If you know anything about me, you know that Christmas is my favorite.
The music, the decorations, the season of celebrating Christ’s birth with family and friends, it’s definitely the most wonderful time of the year in my eyes. However, I’m usually a little premature with my celebrations.
November 1st is always a great day to put up a tree if anyone was wondering.
But as soon as December rolls onto the calendar everyone in the world catches up to my Christmas cheer and begins to greet each other with a “Merry Christmas!” Or even a “Happy Holidays!”
But what if Christmas isn’t so merry? What if the holidays aren’t so happy? Where do you go from there? How do you hold tight to your joyful spirit in times of heartbreak?
In our BCM at Valdosta State we have what’s called Family Groups. These are our version of discipleship groups. Completely co-ed and loving everyone from freshman to grad student, this ministry holds a huge piece of my heart. This year I’ve had the privilege of leading my third family, this time with a guy named Brady, whose constant joy spurs me along.
One of my favorite things to do with our group is to challenge their faith, their knowledge of why they believe what they believe, and usually this takes place in a rapid fire question method, and one of my favorite starting places is, “What’s the difference between happiness and joy?”
Usually this process goes in circles for quite a while, but the ultimate conclusion we always reach is that happiness is what the world gives, while Jesus provides joy.
It’s entirely possible to remain joyful even long after the happiness has gone, but true happiness cannot be experienced without joy.
The holiday season always brings with it a time of reflection. It’s a chance to look back on the past year and remember where you’ve come from, and what you’re headed towards. It’s a time to be joyful, and to mourn, and to remember.
This year has been particularly difficult for my family. These past few months have brought a time of great loss and confusion. Sometimes it leaves me looking up at the sky in the middle of the night asking God, “Why would you do this?”
And I still have no answers. The most frustrating thing about the world we live in is that we don’t have the ability or understanding to answer the questions that sprout up during the hardest times.
Not much grows in the hard times other than doubt and worry.
A few weeks ago I found myself sitting at a concert featuring Kari Jobe, a popular Christian singer, who was putting on a benefit concert for the Road Less Traveled Ministry of Tifton, Georgia.
If you’ve never heard her story, or her music, I encourage you to go give it a listen. Sitting at this event was more like sitting in the living room with close friends praising Jesus. It was incredibly genuine worship, and something I needed building right up to finals week, and following another great tragedy in my family, the loss of my Great Uncle Ronald Jackson. My heart was broken for my family members, and a little hardened towards God for letting accidents happen to such good people.
But then Kari stopped singing and asked if she could share something personal. She continued on to share about her family’s loss last year of a child, and how it had sent them spiraling in search of answers.
She told us all about how unraveling it could have been for their faith, because nothing breaks a heart for Christ more than trying to understand how He is faithful in the worst seasons. Her desire for peace and answers drove her to her knees in this moment of trial and she received her answer.
“I realized in that moment that I needed God more than I needed to understand.”
It isn’t our job to understand why things happen like they do, no matter how much we want to just get it.
The beautiful thing that we often forget is that Jesus never asked us to understand.
Only a little while before Jesus was arrested, the disciples were gathered together and Jesus washed all of their feet. If you know anything about feet of that time, they were decently grosser than they are now. People’s feet may have sores, scrapes, dirt steaks, or all of the above and more. For someone to wash feet meant they were the lowest of lows. But for the King of Kings and Savior of the world to wash their feet meant humility. It meant grace. It meant love and hope that surpasses all understanding.
But still the disciples were confused, and Peter even downright refused. Jesus’s reply is what silenced them all, and it’s the same hopeful promise I cling to today.
“I tell you, you don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” [John 13:7]
Someday you will.
Someday, even if not today.
Sometimes it takes a silent night for us to reflect on God’s work woven through our lives. Answers don’t always shine like a star leading you to Bethlehem. Sometimes it’s a quiet whisper of His voice, simply asking us to trust. If your Christmas isn’t so merry, your holidays not so happy, lean on Him as the holiday crazy swarms around you.
When the clouds outshine the Son, it’s hard to feel any hope at all. But as 2016 comes to a close with this final celebration of the year, I rest peacefully in knowing that I need God more than I’ve ever needed to understand why bad things happen. More than I need reassurance and peace in His decisions.
God is faithful. He was faithful 2000 years ago, and He’s still faithful today. No matter how silent the nights or how little your life may look like Christmas. Comfort and joy are just around the corner, coming when you least expect them.
HEBREWS 6:19 SAYS,
“We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul. A HOPE both sure, and steadfast.”