It’s a very interesting time of the year. It’s the time of the year where I find I must be increasingly intentional about being hopeful, joyful and choosing to attain a place of peace and joy in the Lord. As my boss said in a devotional this week “Salvation is free, we don’t have to earn it, but the rest of God’s promises are conditional”. Yes that’s right, we have to choose by our thoughts and actions to find our rest and peace in Him (remember the disciples on the boat (Matthew 8:18; 23-27).
It is often in this season as we come to remember the birth of Jesus that our enemy, Satan, seeks to deplete us of all hope and joy. This attack (and it is a planned attack) often comes through a variety of situations and issues such as disharmony in families at a time when there is pressure for families to come to together, loneliness and the negative feelings and thoughts that that can bring, tiredness after a long 11 months and 25 days… For many of us this year has been arduous:
Arduous – online dictionary definition
1. Demanding great effort or labor; difficult: “the arduous work of preparing a Dictionary of the English Language” (Thomas Macaulay).
2. Testing severely the powers of endurance; strenuous: a long, arduous, and exhausting war.
3. Hard to traverse, climb, or surmount.
A week or so ago I felt such pressure and stress as situations and issues that were outside of my control engulfed me leaving the smallest ember of peace seeming light years away. It was at that point that I said to myself “I will start to play my classic Christmas carols and no matter what is going on around me, I will give thanks for the hope that Jesus’ birth has brought to my life, whether I’m feeling up or down”. Believe me, as I have heard of situations that have come about after that decision, in my life, in people I know and in the world generally, I keep pushing on with my playlist and intentionally giving thanks to God. Sometimes I can only manage a small whisper of thanks and praise in my heart, but I do it anyway knowing that God receives it with pleasure.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that we have an enemy who goes around like a roaring lion, seeking who he can devour, especially at this sensitive and for many, vulnerable time of the year:
8 Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.] 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. 11 To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen.(1 Peter 5:8-11 AMP)
Let us also be intentional in choosing to be hopeful and joyful (no matter how painful that might be at the point you are at now), which will often mean asking our souls the very same question as the psalmist did in the feature scripture (Psalm 42:11 AMP) “Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become restless and disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:11a). This scripture is like a real wake up moment to me, although my conversation usually sounds more like this:
“What the heck is this??? Why am I feeling like this??? No way man. This ain’t gonna happen… No matter what xxx was/has happened, God is still on His throne and JESUS paid the price for me on that cross [usually at this point I quote something like Colossians 2:14-15] and so NO MATTER WHAT, I am a child of God and I ain’t gonna settle for this cr*p.”
This then usually results in me putting on the armour of God and engaging in spiritual warfare over situations for myself and on behalf of others. Sometimes the feeling of heaviness will still try and fight me throughout the day, but as feelings cannot reverse what Jesus has done and Galatians 5:16 tells me not to be led by my flesh, I intentionally push on, talking to myself and God throughout the course of a day. The sense of hope always returns for me. In doing this, this is how I “Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42: 11b).
For most of my life, Christmas was not the joyful time it should have been. Some of this was as a result of having been in foster care from 6 months old to 6 years old and the fact that whilst I had the best ever foster families (I had two precious and loving families that embraced me as their own), I was always aware that they were not my birth family and used to wonder what was wrong with me that I would not be wanted by my own. There is so much more to that story and many issues and situations that caused this situation, but it did result in every Christmas (especially when I left home at 18ish) being a time of depression, even with people around me. Inner feeling (strongholds) of rejection and abandonment etc. would always raise their heads. By the way, these feelings didn’t all miraculously disappear when I received Christ as my Saviour, but through the years of walking with Christ He has helped me to come to terms with some of my past and find victory and peace in Him over those strongholds – there are still issues being worked on, so I don’t suppose to have got there yet.
I hadn’t intended to write the previous paragraph, but felt led to open up a bit more about my journey as it has been painful for a large part of my life and the more I share about it, the more I may help others, especially in light of how Jesus has turned around my life and the great progress there has been – after all, I wouldn’t be writing this blog amongst other things if not for Jesus.
So if you are not particularly feeling that there is much to be hopeful about, I encourage you to have a conversation with your soul and God. At the very least, if there is still not much that you can find in there to be hopeful about, let this one truth be the thing that you cling to:
21 She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will [l]save His people from their sins.”22 All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the [m]prophet [Isaiah]: 23 “Behold, the [n]virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”—which, when translated, means, “God with us.”(Matthew 1:21-23 AMP).
He, our Christ, has died for our sins and He, Immanuel, is always with us – Hallelujah!
This one truth alone is enough for us to say that it is indeed the season to be jolly. And let us never forget:
28 And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.(Romans 8:28 AMP)
God bless you,
‘But test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.’
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (New Living Translation)