This time of year, one hears the phrase “Happy Holidays” often. But what do you do when the holidays are not happy? How do you endure everyone else’s jolly holiday spirit when your own feels crushed by grief or anxiety?
Many times, when our hearts and minds are in such turmoil, we feel God is distant or has even abandoned us. David experienced this as well. He wrote in Psalm 22:1-2, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Perhaps you can relate to his anguished cries.
The next three verses offer a shift in perspective. They say, “Yet You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and You delivered them. To You they cried and were rescued; in You they trusted and were not put to shame.”
The rest of the chapter mimics this tug-of-war between heartache and hope, our struggle and His sovereignty. It’s no wonder Christ quoted this passage as He hung on the cross, taking all our sin upon Himself.
I recently heard a new (to me) Christmas song called “O Come, All You Unfaithful.” I appreciate this song so much because it acknowledges reality. The Christian journey is filled with mountaintops and valleys. Though faith and joy are gifts of the Spirit, we do not always feel faithful or joyful. But Christ came to meet us in our mess and to call us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9)
God’s ways don’t always make sense to us, yet He is holy. As Christ-followers, we can cling to His promises that He is working all things for our good (Rom. 8:28), and that He will flood us with peace as we keep our gazed fixed on Him and trust in Him (Isa. 26:3).
God has not abandoned us to figure out all of our problems on our own. When life feels overwhelming, look to the manger. More than just a sweet baby, the Christ child is Emmanuel – God with us.
The Son of God took on flesh to live among us. He lived, died and rose again to reconcile us to the Father. Then, when He ascended back to heaven after His resurrection, Christ sent the Holy Spirit – God in us.
Paul, who was no stranger to hard times, recognized these truths and learned to apply them in his life. He writes from his prison cell to the church in Philippi that he has discovered how to be content regardless of his circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).
Sounds pretty incredible, right? So what is his secret?
Here are a few practical things we see from the rest of his letter to the Philippians that we can also apply in our own lives:
- He had a heart of gratitude (1:3-4 / 4:4, 10).
- He was in fellowship with other believers (1:3-11 / 4:14-18).
- He devoted himself to prayer (1:3-11 / 4:6).
- He kept an eternal perspective on current realities (1:12-20 / 3:20-21 / 4:5).
- He valued Christ above all the world has to offer (1:21-23 / 3:7-9).
- He sought to live a life that honored Christ and encouraged others to do likewise (1:24-30 / 2:12-18 / 3:9-17 / 4:9).
- He meditated on Christ’s humility, suffering, and ultimate exaltation (2:1-11).
- He poured into others (2:19-30 / 4:1-3)
- He was intentionally aware of and grieved by Satan’s schemes (3:2, 18-19).
- He practiced humility (3:3-7).
- He kept his mind focused on those things that reflect Christ (4:8).
If we will do likewise, our gaze will shift to our Savior and “the things of earth will grow strangely dim.” We will begin to see that, whether walking through the loss of a loved one, plagued by anxiety, weary from the daily grind or burdened by the weight of sin, we can still have hope. We can say confidently in the midst of our trials, “Yet You are holy.”