We are almost at CHRISTMAS! The day of all days! Whether you are running around finishing up last minute shopping, busily wrapping presents and preparing for a slew of holiday guests, or excitedly doing some other form of Christmas fun, the name of the game today on this blog and in my life is PEACE. And that’s the life I want to speak into you on this day before Christmas.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
-Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)
How many of us are feeling less than peaceful this Christmas? How many of us are feeling less than joyful this Christmas?
Can you even be a person of joy and peace when your life isn’t going according to plan? Or when it downright sucks? Can you still experience the depths of pain, even while having joy in Christ?
The prophet Habakkuk wondered the same thing. “How long, oh Lord?” he asked in Habakkuk 1, regarding the desolation of his beloved Israel. Many of us are asking the same thing this Christmas. How long, oh Lord, until the mate you have for me comes along? How long, oh Lord, until there is a cure for this disease? How long, oh Lord, will innocent children suffer? How long, oh Lord, until I get a new job and get back on my feet? How long, oh Lord, until that baby comes? How long, oh Lord, until You return? Emotions surrounding unfulfilled longings, wounds from prayers that are not answered in the way we hope, and the disappointing downward spiral of society as we know it run deep in each heart, just as it did in our ancient brother Habakkuk’s heart over two thousand years ago.
And so, like Habakkuk, we watch and wait for the Lord’s word.
“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” -Habakkuk 2:1 (NIV)
Sometimes we watch and wait through grief. Sometimes we watch and wait through silence. Sometimes we watch and wait as we continue to live. The conflict does not rest on the fact of watching and waiting, or our emotions as we do so. The conflict comes when we expect God, like a mythical genie in a bottle, to give us the exact answer we want to a prayer and base the state of our mind on getting that specific answer. It’s like how we pray for God’s will in our lives: do we really want God’s will? Or do we just want what we want, and if God happens to come along for the ride and do what we want, then yay for Him? True joy and peace in Christ do not come from our surroundings or what is going on in our lives or in the world around us. They come from an attitude like Habakkuk’s.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” -Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
This year Seth and I experienced a devastating loss of something that we were CERTAIN was God’s plan and will for our life. We experienced betrayal from people who we thought would be the first to support us in our time of need. I experienced backstabbing and persecution of my Christian business in a way that I never imagined would happen. This year has been hard, and I’m just now reaching the other side of this wilderness season. And, I am quite certain that there will be other wilderness seasons in my life–times where I’m hurt by the sins of others, seasons where I don’t understand what God is doing and why, moments where my dreams are reduced to ashes, and times where I question over and over again, “How long, oh Lord?”
And it is because I am coming from that place that I can write this to you with full assurance in who God is: He will not let you fall when you stumble. In fact, I can even echo what Habakkuk writes in 3:19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
When God is for you, no one can be against you. When God is your strength, you will be enabled to tread on the heights. When God is tabernacled in your heart, you can live your life with such peace and joy that the rest of the world will be astounded…regardless of your circumstances.
That is why, you see, that I will not often use this blog to write about “the bad things” that happen to me. This isn’t a place where I will whine when things don’t go my way. You won’t hear me saying that I’m in a funk, although sometimes I will write when I’m on the other side of one. Some people might say that I’m not being real, but I see it as me being very real. This is a place where I will realistically live out my life in such a way that points others to the reason for the peace, joy, and hope that I have: Jesus.
And He issued this creed in Isaiah 55:12 for us all to live by…
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Merry Christmas, dear blog readers!