Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When Christmas Isn't Merry

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
(KJV)

It's no secret that I absolutely love Christmas.
And, I would say that a big percentage of the people reading this would, without hesitation,
give the answer of "Christmas", if they were asked to name their favorite holiday.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, both in our beloved little town,
and inside our home.
The Nativity scene is out,


the precious-to-us and still-unscathed-by-so-many-years'-use tree we bought our very first married Christmas together 29 years ago is up and twinkling,


and the stockings are hung with care.
Zach is SO excited for Christmas and counts down the days on this little chalkboard.


There is joy in our hearts in abundance this Christmas season...yes...
but, there are also a lot of other emotions and feelings that pervade.

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, in my opinion,
but Christmas does not remove or erase real life.
It doesn't magically transport the heart to a place where there is no grief,
no tears, no pain, and no heartache.
On this earth, there is no such place, and that is reality.
Only Heaven will bring such blessed perfection.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:4

Jesus said, 
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. 
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Life in this world is not perfect.
Far from it.
As a year begins to wind down, I always get sentimental
(I know what you're thinking...just when is she not that way?😂)
and become reflective.
My thoughts go deep, and I look back over the closing year and sort of come up with a mental recap.
As I do that this year, I'm telling you, it has been ONE. HARD. YEAR.

The word we chose, as a family, for 2017 is PEACE.
In light of that fact, if I look back and measure the year based on peaceful circumstances,
I would rate it a big zero.
Peaceful circumstances?
NOT hardly.
That is what I was hoping for when we felt led to choose that word as our "word of the year".
God had other plans.
Whew.
Just thinking back on all that has happened, and all that is still happening at this very moment,
makes me weary-beyond-words, heart-wrenched, and just plain mentally and physically exhausted.

NOT that I am complaining.
I promise, I am not.
Because in the midst of loss, grief, physical affliction, mental anguish, and an ongoing fight with severe anxiety, amongst other things, I am GRATEFUL.
From the bottom of my heart.
This year has been far from externally-peaceful, but it has brought more blessings than we could ever count.
God has been there....through it all.
He has come on the scene for us time after time after time, and I say,
all glory to Him for His faithfulness, for His unfailing love, and His never-ending mercies to my family and me.
Praise His holy name from the depths of my inmost soul.
I have never loved Him more.

In our year of the word, "PEACE", I have learned a new appreciation for the quote,
"Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He calms His child."
There has been a whole lot more of "calming His child" than His "calming the storm" this year.
Sometimes, peace is not about the absence of life storms.
Sometimes, peace is not about the external...at all.
Sometimes, peace is all about the internal work God does in us, in spite of all that is happening around us.

Christmas time is nearing, yet real life remains...for you...for me...for all of us.
The wheels of human condition do not screech to a halt at Christmas.
Brokenness continues.
Grief remains raw.
Woeful hearts bleed.
Impending loss hovers and pulls a cloud over present circumstances.
Fear and uncertainty are still hard at work and ever on the job.
Illness invades the best-laid plans.
Bodies ache.
Marital tensions rip and tear, as the sound of good-bye echoes ahead of ever being spoken.
Wounds, betrayal, disappointment, and shattered dreams haunt, overtake waking thoughts.
Empty seats at family gatherings serve as stark reminders of how much we've lost.
Loneliness magnifies as memories of Christmases past wash over grieving souls.
Dread overwhelms as we look around and wonder whose seat will be empty next.
Depression is formidable...even now.

Life goes on, yes, even at Christmas.
Those who are struggling often find their pain even intensifies during this time of year.
It can feel like a personal attack when it seems that everyone around you is wrapped in a blanket of joy, as you stand outside the warmth on the sidelines shivering from a cold, sad, deep void.

The truth is, everyone suffers, and in spite of all of the merriment of this blessed time of year,
every heart continues to bear its own sorrow.

