Heaven (Part 2): The Beautiful City of Holiness

While a measure of rest can be had in this life, the true rest is in the life to come—heaven. What does the Bible say about heaven?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:2-4

Heaven will be a beautiful place, like a stunning, breathtaking bride!There will be no suffering, crying, or death. There will no longer be feelings of distance or disconnect from God. There will be no violence, betrayal, corruption, or oppression. There will not be racism. In fact, we are told,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

Heaven (Part 1): The Christian’s Longing

The world mocks the concept of sin; nevertheless, we see and experience its ravaging effects through violence, crime, addictions, betrayal, heartache, loneliness, weariness, sickness, suffering, and ultimately, death.

Life can be very dark and wearisome—even for the people of God. The Scriptures are neither shy nor vague about this. Jesus says,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Paul writes:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

Even the people of God can grow weary and discouraged. The author of Hebrews writes to such individuals:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ~ Hebrews 10:35-36

Do Not Throw Away Your Confidence

Faith. What is this ambiguous phenomenon? There are three popular flows of thought in our contemporary world concerning faith, and all three are wrong.

First, the view of faith as being this mystical, ultra-spiritual experience; borderline Christianized paganism (perhaps even crossing the boundary in some cases). This view is very sensory and emotionally based. The problem with this view has to do with the fact that our feelings can be very misleading, misinterpreting, and quite deceptive.

Second, the view of faith as always being victorious and prosperous. This often condescending view perceives those who are sick, poor, defeated, etc. as schmucks who “lack faith.” The problem with this view is it essentially makes faith into a god, as if the true God is obligated to bow to it. Furthermore, it discredits genuine faith in others, and disregards passages in the Scriptures that tell of believers who were commended for their great faith but who were permitted to suffer or go without.

The third, and most arrogant of the three, is the secular view that sees faith as utter foolishness, and often treats persons of faith with contempt and hostility. This view accuses faith as being blind, and as a leaping into the dark haphazardly.  The problem with this view is it is often quite hypocritical, for its adherents often blindly follow ideologies and theories that have proven calamitous or which have no evidence.

Indeed, there are mysterious aspects of faith, but is it mystical? Truly, faith is triumphant (“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” [1 John 5:4, ESV]), but does this mean there are no bumps, bruises, or battle-wounds? No mistake, faith travels without seeing the whole picture, but does this mean it is blind and mindless?

Here is what the Scriptures tell us about faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear…. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. ~ Hebrews 11:1-3, 6 (KJV)

Notice, there is substance to faith, as well as evidence. Furthermore, through faith there is an understanding—not a shot in the dark. The substance, evidence, and understanding are each founded upon the framing of the world by the word of God. Although there is a confidence which accompanies faith, does this mean it is void of questions—even of doubt? While faith is overcoming, does this mean it is never weak?

David asks:

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? ~ Psalm 10:1

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? ~ Psalm 13:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

The prophet Habakkuk asks:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? ~ Habakkuk 3:2-3

Jeremiah asks:

Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? ~ Jeremiah 12:1

The writer of Hebrews writes of various persons of great faith, of their victories, exploits, and answers to prayer. Then he shifts gears and writes of others of great faith:

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith. ~ 11:35-39

Faith is not about “feeling,” but is about trusting God—even when it feels like He has turned His back, is apathetic concerning our cries, or powerless against our adversaries. Faith is not about apparent victory or prosperity. These passages reveal that there are times faith can be accompanied by heartfelt questions, soul-shivering feelings of loneliness and abandonment, and apparent defeat of persecution. Faith is trusting God’s character, faithfulness, wisdom, justice, and power—despite our feelings, questions, and faulty perception.

So, is faith a mindless, blind leap into the dark? John the Baptist (whom Jesus referred to as the greatest born of women [see Matthew 11:11]) was unjustly imprisoned and soon to be executed. Even though he knew Jesus was the Messiah, his dire situation perplexed him. John sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied:

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” ~ Matthew 11:4-6

John (whom Jesus declared to be the greatest of men) was not rich. Now he was alone, and seemingly abandoned. What was Jesus’ instructions for John? To observe; to pay attention. Jesus was restoring lives. To the one who is willing to observe today, Jesus Christ is still restoring and transforming lives, even while He might allow us to remain in unpleasant, perplexing situations. We come then, to a fork in the road, where we must make a choice: to choose to be “offended” and travel in unbelief or to trust in Him and His faithfulness.

