The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
"My favorite definition of joy is someone is glad to be with me." ~Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole
Christmas, we are told in the Andy Williams' classic tune, "is the most wonderful time of the year . . . the hap-happiest season of all." The twinkling lights, the sweet aroma of gingerbread, the pungent odor of freshly cut evergreen, the gaily wrapped gifts nestled under the tree, carols in the air, the exuberant laughter of children, family gatherings - what's not to like?
But for some of us, Christmas is anything but merry and bright. Perhaps this year has seen the loss of a loved one, chronic illness, an unexpected lay-off, or any host (not heavenly) of troubles weighing heavily upon your heart.
Where's the joy in that?
I recall, as if it were yesterday, my first Christmas after my husband, John, passed away. I take my children, then ten and thirteen, to my parents' home to celebrate together. Since nine months have gone by since we lost John, I mistakenly think I can emotionally hold myself together.
But the moment my children begin unwrapping their presents, tears spring to my eyes. A vivid memory of John and me exchanging gifts the Christmas before flashes before me like an unwanted newsreel. We were so glad just to be with each other!
Now all that is gone.
Yes, I have my family and friends. I'm not alone, I reason. But still, this pain. This excruciating hurt. Dear Jesus, will it ever go away? Will I ever know joy again?
In the last chapter of her book, Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford writes: "Jesus' intention for us as believers is never to suppress the truth of our emotions and put on fake religious smiles, attempting to deal with very natural feelings on our own. When life hurts, we hurt just as He did - and that's simply okay. He never wants us to beat up our hearts as they bleed, kicking our emotions to the side, quoting Scripture at them in anger, or willing ourselves to change . . . Feeling our pain doesn't prove we lack faith - it proves our need for constant connection with God."
Constant connection with God . . .
As I struggled along those many years ago, I wish I had had Gifford's words to guide me. How much quicker I might have healed, opened my eyes to the constant promise of joy in Jesus, if only I understood that He wasn't feeling sorry for me from afar, but weeping along with me, holding me close in His comforting arms.
If only I had known, as I know now, that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is always glad to be with me.
And He is only too glad to be right there with you, this Christmas and for all the Christmases yet to come.
If you are struggling, my friends, may this knowledge give you peace and hope and joy at this most wonderful time of the year.
Love and joy come to you,
And a Merry Christmas, too!
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.
This post concludes our book discussion of Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford. Thanks so much for joining Jason Stasyszen, Sarah Salter, Glynn Young, and me as we journeyed together through this inspirational book.
May God bless!