By Kristine Brown, Crosswalk.com
The caring staff at the cancer center put in extra effort to schedule all necessary tests before Thanksgiving, so I could start treatments the following Monday. The plan would begin with a morning trip to the hospital for a short procedure, then over to the center for the first day of chemo and radiation.
My husband and I resolved to take it easy through the holidays, allowing plenty of time to rest between daily treatments. We scaled back on events at church and also let our family know we’d be keeping things super simple through Christmas. I needed my quiet time with Jesus more than ever. I couldn’t allow anything else to interfere.
After my procedure that first day, we settled in at home, ready for a much-needed rest. I wanted nothing more than a cozy blanket and a warm cup of tea to help calm the chaos of the day. Only, a phone call from our young adult child broke through the silence. He’d been the victim of a car accident. Thankfully no one was injured, but we hopped in our car anyway and rushed to the scene to make sure everyone was okay.
Our good intentions for quiet, simple days soon spiraled out of our control. One unexpected mishap led to another— adding insurance claims, unplanned bills, and more to our to-do list. Treatments also took a toll on me physically and emotionally. Each day I awoke weaker than the day before, until I could barely stand. My time of rest and recovery began to feel more like daily trauma and distress.
Have you ever had one of those seasons where you felt slammed by one thing after another? Where you thought to yourself, “I cannot take one more thing”? Those were the exact words I prayed to the Lord that year. Yet it seemed like every time I told God how I couldn’t take one more thing, something else piled on. I didn’t see how I could enjoy Christmas, because life was just too much.
In Romans chapter 12, the Apostle Paul offered sound advice to the church about how to live out our faith in our everyday lives. He began with encouragement to give ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. As Christ followers, we want the Christmas season to draw us near to Jesus. We want it to be all about him. But there will be years when life will feel like too much, and we will struggle to find the peace and joy we long for. Romans 12:12 gives us a guide that will help us enjoy Christmas when life hits hard, and it feels like the hits keep coming.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 ESV)
Rejoice in hope. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul opened his letter by describing Jesus as “our hope.” Those words remind us that our hope is not our expectations, the circumstances that blindside us, or the outcome of those circumstances. We can rejoice in hope through the holidays, whatever we face, because the birth of Jesus ushered in a hope that cannot be taken away.
Be patient in tribulation. When trouble comes my way, I’m tempted to try and fix it. I’ll give every bit of strength I have to get the issue resolved. This results not only in physical exhaustion but regretting what I missed in the process. By being patient through life’s biggest battles, I’m also choosing to be present in the moment. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Be constant in prayer. One of the things I love most about our relationship with God is that we can come to him anytime, day or night. He is always available and willing to listen to our sorrows, joys, and concerns.
Colossians 4:2 combines this call to constant prayer with encouragement to be thankful, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Committing to continual prayer and gratitude throughout the day helps keep our mind fixed on our Savior during the holidays, rather than fixating on our troubling circumstances.
The difficult holiday season my family walked through that year changed my heart. Situations beyond my control threatened to steal my joy and peace, but I learned how to truly enjoy Christmas in all things. It wasn’t easy, because the truth is there will be times when life becomes too much. Thankfully, our loving God restores our joy and peace as we practice rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, and daily taking our cares to him.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the Christmas season and what it means for us. You sent Jesus to this earth as a baby, so he could one day give his life for me. Because Jesus lives, I have hope that cannot be taken away. Sometimes this time of year doesn’t look the way I planned. Life becomes too much to bear, but I can count on your steadfast love and faithfulness through it all. Help me to enjoy every moment of this season, whatever circumstances I face. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Grinvalds
For more spiritual growth resources, check out the 5-day email study Walking with Rahab by today’s devotion writer, Kristine Brown. You’ll find weekly encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website, kristinebrown.net. Kristine is the author of the book Cinched: Living with Unwavering Trust in an Unfailing God and its companion workbook.
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