And, this, my friend, is why Jesus came!
Not to make life one long, incessant bed of ease.
Not to remove every thorn from our path.
Not to promise that we would never hurt.
But, He came...He condescended to be born into a human body...just like us...
so He could FEEL our pain.
So, He could experience what it means to be one of us...
to walk in the shoes of human condition...squalid, wretched, needy parts included.
To not just hear about what we're like, watching from Heaven afar,
imagining what it would be like to go through the things we do,
but to live out the full gamut of life as we know it.
He breathed it all...the entire scope of what sin has done to our fallen world.
He didn't insist upon being born in the palatial castle He deserved,
as a full-grown Prince of Peace whose every wish was granted to the full.
That night, so long ago, in that precious spot, under that brightly shining star,
Jesus, our Lord and Savior chose to came into this world the same, exact way you and I did...
through the anguished birth pangs of His mother, Mary.
He chose to start out the same way you and I did, not to stay frozen in that manger, but to grow one day at a time, so He could live and breathe the complete capacity of life on earth.
He, the Bread of Life, chose to depend upon someone else for His daily bread.
He, the Maker of All, chose to have to learn how to make things at the feet of His earthly father, Joseph.
He, the Word made flesh, chose to need to be taught how to speak, read, and write.
He, the One who "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (I Peter 2:22), chose to become sin and bear the full guilt and punishment for every, single thing you and I have ever done or will ever do wrong.

"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Corinthians 5:21

Regardless what you are going through this Christmas, may I just take this opportunity to remind you that Jesus came.
I know you know that.
May I add two words to the end of that?
Jesus came for you.
He understands.
He truly gets all you are going through...because there is nothing you are facing right now that He cannot relate to on the most personal, intimate level possible.
In some form or another, He has felt every human emotion known to man.

Many years after that starlit night in Bethlehem, He said this,
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

This is why He came.
To do the heavy lifting.
To bear our unbearable sins.
To give us rest.
To offer an easier yoke.

Trying to navigate through this beyond-difficult life without being "yoked" to Christ adds so much unnecessary, extra strain and toil.
We are going to have problems, whether we choose to yoke to Him or not.
Taking His yoke upon us and allowing Him to take the hardest, weightiest end of the load brings blessed relief.

This Christmas, I pray that you experience Jesus, the reason for the season, in a whole new way.
My hope is that He becomes vividly real to you, that as you view manger scenes and starlit nights, 
you are able to give your all to Him...the good, the bad, the ugly, the unmentionable.
That you can release your heaviness to Him, and sense the reality that He is absolutely on your team,
He is fighting for you, and He loves you with an everlasting love.

Though life is hard and situations are sometimes overwhelming,
He is here.
God with us.
Emmanuel.
Our Savior forever.


35 comments:

  1. Dear Mrs. Smith,

    Thand you for reminding us of this. How true! I love how you incorporated into Christmas that Jesus became sin for us. Now that is true LOVE. One of my favorite attributes of God is that he is Immanuel...God with us. I've been thinking a lot about that this season, and praise God he is always near.

    I hope your Christmas is Merry, dear friend. You are such an encouragement to me.

    Much love,
    Ashley

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    1. God bless you, sweet Ashley! You are such an encouragement to me, too, dear friend! I so appreciate your sweet visit and kind words. May God bless you and your family this Christmas! Give your Mommy a hug from me. :)

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  2. I have always loved that song with the line, sometimes he calms the storm, other times he calms the child. So true. We are truly blessed to have a Savior who is well acquainted with struggle, pain, hardship and sadness. Thankful we don't served a god who cannot relate to every single thing we experience. I just broke my ankle and while it's not life-altering, it is annoying to say the least but on Sunday, I sat next to a lady my age who is dying of brain cancer. Her sweet husband was tending her throughout the service with such love and tenderness it broke my heart. A reminder that yes, this life is hard and we are promised nothing less BUT we do not walk alone. Wishing you a Christmas filled with love and joy and family and continued reminders of His faithfulness!

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    1. You know, I forgot that line is in a song, and now I can't remember how it goes! You got me to thinking now. :) Oh, my, I am SO sorry your broke your ankle...bless your heart, that must be so inconvenient, especially right here at Christmas when life can be so busy! But, then to sit next to that dear lady who is dying of brain cancer...oh, my, it is just heart-wrenching and surely does put things into perspective. The poor, dear soul probably won't be here for next Christmas, and she and her husband are probably squeezing every bit of joy they can out of this time together. Thank you for your sweet visit, Lauren. Your words are always such a blessing to me! Merry Christmas!

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  3. Dear Cheryl,
    Oh what a precious testimony to the Truth of Christmas! Jesus entered in, Emmanuel, right where our world is such a mess! God with us, right here! And you are such an encouragement as you keep praising Him in the midst of your storms this past year. I pray that you will be overwhelmed this Season by His precious peace that passes all understanding. I know that I felt that peace as I visited here with you today, my friend, and I so needed that gift! You are a blessing! Hugs & Love to you!

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    1. Oh, thank you ever so much for your sweet visit and kind words, my friend! I am so thankful you felt peace while you were here! I am praying much for you today as you visit your doctor and trust God you will get good news. Sending hugs and much love to you this Christmas season!

