For to Us a Son is Given

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” goes the Christmas song. However, for many it is the most loneliest time of the year.” In the midst of all the beautiful Christmas lights, for many this season is very dark. During the calmness of the falling snow, there is an unnerving restlessness within. With talk of “holiday cheer” there is deep sadness. Joy and hope seem as mythological as Santa himself. 

Although we try to decorate this season with colorful and glittering beauty, the fact remains we live in a fallen, broken, and hurting world. We give and receive gifts of fleeting pleasure and delight, most of which will break down and be thrown away eventually—mere reminders of the temporal significance of the things of this world.

Ah, but there is one Gift given to all, but seemingly insignificant to most. In fact, most people will neglect this Gift. We tend to like gifts of monetary value or instant gratification, but this Gift gives us neither. However, this Gift does give what the human heart craves most: peace, joy, hope, significance, and a relationship with God. Mind you, this Gift does not take away all the hurt, pain, and heartache—but it does redeem them for good. Furthermore, this Gift does come with the promise that one day all suffering will cease, and every tear will be wiped away.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

What is this Gift, and who is it from?The Gift is Jesus Christ our Savior, and given to us by God Himself. Oh yes, many will mock and scorn. Politicians and philosophers will continue to give worthless promises of a utopian society that will never happen (the corruption in the human heart will forever prevent this). 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

This Gift comes with fullness of redemption and the washing away of guilt and shame. This Gift comes with truth and grace, and teaching us what it truly means to love and be loved. 

This Gift can neither be bought or earned, but it must be humbly received. God will not force anyone to receive it, but to reject it one does so to their own peril.

This Gift is given to you. What have you done with Him? Yes, life will still hurt. Jesus does not promise to eradicate all hurt. Yet, in Him the day will come when all suffering will and tears will cease. For now, He promises forgiveness and His presence.

For to you a Son is given. Have you received Him? 

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. ~ John 1:12

I hope you truly have a very merry Christmas!

Everybody Cries

While many of my political and religious views are quite different than those of the band REM, they have a song I like and have found comfort in. The song is called, “Everybody Hurts,” and it encourages persons to keep pressing on because they are not alone, as everybody cries.

Many of us have learned to bottle up everything inside and to not display our emotions—especially sadness and tears. “Big boys and girls don’t cry,” we are told. Crying is for sissies, we are taught. However, crying is part of being human. Jeremiah the prophet was a tough cookie, as he endured constant persecution. Yet, he is known as the “weeping prophet,” as he cried for his country and coming judgement. King David, was anything but a wimp. He, as a young shepherd took out lions and bears. He took down Goliath. He was a fierce warrior in battle. He was not a dude to mess with. Yet, he tore his robes and cried when friends died or when confronted with his sins. No one is more manly than Jesus! He was gentle and humble, but who could willingly endure the torture and suffering He went through? Yet, we are told He wept.

Perhaps you or someone you know needs to cry. If so, it is alright. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, let them do so. Do not ridicule or shame them. Crying is a natural form of release. Suppressing emotions and refusing to deal with feelings and situations are not healthy but can lead to mental health issues (e.g., depression, etc.).

“I don’t like crying in front of people,” some will object. That is fine. If you need to cry, play a sad song or watch a sad movie by yourself.  Cry into a pillow. In any case, just as laughing is part of being human, so is crying. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a demonstration of being a person. As REM says, “Everybody hurts sometimes.” 

Cry it out and keep pressing on. Things will get better.

Using Loneliness to Your Advantage (Part 2)

One of the reasons loneliness is so difficult is because we were created for community.

The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18

A helper, companion, and friend. The couple would then have offspring, not only for reproduction but also to create family. Families would become tribes, etc.

However, we know that not everyone is equal in families or societies, regardless how much people say they want “equality.” Even these persons and groups shun and dislike certain persons, whether it’s because of difference of religious or political views, social and economical class, styles or culture, the way persons look, etc. Thus, not everyone has friends or family to hang out with.

With all this said, there are many who do not have family or friends to be with during the holidays. There are others who do, but who feel so disconnected from those around them. Understand, loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Being alone is simply not having people around. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a sense or feeling of being disconnected, rejected, unloved, undesired, unwanted, and/or ostracized by others. 

Strangely, anyone can be susceptible to feelings of loneliness, whether it is one who is considered the “dreg” of society or the beloved captain of a football team. Regardless, the feelings of loneliness are very real and can be destructive if not kept in check.

