I was awake. It was 2:00 in the morning, and despite all my best efforts, I could not sleep.
I am a fantastic sleeper. I could win awards in sleeping. In fact, in middle school, I was on a retreat with our youth group, and the hotel at which we were staying caught fire in the middle of the night. Most people were awakened by the blasting fire alarm. Not me, I needed to be physically shaken, and I regret to say that I was actually angry at my counselor for waking me. (Sorry, Kelli.) I take my sleeping very seriously.
So to find myself awake in the night is not normal. It’s maddening. The longer I lie there, the closer I get to my 5:30 alarm, which makes it even harder to fall asleep because I’m aware of all the precious minutes I’m losing!
I wonder if there is something in your life that keeps you awake at night, too?
This Christmas season has been unlike any other. Just like last year, I turned the calendar to December and felt myself searching for a hole somewhere where I could tuck myself away until it was over. But unlike last year, the grief is not as fresh, and the Lord has walked with me and allowed me to keep living for another Christmas.
My friend, Katie, is in her own broken season, and she reminded me of the line in my favorite Christmas carol, O Holy Night, that says, “the weary world rejoices.” In all my sleepless nights, I can relate to being weary. I’m also weary of the shootings, and ISIS, and missing children, and all the other tragedies and pain we read in the news. I’m weary of my own grief and fear and unknown future. I can relate to weary.
So my big question is, How does a weary world rejoice? I want to rejoice, but how?
The answer is found in the Christmas Story. Recently, one of our pastors reminded us that we rejoice when we find Christ in our brokenness. And we find Christ when we SEEK Him. We have to be like the wise men who went searching for the Christ who was the Messiah.
“If you look to Me in earnest you will find me when you SEEK me.” Jeremiah 29:13
“…And if you SEEK Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.” Deuteronomy 4:29
“Now SEEK the Lord your God with all of your heart.” 1 Chronicles 22:19
“This is what the Lord says to (Molly): SEEK Me and live!” Amos 5:4
There is nothing passive about seeking Him with all of me until I find Him, but He promises to be found when we seek Him. He does not want to remain hidden, but He refuses to force Himself upon us. He wants to be fought for, pursued – so that you and He both know you really want Him.
So, that’s what I’ve continued to do. After a few months of not seeking Him as much, I have recently picked up that Bible of mine, and continued reading where I left off.
Perhaps, you remember I was going to read the whole Bible in three months? Well, that didn’t happen. So now I’m trying to finish it by the end of the year. And it has been blowing my mind! These verses about seeking Him are no lie! Allow me to explain.
My pain has been more intense in recent months, but God is more present to me now than He has ever been. He backs up His promises, friend.
I’ve been in 1 and 2 Corinthians this week and read these valuable reminders of truth. Don’t skip this part (italics mine):
“He will keep you strong right up to the end, and He will keep you free from all blame on the great day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will surely do this for you, for He always does what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:8-9
The apostle Paul says, “My job was to plant the seed in your hearts…but it was God, not we, who made it grow.” 1 Cor 3:6
“We know that the same God who raised our Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself along with you. All of these things are for your benefit. And as God’s grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce in us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Cor. 4:14-18
“…God’s power has been working in us…our hearts ache, but we always have joy. “ 2 Cor. 6: 7, 10
“…we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead!” 2 Cor. 1:9
“For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power.” 1 Cor. 4:20
Did you catch all of that? He will keep us strong right up to the end, because He always does what He says He will do. It’s His idea – He invited us into this relationship with Him!
God makes His Word grow in our hearts and in the hearts of those we love, not us. So let’s take that pressure off of ourselves.
Seek Him – He will not ignore you!
We rejoice because though our present circumstances are full of pain, fear, loneliness, and grief, the work we do as we SEEK God in these moments will produce a joy and glory that will last forever. So that despite the ache in our hearts, God’s power in us through the Holy Spirit gives us true JOY! And these are not just fancy words that sound good, but it is True when we are living by God’s power and not ours.
Friends, I can attest to that this week. Though the grief, pain, despair, loneliness, and fear continually threaten to overtake me at times, I have found joy and peace and hope in the words of the Bible. They are true! In situations that seem dire, I have peace because I know God is working, and He continually whispers that He has not abandoned me. In times when I feel alone, I have sensed the presence of God right beside me in ways I have never felt Him before! Ask me, and I’ll tell you the stories! I didn’t know how I could live through the pain of the past year and a half, but I’ve learned not to rely on myself, but on God who can freakin’ raise the dead! Talk about power!
This year, Christmas is about the messiness. I haven’t bought a single present yet, and that’s okay, because I am most grateful for the gift of Jesus, who came for us. I haven’t put ornaments on the tree, but God has decorated my life with His Word this year more than ever. I am not baking goodies, but rather, I am consuming His promises. And in all of this, I feel more full and satisfied and content than I ever have at Christmas.
So wherever you find yourself this Christmas season, my friend, and no matter what you may face this year for the first time or the fortieth time, remember as you look at the empty seat at the table, or the empty house, or the empty future, or your empty heart, God is there. He longs to fill up the empty places, and He promises to do so when we seek Him.
Yes, the weary, weary world can rejoice.
And tonight, it can sleep in heavenly peace.