Undone by the Gift of Our Savior

4161935408_9b02a46dd9_zLast year at this time, my husband Don was enduring a season of pain like he’d never known before. On November 15, 2014, he fell roof-high from a ladder and fractured his spine in eight places. He was laid up at home for almost two months before he could attempt a return to a modified work schedule. He needed pain medication on a regular basis for a while. It was rough.

One day during December while I had a favorite Christmas cd playing and “Joy to the World” was wafting through the air, I went in to check on Don and he was crying. He was completely undone by the gift of our Savior.

He said, “He could have come down from the cross. He could have come down. But he stayed. He suffered. For me.” Because of the pain Don had been enduring, the fact that Jesus came to earth to die a painful death to pay for our sins took on a whole new level of meaning for him. Our “Joy to the World” came at a great cost. A cost Jesus was willing to pay.

As we listen to and sing the carols of Christmas this year, let’s listen and sing as if it’s the first time we’ve heard or sung them. Let’s be touched afresh by them. Let’s come undone by the gift of our Savior.

Why not start with “Joy to the World”? I’ll print the words below. Let’s glory in its message together today!

“Joy to the world , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”
*lyrics by Isaac Watts

*Has a carol of Christmas ever taken on special meaning for you?

*Flickr photo by jeffweese, Creative Commons License

A Painful Mercy

Sometimes God says no to our most earnest requests. We plead, we bargain, we pour out our hearts’ deepest desire and still he doesn’t give us the answer we long for. Other times his answer is wait. And sometimes we’ve already waited an excruciatingly long time as it is.

These answers of no and wait—and wait some more—can really hurt. After all, we’re not talking about casual, wouldn’t-it-be-nice kinds of requests. We’re talking about earnest requests. Requests born of desperation, heartache, and deep need. So when our deepest desires are not granted, the accompanying pain and disappointment run deep as well.

What we may not realize is that God’s painful no or wait  may in fact be a painful mercy. He alone knows all the results a yes might bring. He alone knows the future. When it appears he’s withholding our heart’s desire, he instead may be saving us from an even greater grief.

Many of you know that our family has been experiencing a season of waiting for quite some time now. During this period, the answer no has been our portion time and again. We’ve dealt with heartache over and over and have not understood why God is answering the way he is.

But what if we—and what if you in your situation—could see into the future, could see what God sees. Maybe our family would see a turn of events that would be more devastating than the current answer of no or keep waiting. How about you? What might you see in your future? I think we all might see that God’s no may in fact be a painful mercy.

It all boils down to trust, doesn’t it? Even when the answers we want don’t come, will we trust God? Will we continue to believe that he loves us and has good things in store for us? Will we acknowledge that he may be planning to give us something even better than our original request?

Don’t get me wrong—trust is not a pat answer. Trust doesn’t negate the pain. But it does bring peace. It does keep hope alive. It does acknowledge that God alone knows the future and that he will indeed walk with us through times of painful mercy.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

*Have you experienced a painful mercy in your life?

*Flickr photo by minniemouseaunt

A Well-Paved Path

Pain. Grief. Weakness. Limitations. None of us welcome these unwanted visitors—especially when they take up long-term residence in our lives. Each one causes distress in its own way. And let’s be honest. We all do our best to avoid distress whenever possible.

We don’t like to hurt. We don’t like to fail or find ourselves unable to do certain things. But as we live in these places of pain, we grow and learn lessons. We develop a deep empathy for others experiencing similar sorrows. Each of our painful places has the potential to become a well-paved path to another hurting soul.

In the New Testament, we see that the apostle Paul experienced pain, hardship, and limitations time and again. While we may feel the chains of weakness and limitations in our lives, Paul dealt with literal chains during the times he was imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.

He didn’t give in to discouragement during those imprisonments, however. While shackled and suffering, Paul saw the good that came from his chains. In his letter to the Philippians (1:14), he said, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

Surely our chains of pain, grief, weakness, or limitations serve to encourage others as well. Other struggling folks might very well be inspired to persevere through their own trials as they see how God strengthens us in ours.

Whether reaching out to hurting souls going through similar situations as our own or whether being a beacon of hope and encouragement through the witness of our lives, let’s let our painful places result in good. Let’s let our lives be well-paved paths.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

*My photo