For those of you that have been following along, thanks for reading! I would apologize for posting this a day late, but we've had a weekend full of family time and it's been delightful! Christmas is just 6 days away and I intend to enjoy every minute of it with the ones I love!
I was thinking yesterday about how at this time of year, more than any other, we focus on giving gifts to those we love. We spend a great deal of time planning and shopping for just the right thing that will bring a smile to the recipients' faces. We wrap them up in beautiful paper, tie with a bow and add a gift tag, all with them in mind. And I thought of these verses:
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Matthew 9:7-11 NLT
Without sharing too many personal details of those I love, we have several members of our church that are going through tough times this Christmas season. Many have lost loved ones this year; others are facing illness or other crises. It's in times like this that you see the strength of a faith family, when people rally around others, offering prayer, love and support. It's a beautiful thing to watch and participate in.
But I had this thought. There's a great temptation, when facing difficult circumstances, to question the goodness of God. When loved ones pass away, when doctors deliver bad news, when companies close leaving people without work and too many bills to pay, it's so easy for us to wonder if He really is good, if He really does care. How can all of this happen and He be such a good God? And I realized that the very question itself is my undoing. When I begin to question His goodness, I'm defining Him by my circumstances.
[dih-fahyn] verb -fined, -fin·ing. verb (used with object)
1. to state or set forth the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.)
2. to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe
3. to fix or lay down definitely; specify distinctly
4. to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of
5. to make clear the outline or form of
Look at definitions #2 and #4. If I define God by the circumstances I face, it means that I'm explaining His nature and essential qualities by those circumstances. It can also mean that I'm fixing the boundaries of Him in my mind. In essence, I'm saying, "He can't be all good because this has happened. This is where His goodness ended." When I doubt His goodness because of the painful, hard circumstances I face, I teeter dangerously at the precipice where I decide that I know better what I need, what the world needs than does its Creator. I make myself an idol.
I realize that this may not seem like an Advent type of post. But if you think about the situation that Mary and Joseph found themselves in, you might think differently. Mary could have shouted a resounding, "No!" when the Angel greeted her. Joseph could have accused her and had her stoned in the city streets, rather than following the gentle leading of Holy Spirit when he was instructed to marry her anyway. But they didn't.
They looked at all they had to lose and counted it as nothing for the sake of submitting to the will of God, a will and plan that looked ugly and painful. A plan that looked nothing like their dreams. A plan that might cost them everything and more. A plan that required them to let go of what they thought was good in exchange for what God deemed the most valuable. And in exchange they were participants in the redemption of the souls of men.
I don't know what trials you are facing this Christmas season or what may be around the next corner. But I hope that when tough times come (and they will) that you and I will remember that He is always good. No matter what the situation screams, no matter how loud the enemy shouts in your ear, no matter what others say, He is good. He always has been. He is now. He always will be. He is always good. He is always good.