insert melody) Except maybe it doesn’t feel like it.
Sometimes Christmas feels like the saddest time of the year.
There has been so much death and sorrow over the last couple of months. Many families, including our own, will be experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one. Chances are we all know someone who has experienced some kind of loss this holiday season.
My children lost their aunt just before Thanksgiving. She leaves behind a 14-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son. My heart especially aches for that teenage girl who was once my niece.
While putting the finishing touches on my Christmas tree, my oldest two children were attending her funeral in Maryland with their dad and would be traveling back home that evening. As I decorated, I prayed for their family and my heart felt heavy. Somehow trying to be festive and playing Christmas carols seemed wrong. Where was the joy?
A couple weeks later, after dropping my kids off at school, a familiar Where Are You Christmas filled the air waves of my vehicle. As I listened to the words, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I was driving out of the school traffic. Surrendering, I decided to let them freely flow all the way home.
Where are you Christmas?
Why can’t I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?
Why can’t I hear the music play?
My world is changing
Does that mean Christmas changes too? 1
I have felt burdened for those whose Christmas has drastically changed this year. How is your world changing? Is there something that is stealing your joy?
A separation or divorce? Struggling with an illness? The loss of a loved one? Could the Holy Spirit be placing someone on your heart to reach out to this week that needs a little help finding their joy?
As I look back on the Christmases in my life, there are some unusually sad ones that stand out.
For instance, the Christmas Eve that we buried my grandma, my daughter was 6 months old – my baby’s first Christmas. However, we found that focusing on the new life that God had blessed us with helped our family to get through an otherwise very mournful Christmas.
Another would be my first Christmas as a single mom to two small children. Instead of having a terribly “blue” and lonely Christmas after my separation (and I did have my moments), we celebrated with a crowded and noisy houseful of relatives. In an effort to surround myself with people, I opened my home to my whole, extended family.
You see, when we choose to focus on Jesus, the One True Gift, the One who brings new life, a second birth, we find real Christmas joy.
When we are intentional about our worship and keep it all about Him rather than dwelling on our circumstances, we find real Christmas joy. Inexpressible and glorious joy!
You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)
The birth of Jesus is bittersweet because we know why He came. He came to die for you and me and a world of other sinners.
But there is inexpressible and glorious joy because of what happened next. Jesus conquered death! (1 Corinthians 15:55) And one day there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain! (Revelation 21:4)
Because of Jesus, this life does not have to be the end. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV)
The truth is as long as we are still living on earth we will sometimes have to endure sad Christmases. But please don’t let the evil one steal your joy! Jesus reminds us in John 10:10 (AMP) The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).
And that is where the joy is, my friends! I pray you find it this Christmas!
Heavenly Father, thank You for the ultimate gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. For without Him, we would have no hope. Thank You for loving us with an unfathomable love. May we keep our focus on Jesus this season and be filled with indescribable Christmas joy no matter what our circumstances. Happy Birthday, Jesus! In Your Precious Name, Amen.
© Christy Long 2011
1 Where Are You Christmas, by Faith Hill, from the album Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2000, Words and Music by James Horner, Will Jennings, and Mariah Carey
Our storm began on January 17, when he called me from Chicago to give me the “good news” that he was coming home, only to then give me the bad news that his job had been cut. The first words out of my mouth were, “It’s okay. God has something better.”
And I really believed that He did. Anxiety only began to creep in when I discovered that our family’s health insurance would end on January 31.
Then sometime in the early morning hours of February 1, the youngest of our three kids became extremely sick. The following week, almost like clockwork, the middle child was hit with the exact same symptoms. And finally, last week the oldest child was diagnosed with the flu and I drove her home from college to care for her for two days.
Seriously? Are you kidding me, God???
I have been fiercely fighting to stay healthy as well, battling my own sinus/cough/respiratory crud. Hoping to stay away from the doctor’s office so as not to have to pay out of pocket costs or activate expensive COBRA insurance.
But thankfully God has taken care of us through all the illnesses and we are fortunate that my oldest two are also covered under their step-mom’s health insurance. It was truly a blessing that my daughter had that insurance card when she visited the Urgent Care in Boone.