Another way to use loneliness to your own advantage is to use it to consider who you are and what you desire to be. I do not mean what psychologists call “visualization” (i.e., if you want to be a rockstar, then picture yourself up on stage, etc.). Rather, who are you as a person? What is your temperament? What are your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and passions? What kind of person do you want to be (e.g., kind, compassionate, mean, or obstinate)? What do you want to accomplish or be remembered for?

Times of loneliness can also be times to consider the deeper issues of life: What is truth? Is there a God? What is justice? Does life have meaning? What happens when we die? Too often we can be influenced by the media, teachers, preachers, gurus, emotions, etc. However, it requires times of solitude to genuinely reflect on these issues. These times of pondering can also aid in observing contradictions and logical fallacies. For example, when corrupt politicians try to lecture society on morality and ethics; when university professors deny absolutes, then decry “injustice”; when preachers talk about following God, but then deny His Word; etc.

Most of us will experience rejection of some form, as well as seasons of loneliness. During these times decisions will be made. Will we allow these trials/fires to consume or purify? Will be become bitter or better? Will we permit the experiences to transform us or the opinions of others to conform us?

Loneliness is painful—at times, emotionally excruciating. But it can be a beneficial discipline—even a healthy forging, if we will endure it. If you are presently going through the fires, truly I know it is difficult, and it is years later that I have come to appreciate the value of loneliness. 

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33

Using Loneliness to Your Advantage (Part 1)

Loneliness is a painful experience. It can be emotionally crippling. However, loneliness can be used for one’s advantage and betterment. Mind you, I am not going to lie to you, loneliness will continue to be painful at times. Nevertheless, it does not need to destroy a person.

When I became a Christian in my teens, nearly thirty years ago, I lost nearly all my friends. I was passionate about Jesus and the Bible. Strangely, this does not necessarily endear a person to others in churches, let alone non-church goers. In any case, there were many, many weekends I spent at home with nowhere in particular to go. No phone calls from friends asking if I wanted to go to the movies or out to eat. I admit, there were times this was extremely difficult.

There are a few benefits I received from these experiences. 

First, spiritual development. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless until they find their solace in Thee.” Blaise Pascal noted, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

This world always has an abundance of activities to distract us from God and thoughts of Him. This technological age has only multiplied the distractions. Sometimes, if we will allow it, loneliness can remind us that there is more to life than mere continuous empty pleasures and distractions; and that there is a God who is knowable, if we will but approach Him on His terms and stop being so distracted.

I hated school when I was younger, and I was not much of a reader. Yet, being by myself a lot, I was able to have a lot of time to read the Bible. I got tired of watching television all the time, so I began reading. Strangely, I grew to love reading. Although I was a high school dropout, all my reading would later help me tremendously when I would earn my GED, then enroll in college. I graduated with honors.

Use loneliness to draw near unto God, and to build a solid foundation for your life (see Matthew 7:24-29). Loneliness will still be painful, but it will serve a greater purpose.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ~ James 4:8

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

Worth Fighting For

One of my favorite lines in “moviedom” is in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Frodo is feeling the weight, weariness, and hopelessness of the evil bound to the ring. His friend Sam tells him, “There’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Like Frodo, the heaviness of life can weigh a person down, and all one can feel is the loneliness, hurts, evil, and despair. Despondency begins to strangle hope, and distorts one’s perception. One forgets about the sunlight and trees, as all that can be seen is a fiery sky painted over darkness, illuminating a barren land of devastation. However, Sam’s words are just as applicable to us.

When I was in the darkest parts of my depression, and despondency had sucked out of me any desire for living, I would cry out “I hate life!” But I remember during more honest times during prayer, acknowledging to God that it was not truly life I hated; rather, it was the loneliness, sadness, heartache, with the added sense of meaninglessness and abandonment. I did not so much have a morbid lust for death—I simply wanted the continual pain and despair to end. Nevertheless, the feelings of being unwanted and unnecessary were debilitating. 

Perhaps, on this day, you can relate. Maybe you are feeling defeated, as it seems to take everything within you to take another step. Are you asking yourself, “What difference does it make, anyway?” When we consider the characters in Lord of the Rings, Frodo did not have the skills of a man, the stealth of an elf, or the strength of a dwarf. Yet, his part within the mission of the fellowship of the ring was indispensable! The same can be said of Sam, an unsung hero of the fellowship. 

