This post is not inspired merely by the recent news that this may be my mom's last Christmas with us. Many of you have responded to that news with much encouragement and prayer for which I am very grateful.
As many of you know, I work in a hospital emergency room. This time of year it can be a very sad place to be. At times, it has been very difficult for me. Every year there are sad stories but thisyear it is really catching my attention a lot for some reason. I have wrestled with it a bit and none of it has even directly impacted me at this point. So I wanted to share a few brief thoughts on the matter and maybe bring a little hope as well.
This time of year it is often believed and reported that suicides go up due to holiday depression and despair. According to the CDC and Healthline.com this is actually inaccurate. According to these two sources, December really has one of the lower percentages of suicide however, there actually an increase after the holiday season.
Depression comes in many degrees but once it becomes despair, a person is in real spiritual, emotional, and physical danger. Despair robs people not only of joy and hope, but reason. They begin struggling to think straight. Their emotions run a muck. If they are unbelievers, they have no source of hope outside of themselves. If they are believers, then they tend to forget who their source of hope is. That is why suicide happens among Christians and non-Christians. Despair is no respecter of persons.
The last month or so has seen so much tragedy all over this area in the form of accidents, murder, suicide, and then just plain illness that people succumb to. If the stats are right then it must not be that it is happening so much more. Rather it must seem more severe because all death and loss seems more tragic during the holiday season It may not be reasonable but many feel that way and this year I have too.
There are so many in need of hope and joy. So many who are spending this holiday season either dealing with the loss of a loved one or praying hard that they will not loose a loved one who is ill or injured. Could it be that this bothers me more this year because my own mother has been wrestling with so many health issues? Perhaps, but I think it is subconscious if that is the case because I am not aware of intentionally linking the two.
So where do we find joy? In this world filled with tragedy and this season filled with loss, how are we to keep hope alive? There is but one answer.
The reason for the season is the reason for our hope. Jesus is the source of hope. But he cannot simply be a fleeting idea or whim that people latch on to this time of year. Nor is he a name that we call upon merely when we are in want or need. Colossians 1:27 says that the mystery of the gospel is "Christ in you, the hope of glory". Jesus must be on the inside, birthing hope in our hearts.
Even then, it is not enough to simply believe. Christianity is a relationship with a living Savior. The only way to build that relationship and create a solid foundation that will carry you through the darkest nights is through study of the word and prayer. Faith and hope run hand in hand and "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"(Romans 10:17). This is not a reference to soul saving faith only, though it certainly should include that. This is a reference to enduring faith. Faith which, after walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death, carries us out of those shadows and valleys to soar on the wings of eagles taking us to mountaintops.
This is why I write and preachers preach so much about application of the word in faithful living. It is not because these are commands of some tyrant who will destroy you if you don't follow them. It is because these are the words of a loving Savior, who was also a suffering servant "who gave His life as a ransom for many"(Matthew 20:28). It is in these words that our understanding of who God is, is found. It is in these words that hope is found. And, it is in prayer and communion with this loving Father and Suffering Savior that relationship is built.
That relationship is where our hearts are made glad. An intimate understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ brings the knowledge that, as true believers, there is coming a day when we will spend eternity with the Prince of Peace. There is coming a day when all fear, sorrow, pain, and suffering will cease.(Revelation 21:4)
As believers we know that we have been born again to a living hope. We know that we have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. We know that this inheritance is guaranteed, and kept in heaven for us through the power of Christ's resurrection. Even without seeing Christ face to face, we are blessed with a faith and knowledge of Him and His Gospel which produces in us joy unspeakable and full of glory.(1 Peter 1:3-9)
This holiday season should and can produce such joy and gladness, even in spite of trials and tribulations we may be going through. As we consider the celebration of the coming of our Savior, let us share this joy and gladness with others. Let us spread the Good News of Christ's love. In so doing, we not only have the opportunity to present the hope filled news of the Gospel to a lost and dying world, but we remind fellow believers of that same Good News.
The Reason for the Season
Christ was preordained before the dawning of time to come and be born in a manger in Bethlehem. He was predetermined to live the perfect life that we could never live in order to become the perfect, spotless lamb that could be sacrificed for our sins. He was predestined to be crucified on our behalf, becoming the propitiation that would satisfy the wrath of Holy God toward our sinful rebellion.
THEN HE ROSE. By the power of the Holy Spirit He came OUT and demonstrated the conquering power that He has over death and the grave. After a little more ministry to His disciples, He ascended to the right hand of the Father where He prays for us continually.
This is the basis for our hope. Our future hope is found in the knowledge that HE WILL COME AGAIN!!!!!
If you are not a believer know this, You can have this hope. You can have this relationship. Surrender your heart to Jesus and place your hope and trust in His work on the cross. You can know joy that transcends any suffering. Joy that carries you through the storm.
If you are a believer, never forget this:
We do not loose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)In this holiday season I rest in the joy that I do not have to succumb to despair and sadness. Because, in Jesus, I can experience tremendous joy and gladness.
May it be so for you in Jesus Name.