Saturday, December 15, 2018

When It's Hard to Find the "Wonderful"

For many people, Christmastime is "the most wonderful time of the year." For others, those song lyrics are the last thing they want to hear because for one reason or another, it's hard to get excited about Christmas. Personally, every time my co-worker mockingly and randomly sings that line to me, I give him a "bah, humbug" kind of look.  It can be a struggle to have the Christmas spirit when you work at the Salvation Army and the "wonderful" time of the year is the most crazy busy time of the year.

As exhausting as all the busyness is, I know it's all worth it. Struggling families will be getting assistance and generous donors are ensuring that I still have a job to do as I process monetary gifts and take care of business. The ministry goes on because of this "wonderful" but busy time of year. God supplies all the strength and endurance I need to persevere through a long December; even with an ongoing cold & cough that is only now starting to taper off. I truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Jesus is the one that propels me onward. He keeps me looking forward to the mystery and hope of the upcoming new year as the current one wraps up. What a blessing it is to see the world through "Kingdom" lenses; an eternal perspective. Christ is my confidence! He gives me peace and joy even on the most weary days. 

The only thing that sometimes gets me down is when I become aware of the emptiness and sadness of others. Christmas and New Year's doesn't look bright and shiny to them. Fear has drowned out Hope because they have forgotten (or don't know) His name. The holidays have come at a bad time because they've just lost a job, a home, a loved one, or maybe more than one of those things at once. They may be dealing with a severe illness or injury, an addiction, or financial struggles. They may be a veteran struggling to overcome PTSD and are still fighting a war; the fight for the will to live. Some have buried parents, siblings, and even babies and children. Others have friends and relatives who are incarcerated; whether literally, figuratively, or both. 

The scenarios I mentioned all have names and faces attached to them; most of them are the people I listen to, hug, and pray with when they're coming in for help. You may not know the ones I know, but chances are you know someone who is going through this kind of pain and grief (maybe it's you). It's far too easy for Satan to use these tragedies for his gain; all he has to do is keep the focus on the problems rather than the One who solves them. He cleverly keeps our attention fixed inward rather than upward; on that next fix, hook up, lottery ticket, shopping spree, or alcoholic beverage. It's all about keeping you obsessed with filling the void; returning to empty wells or salt water that can't quench or satisfy. In fact, some of those wells are downright contaminated with poison; yet the compulsion to draw from them remains and the cycle continues. The negative emotions and depression deepens and digs its hooks deeper into your soul; becoming more and more of a stronghold and stumbling block.

The good news is that there IS "good news"; "tidings of great joy" for ALL people (yes, YOU too)! It's the Gospel message and the whole reason this season is truly "wonderful": Jesus. I can vouch for the fact that He is the only One that can rescue and restore a heavy heart and weary soul. He is the key to freedom from those strongholds! I've been to the empty and toxic wells as much as anyone else. Because of my own struggles, I can promise you that Hope really does deliver, because that deliverer's name is Emmanuel; "God with us." He is the way, the truth and the life, who gives us living water. Turn away from the kind of water that isn't good for your soul and turn to the one and only pure water source. Christ's living water is fresh, pure, and sustaining. HE is the answer you seek. Be a wise man (or wise woman) and journey towards the Savior who has come to rescue and restore you! Fall on your knees before the Savior. Humble yourself before the One who humbled Himself as well. Our Creator came to Earth in the very human form in which we ourselves are made. God came to be with us so that He could also die for/deliver us, and then live IN us through the Holy Spirit. He was forsaken so that we would never have to be. In your greatest need and brokenness, He is with you. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. You are not alone! What a most wonderful time of year it is indeed! HE makes it wonderful!

Grace and peace to you, my dear friends! Please, pray for those that are seeking, hurting, grieving, and needing to know the hope and joy that the Prince of Peace brings. In this season of giving, look for every opportunity to do the most good. Give spare change to the Salvation Army red kettles (or volunteer to ring the bell!!), adopt a family for Christmas, donate food to the pantry, smile at strangers, visit a nursing home, etc. As John Wesley said: "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." Don't waste a moment to make an impact! Be the hope of Jesus everywhere you go; through your words and actions. Love well! Additionally, if you are reading this and are desperate for the hope and peace I've shared about, please comment or contact me. I would love to listen to your heart, hear your story, and pray for you! God bless you!