Perhaps this day your faith is being tested. The fires are raging or the waters are rising. You are afraid, perplexed, and God feels far away. But God tells His people:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. ~ Isaiah 43:1-2

The writer of Hebrews was writing to a people who were suffering persecution because of their faith in Christ. Many of them were discouraged to the point of abandoning their faith. The writer sought to encourage them (and us):

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ~ Hebrews 10:35-36

Dear reader, may you remember what God has done in your life and the things He has shown you. May you remember that He never said the journey of faith would be easy (but He has promised it will be worth it). May you hold firmly to your confidence in Him and His atoning work on our behalf.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. ~ Psalm 37:23-24

Moms, You Rock Stars—Shine On!

This post is meant to, hopefully, encourage moms out there who are striving to be good moms, but who have found that they are, well, human. You are tired; after all, you are awakened in the middle of the night. During the day you are changing diapers, cleaning, cooking, running errands, making sure your children are where they are supposed to be (school, medical appointments, practices, etc.). On top of this, many of you have jobs outside of the home in order to make ends meet.

Some of you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or even like you are a horrible mom, because you see other moms who appear to have it altogether. Their houses are immaculate, yours has toys all over and laundry is never completely finished. Their children are well behaved, while your children are like a bunch of wild monkeys. Other moms seem well rested and always keep their composure, while you caught yourself losing your cool—again—after dealing with another day of criticisms from family, crying kids, crayon writings on the walls, teenagers screaming, “I hate you!” because you have set necessary boundaries.

Moms, give yourselves some slack, and stop comparing yourselves to other moms. You have a tough job that is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining! The dynamics in your home are not identical to those of other homes. It is okay. It is also okay that you have imperfections—EVERY other mom does too. It is okay that your child(ren) do not receive everything they desire. It is okay they receive discipline when they are being unruly (proper discipline comes with being a good parent).

Moms, I trust that most of you are trying the best you can with what you have. You do not have perfect knowledge concerning how to raise each unique child. You might not be rich. Chances are, you have some unchecked boxes of responsibilities and chores still needing to be done. But are your kiddos being fed? Do you consistently tell them how much you love them? Are you teaching them right from wrong, and warning them of dangers? Do you properly discipline them to correct them? Do you comfort them when they are scared or hurting? Are you there for them when they need you? Do you love them so much you would lay your life down for them? If you can say yes to these (sure, probably imperfectly), let me tell you, YOU ROCK, MOM!!!

My mom did not have an easy time raising the four of us (me being the “baby”). She was a single mom most of my growing up years, sometimes working two or three jobs to make sure there was food on the table and a roof over our heads. There were times she felt like a failure because of some the poor decisions my siblings and I made. There were numerous times we broke her heart by what we either said or did. She does not really realize how much of a hero she is to me, even though I try to let her know.

Growing up we were certainly not rich. While we got many nice things for Christmas and birthdays, we had our share of clothes from Kmart and rummage sales. There were seasons we did not get to go to restaurants very often. Nevertheless, my mom worked her butt off to make sure our needs were met!

But I learned some amazing things from this dear lady who never had the opportunity to go to college. She taught me about the Lord, at least the essential basics. She taught me right from wrong, and taught me about the reality of consequences. She taught me about unfailing love and grace, as her love for us continued, even when her own heart was severely wounded. I learned a measure of integrity through discipline (I know what old school butt whoopings are). From her I learned what it means to say, “I’m sorry,” as there were times she would verbally lash out or discipline more than what was warranted. I learned a lot about forgiveness, as she was never one to bring up past faults or rub our faces in our mistakes. I learned not having “name brand” everything really is not that big of a deal (to this day, many of my clothes are bought at Walmart, and I really do not care what people think). Perhaps the greatest things I learned from my mom is compassion and empathy. See, my mom knows what it is like to suffer a broken heart and to fall on hard times. There have been numerous times her eyes filled with tears and her voice cracked when reading a sad story from a newspaper. And times I got on my high horse about something, she would gently let me know that I would possibly have made the same decisions if I had been in someone else’s shoes. Mind you, my mom was not perfect, and still is not. She has made her share of mistakes raising us. However, she has ALWAYS been there whenever I, or my siblings, needed her.