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  4. Dear Cheryl, our family was so blessed by your heart felt article about when Christmas isn't merry. It was filled with absolute truth supported by Scripture. Too many Christians do forget that this earth isn't Heaven and it's not our home. We're just passing through, Glory to God, to a Better Place!! Cheryl, as a retired Christian Counselor, I feel led to tell you something that the Lord has placed on my heart. God has gifted scientists and medical researchers with the ability to provide medications to treat anxiety and depression. Just as He has gifted them with the ability to make insulin for diabetes. Anxiety and depression have been proven by researchers to be caused by chemical imbalances, genetic, hereditary and biological causes and also the effects of pesticides and other chemicals on our brain. It isn't a sin or a sign of being a weak Christian to have anxiety and depression. Many compassionate, Christian Dr.'s can effectively treat anxiety and depression. I praise God for ALL the medical help that He has provided us with. Prayers for a blessed celebration of our Lord's birth, and a wonderful New Year.

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    1. Dear Bev! You are SO kind to share what God laid upon your heart! I can only imagine what a kind, compassionate counselor you must have been. I am sure you have touched many lives and been the instrument God has used to help them heal. Yes, praise God, we are on our way to a better place, where God's perfect, permanent healing awaits! We have so much to look forward to, and no eye has seen nor ear heard all He has prepared for us! May the Lord bless you and your family this Christmas. I am so thankful you were blessed by your visit here. :)

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  5. Oh Cheryl,
    This is such a beautiful post and a gentle reminder that Christmas arrives with all of the same hurts, disappoints, suffering, and troubles that we encounter all throughout the year. But the good news is that our Jesus was born and for that we are saved and forever grateful! I will be returning again to read this most caring and thoughtfully written post.
    Merry Christmas Dear One,
    Jemma

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    1. Dear, sweet Jemma! Your comments always, always bring such a blessing to my day! I cannot thank you enough for your support, love, and encouragement. May the dear Lord bless you richly this Christmas!

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  6. I am coming to you from the link up on Holly Gerth. Thank you for reminding me of important truths today and of Christ coming in the real life of this Christmas.

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    1. Thank you so much for your visit, Lynne! May God bless you and yours with a special Christmas season!

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  7. Thank you for your comforting words, Cheryl. Our family Christmas traditions have gone through changes recently and it can be a struggle. Circumstances rise up and bring challenges, but turning to Christ and laying the burdens at His feet allow us to go on. With God's love and strength I'll find joy. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    1. Bless your dear heart, Linda! I can surely relate, my friend. I do trust Jesus to bless and comfort and encourage you as you navigate through the changes and find your new "normal". Yes, how thankful I am that we have a Savior who is so willing to accept our burdens and carry the heaviest parts. I am praying for you right now and trust the Lord to send the joy you need at this time. Sending hugs to you, with much love. :)

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  8. I'm with you, sister. This time of year, though wonderful, is easy to fall into the flesh of depression. It is only in seeing the world through the eyes of our Father that we can smile and our souls can find rest, even in times or trouble.

    Timely post and your words speak softly to my soul... again.

    Blessings to you and yours, Cheryl.

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    1. I am always so blessed and comforted by your words, brother. It means so much to have your support and friendship through the ups and downs of life. May the dear Lord bless and reward you for being such a blessing to my family and me.

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  9. Beautiful, Cheryl. Life marches on no matter the season, doesn't it? His peace is sometimes all we cling to, but that peace is such a comfort. Grateful that He can redeem all that's lost, all that's broken, all that's painful. Christmas is the perfect example of that. May the Christ of Christmas grant your household an extra measure of peace and joy this season, Cheryl. ((hug))

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    1. Yes, life surely does march on, regardless, my friend, and His peace that passes understanding brings the deepest comfort of all. I so appreciate your sweet visit and kind words...your comments always brighten my day. May the Lord bless you and yours a wonderful Christmas season!