Dear one, maybe everything around you appears dark and bleak. I beg of you, do not give up. There is still a lot of good worth fighting for—including your life! Do not compare yourself with others, for there is no comparison. Others may be greater at this or that, but your life is essential for the purpose God created you! Even within the mundane there is design. Keep fighting, because there is still good worth fighting for, even if you do not recognize it at this moment of time!

If you have found any encouragement from this post, I would love to hear your thoughts. Blessings!

Let the Warrior Within Arise

Trembling before the obstacles,

While adversaries advance;

Depression, Fear, Failure, the like —

Make up the foreboding circumference.

The taunts, the laughter, the endless lies

That you would be better off dead;

The mockery shatters the silence,

And keeps echoing inside your head.

Oh timid one, do not cave to the voices,

But let the Warrior within arise;

Be armed with the Armor, held securely by Truth,

And know your Help comes from on high!

Know that defeat is not your destiny,

Rather, Victory is to be your fate;

Lift high His banner, sound loud His truth,

Each lie annihilate!

Behold, your comrades stand beside,

Hope to your left, and Faith on your right;

Just when it seems that all is darkness,

You’ll find that the Lord remains your Light!

Rise up, oh mighty Warrior,

Fixate on Him who is Faithful and True —

Your Defender, your Shield, your God

Who securely watches over you!

Though your enemies vehemently advance,

In Christ, Warrior, take your stand;

And if you stumble e’en seven times,

He will mightily uphold you in His hand!

~ G.P.

The Crucible of Taking Ownership

The issue of accountability might seem unrelated to depression, but bear with me. Shifting and deflecting blame is a universal human tendency. Most people will readily admit that everyone has faults, but owning up to personal faults is not acknowledged so willingly. The problem with blame-shifting is many people’s lives and relationships remain fragmented and broken. Only when genuine ownership and forgiveness (or repentance) take place, can healing and growth take place.

We read that the proneness to blame, versus taking ownership, occurs very soon after the first couple partook of the forbidden fruit:

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV)

God asks the man if he ate of the forbidden fruit. The man blames God for making the woman, then blamed the woman for giving him the fruit to eat (as if she made him eat). God then turns and questions the woman. She blames the serpent for deceiving her.

Neither person humbly acknowledged their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. Instead, they became defensive and deflected blame. One can only wonder what would have happened had they humbly confessed. Certainly there would still have been consequences, but would the world know the depths of suffering it knows? I suppose we will never know.

Modern American society encourages blame-shifting, deflection, and “victim mentality.” We want to blame our parents, teachers, the “system,” and anything else for our poor and foolish decisions. Oh, many of the hurts are real, for sure. These might, indeed, make progress difficult. However, none of these can force us to continue to make poor decisions.

Some people remain in depression, in part, because they choose to curse the day they were born, blame others for their miseries, and refuse to let go of the past in order to move ahead in the present.

Sometimes real hurts happen to persons. Dealing with this requires honesty about the pain; however, one cannot blame anyone for their own choice to refuse to get better. On the other hand, some people want to blame the “system” or others for their own poor decisions. No one else is to bear the blame if an individual refuses to put the work involved to get to where they want to be.

If you’re dealing with depression, these words are certainly not intended to add to your hurting nor are they to ignore any genuine hurts. However, take an honest inventory: are some of your woes your own doing? Regardless what others might have or might not have done, they are not responsible for your present decisions. Someone’s actions may have angered you, but you choose to remain angry or not. Someone might have deeply wounded you, but you make the choice to remain crippled or not. You might not be in a position to move ahead at this time, but no one else is responsible how you view and respond to today’s circumstances.

Hurts hurt, no doubt about it. Yet, we do not have to be defined, hindered, or paralyzed by them. To forgive, let go, and move on is each person’s choice to make alone. No one can make this choice for us. Taking ownership is difficult, but necessary. Mind you, doing so will not necessarily take away the hurt or depression; however, it will begin paving the path leading to freedom and living.

“But they don’t deserve forgiveness!” some will defy. No, I do not suppose they do. Then again, none of us do. “But I can’t forgive!” some will argue. Pray! Ask God for the willingness and help to forgive. And remember, forgiveness has little to do with others but more to do with you. Forgive, because you are worth it!