But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of our family favorites. There are several versions of course, and many parodies, but one of my daughters’ favorites was the version by the Muppets. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy played Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, with Michael Kane as Scrooge. As Scrooge travels through town with the Ghost of Christmas Present, he sees Cratchit struggling with the health of Tiny Tim, Kermit and Piggy’s tiny frog son. This is a turning point for him, where you can see his heart start to soften for the very first time. I always remember that scene this time of year.
Because while many of us get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the season—the lights, the gifts, the food, all wonderful things—it can be easy to forget that there are many who suffer from an intense sense of desperation heightened by the pressures of the season. Maybe you’re there now. Our problems seem to have no solutions. They’re all too big, too complex, and too out of control to fix, and indifference to each other’s needs is growing.
What is overtaking so many of us, including many Christians, is the very thing Jesus forbids—worry. We aren’t to follow the culture on the downward road to despair.
That, of course, is far easier said than done! Christians can lose their 401K just as fast as their neighbor. They can get sick, face unemployment, go upside down in their mortgage, lose everything they have, get divorced, or anything else that people go through.
Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed the worst wouldn’t happen, only to stand by and watch as it did. Or perhaps you’ve asked God a long time for something but still received no answer, and you wonder, “Why won’t God talk to me? Does he even hear me at all?” From our human perspective, it can sometimes appear that God just doesn’t care!
But regardless of how we may feel at any given moment, let’s focus on Jesus’ command: Do not worry! He himself promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
This is what Christmas brings us through the birth of Jesus: the joy of his presence. “Tidings of great joy,” as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Luke 2:8–11. This is the same joy we can feel anew as we celebrate Christ’s living presence among us.
My own family is not immune to life’s trials and tribulations. We have faced tough times, been betrayed, had our trust broken, experienced loss, headed in one direction and been redirected by God. Through it all, what has helped us the most is staying focused on the truth that we have a loving and gracious Father. His plan is unchanging, and his ultimate goal for us is the very best.
I’ll tell you what my family and I did while waiting on God to lead us at a time in our lives when we struggled to find joy. We joined the gym, found different ways to serve God and others, committed to pray together as a family as well as with those going through their trials, immersed ourselves in new projects, learned a new language or took up a new instrument, watched funny movies, did writing therapy, encouraged one another, laughed at some of the things we were going through, and planned one fun thing to do each day. The key is to trust and wait—wait joyfully, expectantly.
God matured us in ways we didn’t expect. He strengthened our faith and each of us so that our family wouldn’t trade the life lessons that increased our trust in him. And as our maturity and trust expanded, so did our capacity for great joy. We discovered that God is far more faithful and generous than we deserve. This is why Ephesians 3:20–21 is one of our family’s favorite Bible verses:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Whatever else claims a place in your life this Christmas season, do not let despair steal your joy. As long as we have Christ, we have every reason to rejoice. Don’t give up—a better and brighter day will come.
Lord, only you are the Giver of joy. We can’t conjure up or pretend our way into a joyful life. Our lack of it only tells us about the frailness of our trust in you. You created faith in us, and you increase it more and more as we experience your faithfulness and sufficiency. Lord, we believe, but help our unbelief, and grant us the magnificent gift of joy. Amen.
-Photo by manu schwendener on Unsplash
Excerpt from A Series of Fortunate Events: A Christmas Devotional
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