I have heard it said that it is sometimes harder to focus on Christ in times of blessing than in times of suffering. Suffering has a way of squeezing us, of showing us what is important. Suffering brings us to our knees and forces us to see Christ amidst the pain. And while it is never a path we would choose for ourselves, we know that without it we would not be as conformed into the image of Christ. Suffering is a necessary part of the Christian life, designed by a good God to make us more like him. Blessing can do that for us too, but it takes a little more work, and it’s easy to get lost in the blessing and miss the One who provides every good thing for us. I know it is for me, at least.
This Christmas season looks quite different than the past
two Christmases in our family. And if I were completely honest, I miss the
hopeful longing that filled my heart in those years. There is something about
suffering and loss that makes you depend on Christ in deeper ways. The words of
Scripture have such a profound meaning when they are speaking directly to the
deep ache in your soul. Christmas in those years, while painful, was also a
time of tremendous growth and trust in our Savior. I had to work hard at
believing that God’s promise to work good in my life was true. I had to fight
for joy in this Christ even when all of my expectations for the season were not
met again. This year is the exact opposite.
If you had told me last Christmas that we would be expecting
two boys in the coming months I would have probably laughed at you. I couldn’t
fathom that pregnancy would happen for us. I couldn’t imagine that our
Christmas holidays would be filled with anything but deep longing for God to
hear our prayers and give us a child. And now that I am on the other side of
that longing, I am finding myself fighting to turn my heart towards the very One
I cried out to so many times these past few years.
So how do we celebrate Christmas in a time of plenty? Maybe
you are finally free of a painful trial that has plagued you for years. Maybe
you are surrounded by family and friends who love you dearly. Maybe your heart
is full of joy over all that God has done for you this year. How do you
remember the reason for all of your abundant blessings when your cup is
overflowing with good things from the Lord?
The stories of the barren women in Scripture have always
ministered greatly to me. Their testimonies of faithfulness remind me that pain
and loss do not mean bitterness and turning from God. But what has meant more
to me this year is their response when God removed their stain of
childlessness. When their life turned from empty to plenty they still
worshipped and praised the God of it all. They recognized that the same God who
closed their wombs saw fit to open them when he did. And it brought them to
their knees. Luke records that Elizabeth gave God the glory for her pregnancy.
She rejoiced that God saw fit to open her womb, and even her friends were able
to rejoice with her. Elizabeth lived the majority of her life barren, yet she
praised God in the time of wanting and the time of plenty (Luke 1:24, 57-58). The blessing did not mean that she failed to praise God. In fact, the blessing only heightened her worship of the Creator for his kindness towards her.
Elizabeth likely never forgot all that God did in her life.
And not just in giving her a son, but also in the years of waiting. What made
her able to praise God in the blessing? God was there not just in her blessing,
but in the years of her deepest longings, too. Zechariah and Elizabeth were
godly people, who did not depart from following God even into their old age. They saw him work in their lives over many decades. He had surely shown himself faithful to them time and time again. The
plenty likely meant so much more to them because they remembered the lean years
That is how we feel this Christmas. While we felt complete
and blessed last Christmas, there was still a longing in our hearts for a
child. And now here we are. We don’t want to miss the opportunity to worship
our great God in these moments of plenty either. God is the author of our barrenness
and our plenty. He gives and he takes away. This Christmas we are humbled that
he has seen fit to give to us more than we could have even imagined possible.
Christmas in times of plenty might look a little different
than in years of wanting, but God never does. He is the same yesterday and
today. He is a God who delights to give good gifts to his children, and those
gifts come in a variety of packages. Last year, we were given the gift of
suffering; this year, the gift of blessing. This Christmas, I don’t want to
miss the chance to wonder at his goodness and kindness towards us not only in
the answered prayers, but more importantly in the fulfillment of the promise that the greatest
gift of all has come. His name is Jesus. He is the answer for all of our longings, and our blessings, too.