That brings me to several reflections I believe God has shown me throughout the last month and a half as to why He allows us to go through storms in life.
He sometimes allows storms to humble us. First, after the job loss, I was completely blown away by the messages of support and prayers from friends, even offers of help if we needed it. I was also amazed at the network of friends my husband has in his co-workers, former colleagues, and old friends who reached out to him immediately in to offer job leads or recommendations on his behalf. I only hope I can be equally supportive in my prayers and encouragement to those same friends within our community who were so kind to us during this time should they ever have needs that arise.
The healthcare situation has also humbled me. I have never been without health insurance and honestly have taken it for granted. Once you are in a position that you probably need to go to the doctor, but choose not to because who knows how much it will cost, it is eye-opening as to why we need health care reform that is truly affordable in this country!
God allows us to go through storms to rekindle our faith. When we rely on Him during these times and trust Him to prove Himself faithful (which He always does), our faith grows even stronger, and our love for Him even deeper. Without experiencing times of trouble, our dependence on God can diminish as we may have the illusion that all is well on our own.
It is good every so often to be reminded that God is still in control and He still keeps His promises. Storms are a good time to remind ourselves of the promises in His Word. He has continually amazed me with working out even the tiniest details of our lives and blessing us during this situation.
Sometimes God allows storms to force us to move in a situation so that we may receive His next blessing. Even though it was somewhat of a shock in the beginning, this job loss has proven to be a better thing for our family. My words to my husband over the phone turned out to be prophetic. God did have something better, indeed.
However, my husband needed to be forced to move so that he could find this new opportunity. He was as loyal as employee as they come and was committed to his work and to the success of the company. He had not searched for another job in the 13 ½ years he had been employed. Therefore, God had to allow this to happen so that the best next career move could take place.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33 (AMP)
Life is not perfect for any of us but we can be thankful that we have a Good, Good Father who can give us perfect peace and confidence in our storms and that He is actively at work in our circumstances. His ways are always higher and better!
Continuing to praise Him…
© Christy Long 2017. All Rights Reserved.
It’s true. When I re-did this blog less than a month ago, I really had no clue what God-story would be written for our 2017. But here we go…
Last week, after being employed in sales at the same company for 13 ½ years, my husband’s job was cut. Surprisingly, when he telephoned with the news, I felt peace over panic.
Peace because I had been praying for the job situation. It was not the outcome I had hoped, but I felt confident that it was God’s will for our situation. Had I not already been in prayer about it, it may have stung more. Instead, it was much easier to accept because I immediately felt that security from God that this was His plan and He would use this for good.
Peace was present due to praise. It may sound strange, but in the middle of the of the disappointment and sadness I could not help but check off a mental list of all the ways God blessed us over the years through my husband’s company and simply thank Him. On the top of the list: we vacationed in Hawaii three years in a row as a reward trip, I accompanied him on a trip to San Diego (one of my favorite places I’ve ever been), and (most importantly for me), I got to live my dream as a stay-at-home mom. (Some days it feels more like a nightmare than a dream, but seriously, I truly am grateful.) ;) No matter how it ended, I will always be grateful for those opportunities and memories.
Peace because He has already proven Himself faithful. We went through this same trial almost exactly 14 years ago. We had only been married four months when his job was cut. However, I was working back then and covered our family’s health insurance through the company I was employed so that part was not as scary. But God was faithful. He took care of us then, and He will take care of us now. In fact, God has proven Himself so faithful that I wrote a book sharing my testimony entitled God Keeps His Promises. And God still keeps His promises.
So, there are a lot of uncertainties as our family heads into 2017. Will he find a job sooner than later? Will I have to go back to work? Time will tell, I suppose. Until then, I will trust Him with this chapter.
I will continue to pray, give Him praise, and wait expectantly!
Perhaps your 2017 has brought challenges or unwanted change. Whenever life gets hard, I encourage you to seek out God’s promises, meditate on His comforting words, and choose peace over panic.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Copyright 2017 by Christy Long. All Rights Reserved.