As we embark upon the most festive season of the year, it can bring about a slew of emotions for many. For some, Christmas is extended well past the socially acceptable time frame many would place upon it, recognizing the joy and celebration of Christ cannot be held within the bounds of a manmade date on the calendar. For others, pain, grief, and sorrow drench the days ahead.
Perhaps one of the most challenging things in this life is making sense of the suffering we experience. As humans, while our brains try to make sense of everything in order to bring us some sense of reconciliation and comfort, our finite minds cannot always comprehend the works of Almighty God. And yet, we try to figure out why He makes the choices He does or allows the things He allows.
If there is one thing that we as believers have to hold onto during trying times, it is this truth: There is a difference between punishment and suffering.
Job, more afflicted than most of us could even comprehend, declares, “God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; he instructs them by their torment.” (Job 36:15) We are rescued by our affliction? What could that even mean? How could that be possible? We are rescued by our affliction because we are rescued from ourself – if we allow it to be so. If we allow the Lord to instruct us, to refine us, to transform us; as agonizing as it may be at times, then we will be rescued from the people we are and made into those we could only be through the supernatural handiwork of the Holy Spirit. More compassionate, more empathetic, more like Christ.
God allows everything to happen in our lives not despite His great love for us, but because of His great love for us. If we can cling to that, if we can make that the focus of our holiday season – then regardless of what we are going through, our minds can slowly shift toward the hope that anchors our soul. When He appeared, the soul felt its worth. Do you feel your worth? You, tired, weary, and heavy laden. You, lonely and isolated. You, running on empty with nothing left. You, brokenhearted. You, far away from home. You, the one who has wandered away. Your soul has worth. The things you have suffered are not your punishment; but they are a part of your calling. Your high calling to suffer well in reflection of the One who suffered most. He is here, Immanuel, God with us. The One who came to redeem and save and bring life, hope, and meaning to all things, all people, all situations. Will you believe that this Christmas?