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  10. Love your post and especially the song at the end. I hadn't heard it before and we love Alan Jackson.
    Blessings to you and yours, may His presence be seen and felt in all areas of your day.
    Love,
    Noreen

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    1. Oh, we love Alan Jackson, too! Have you heard his entire Gospel CD? It is wonderful. Many blessings to you and your family, too, sweet Noreen. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Sending love and hugs to you. :)

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  11. I thought I had left you a comment but it must have not posted. This was such a great post, Cheryl...people are struggling with all kinds of things and Christmas can definitely be such a difficult time. I have experienced a few Christmases that were ruined by family drama so I can relate. I wrote a post back a couple of years ago called "Say it Anyway"...it's about when it's hard to wish someone a Merry Christmas when you know they will not. Here is the link address if you are interested (you may have even read it back then). Thank you for posting this, sweet friend. ♥ http://debbysfavoritethings.blogspot.com/2015/12/say-it-anyway.html

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    1. Oh, I am so sorry you had trouble commenting...I am not sure why it does that sometimes. Thank you for persevering...your comments always brighten my day and bring so much encouragement! I am going over to read your post right away. Thank you so much for sharing it, sweet friend, and I trust you are enjoying every second of this beautiful Christmas season! Sending love, hugs, and blessings to you today!

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  12. I am sorry for your stressful year. For you to talk about it and give glory to God is wonderful in itself. There is so much pain around us more than ever and it is the times we live in. It sounds cliché but it is so true. We truly are in end times. I pray you will have a bit of peace Christmas Day for you and your family.

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    1. Thank you, dear AnnMarie. I so appreciate your kind words...they were such a blessing to me! I truly agree with you that we are surely in the end times. I have never seen so much pain and hurt and chaos. Jesus said it would be this way, and I am SO thankful He came to make a way for us to reach His Father for the help we need. God bless you with a wonderful Christmas!

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  13. Love what you wrote, including all of the verses. Yes, Jesus came for us. Sorry you year as been hard. It seems to be for many. I know it has been here too and seems to be carrying right until the end. Yet, we all have so much to be thankful for especially Jesus. Love the song too.

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    1. Oh, Maree! I am so sorry you are having a hard year, too. May God wrap His loving arms around you and hold you close through this Christmas season. You are right, we surely do have so much to be thankful for right in the midst of life's storms. Thank you ever so much for your sweet visit. I am coming over to visit you now.

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  14. Cheryl, I read your words with tear-stained eyes as my heart grieves for a friend who has been enveloped in hardship. May we each take comfort in knowing that Christ came for us and He walks with us through all seasons of life. Blessings to you sweet friend.

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    1. Oh, bless your heart, sweet friend, and I am so sorry to hear of the hardships your dear friend is going through. I trust the dear Lord will comfort you and your friend, also, and that He will bless you with a wonderful, peaceful Christmas season! Sending love and hugs to you! :)

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    1. Much love and many blessings to you, too, dear Bethany! Merry Christmas!

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  16. Dear Cheryl, you always write with such poignancy and truth! I enjoyed seeing your beautiful nativity and Christmas tree and Zac's careful watch over the countdown to Christmas. And yet, as you write, so much about this season is not bright and beautiful and merry, but very difficult for so many. How wonderful that we can place our eternal hope in Christ, and even when difficulties surround us here on earth, we do have hope in Christ, and that is the true hope in Christmas, is the hope that came to us in the form of a babe, our LORD and God, in a manger. I pray that the joy of His coming to earth floods your heart with His peace and joy this season, in spite of all the difficult things that you are dealing with in this season... and that peace that passes all understanding will be your joy and comfort. Many hugs, much love to you dear friend!

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    1. Thank you, sweet friend! Yes, dear Zach is enjoying counting down those days!! It is hard to believe it is now down to 8 more days!! He is super-excited and brings so much joy! So thankful for you and your friendship at Christmas and all through the year! Sending love and hugs to you across the miles! :)

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  17. Cheryl, this is wonderful! I'm sorry this has been such a difficult year for you, but I am grateful for the strong hope that you're able to share with others.

    Thank you so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I'm featuring you this week!

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    1. Dear Richella! Thank you ever so much for your kind words and for featuring this post! It was such a blessing to me this morning. May God bless you and your family with a wonderful Christmas!

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  18. Dear Friend, You are such a sweet testimony to Lord God Almighty that even in the midst of one of your most painful years you were singing his praises and bringing us great encouragement that indeed he will calm his child. I love that quote. I have never heard it before.


    I have just read another blog post that struck me profoundly when she said that God chose to suffer. He chose to suffer so that he could relate to us in the most intimate ways. That just blew me away. And then I read it here in your post. I love when the Lord brings brothers and sisters in the Lord together in their thoughts to teach a lesson.


    I love that song softly and tenderly. I heard it for the first time this year, a Joey Feek rendition.


    Thank you so much sweet friend for being such an encouragement to all of us may the Lord bring you great joy and peace in the coming year. Sending you much love and gratitude.

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