Light for the Darkness

dog by the fireI know this is supposed to be a place where we gather around a fire and share stories, but sometimes, there is no one story that really captures what we are experiencing.

These last few weeks, I have heard stories from friends of pain and struggle and suffering. These last few months, I have walked along friends who shared stories of uncertainty and fear and confusion.These last few years, I have had friends living in stories of loneliness and turmoil and grief.

And it was enough to cause this effect in me where “Holly Jolly Christmas” was missing its pep, and the lights on my neighbor’s homes shone a bit dim, and I found that festivity felt far away and funky.

I know there are many of you are out there, maybe reading this now, who know that feeling. It could be because of your own story, or a friend’s story, or maybe one of the stories of the world around you. My heart goes out to you, friend. This is not a fun place to be during the most wonderful time of the year.

What can we do? Manufactured joy is no joy at all. The farce is almost worse than just living in sadness. Where do we find a joy that is deeper than the suffering we see around us? How can we resurrect the festivity of the season in the midst of pain?

I’ll tell you a secret: we cannot do it.

But God can. I will tell you how he did for me.

WEDNESDAY: I reached out to a friend, and asked her to pray: that I would be able to share God’s love and hope to my suffering friends—without sounding trite. Because honestly, that’s how my words were sounding to my own ears.

THURSDAY: I read these verses from Scripture:

“Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—a Spirit of counsel and strength,
A Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
[…] he will judge the poor righteously
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.” Isaiah 11:1-2, 4

“He grew up before him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at him,
no appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.” Isaiah 53:2-3

“I, Jesus, [… ] am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16

The purpose of Jesus’ life began to come back into focus in my heart. I began to see {again} how he embraced suffering. And yet he could still say that he shines as the bright morning star. I became hungry to know how that could be true in my life, too.

Saturday: I spent a good amount of time praying–for my family, for my friends, for my church. I ran across these verses from Scripture as I prayed:

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be […] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

Who needs endurance and patience except those who are suffering? And here Paul prays that they would have joy and give thanks as well. So I started praying for joy and thanksgiving even in the midst of suffering.

SUNDAY: the pastor, who also happens to be my husband, focused his sermon on Jeremiah 31:2, “Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.’” Grace in the wilderness! Like manna for the people of Israel, like an angel for Elijah, like the call of John the Baptist—God meets us in the wilderness by his grace. He meets us in our suffering with mercy and provision.

SUNDAY EVENING: I had the privilege of joining the high school youth of our church on their yearly “Elf Caroling” excursion. At our first stop, we sang “Joy to the World” to an older woman whose health problems I don’t pretend to know. All I saw was her daughter at her side, and a walker in her hands. Tears welled up in her eyes, and mine, as she sang along. I noticed that she did not have tears of sadness, though, but tears of hope. A certain hope in a certain joy. She knew her Savior had come to the world to bring her joy.

IMG_3640

In and out of cars we piled, all twelve of us elves, dressed goofily, with red tights on {some of} our legs and bells on our hats and booties. I watched as my little boys sang along with all their might—a special bright light in their eyes. We sang to a mom who is lonely. We sang to a family that’s stretched thin, while their little kids danced at our knees. We sang to a couple who have endured a tough year. We sang to one of my friend’s families—trying their best to hang on to joy in the midst of suffering on top of suffering.

And finally, the lights on the Christmas trees shone brilliantly. The Bright Morning Star had made his way into the depths of my soul. I sung for joy. I sung with hope. I sung knowing that, no matter the suffering, the story of Emmanuel (God with Us) brings enough joy to push back the darkness.

joyful little elf

“The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
God sent a man, John the Baptist to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. […] The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
John 1:4-7, 9

4 thoughts on “Light for the Darkness

  1. What an Advent message you were given and shared! Thank you, God, for Christa’s praying heart and compassionate spirit that reaches out to those who are hurting with your words of consolation and healing. Christa, you made this Advent day special for us and, no doubt, for many others. Thank you for revealing your heart to many❣️

    Like

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