Moms, give yourselves a break. Yes, there might be times your kiddos are little hellions and your teenagers literal nightmares who say hurtful things. Remember, they are also going through difficult things (I am so glad I am not a child or teen these days). So what if on this day you are in your sweatpants and your hair is a mess? So what if you were unable to get today’s dishes washed or every piece of laundry done and folded? At the end of the day do your children know you love them? Do they know you are their safe place? Are they learning that life hurts and is sometimes unfair, but you will never forsake them? If so, know your children will grow and call you blessed. And know that rock stars are at their best when they are pouring themselves out, tired, sweaty, and grimy! Is this not when we cheer the loudest? Likewise, moms, you are at your best when you are pouring your love onto your kiddos—even when you do not look your best, and you are tired. You are rock stars—shine on! Your legacy will be enduring!

Understanding a Loved One Battling Depression

Depression. It is not simply sadness (“What do you have to be sad about?” one naively asks), nor is it a hurdle or a mesmerization (“Get over it!” “Just snap out of it!”). Furthermore, depression is not a single element stemming from a single cause. Rather, it often consists of multiple factors weaving from numerous sources.

Depression can stem from painful events, grief/loss, anger, guilt, shame, loneliness, failure, disappointment, anxiety, fear, stress, chemical imbalance, or a number of other things—sometimes built up over time. Often it is a combination of these things creating the perfect internal storm. Thus, to state aforementioned comments to a person struggling with depression is not only naive, it is also callous—inflicting further injury onto someone who is already hurting.

Depression varies from person to person, and is on a sliding scale from mild to severe. It can feel as a gray sky, a swamp, a pit, or an abyss. It can feel as a light mist to a raging hurricane. It can range from a feeling of sadness to utter despair.

Perhaps you are living with a person who suffers from depression. Admittedly, such a person can be difficult to be around. For sure, he is not the life of a party; indeed, she can be a “Debbie Downer.” But please be patient and sympathetic with such persons. As much as you might not enjoy being around them, he or she does not like feeling the way they feel either. Mind you, this does not mean to tolerate outbursts of anger, but it does mean more is going on inside of a depressed person than what you see externally.

To you, their depression might seem inconceivable. Overall, their world and reality might appear good (and, indeed, might very well be); however, their hurts, fears, feelings of failure and shame are just as real. What you say to them might be true and logical, but the lies and accusations rambling through their minds seem just as true and logical.  Inside of them storms are brewing, as thoughts and feelings mingle together, forming internal tornadoes. Bombarding his mind are accusations of his failures, highlights of every blemish and flaw, screaming echoes of regrets, and any number of lies that will make her feel unloved, unwanted, worthless, and ever increasingly isolated.

In addition to all the bewilderment (for the person who is depressed, as well as their family and friends) is when thoughts of suicide begin aiding feelings of despair. Some, who have never tasted the bitter waters from the well of despair, will accuse those struggling with suicidal thoughts as being self-centered—thinking only of themselves. Before I address such accusations, let me say this first: Thank God if you have never experienced such darkness, such aloneness, such despair! Such lofty condescending judgments reveal an ignorance, because persons speak with such certainty concerning matters they know nothing about. Like a person wanting physical pain to be taken away, persons struggling with suicidal thoughts simply desire an end to the internal anguish that can seem perpetual.

“Well, they’re not even thinking about the effects such an action will have on their family and friends!” someone will snidely say. This, by and large, is not true. Within the depressed person’s thoughts, as distorted as they might be, he truly believes he is doing his family a favor. She truly believes she will not be missed, as though the world would be a better place without her.

Please understand, I am certainly not advocating suicide or saying it is a legitimate action. One of the great aims for my blogging is to extend some hope to persons who might have otherwise lost it—to hopefully steer them away from taking their precious lives! Yet, I also want to help those who have a loved one struggling with depression to validate the deep anguish their loved one is feeling—without preaching, lecturing, criticizing, or judging them.

I have shared in previous posts about my own struggles with depression, and I plan to share more aspects of it in posts to come, as well of things that help. I wish I could say that I am now completely free of all depression, but this would not be honest. What I can say is what I experienced when my depression was at its darkest (at least, what I have experienced to this point), I would not wish upon anyone. I hope to share more in the near future about the darkness and confusion, the “diabolical logic,” and the despair that I felt. Suffice to say, for now, is I felt extremely abandoned, and that my family would be better off without me.

I admit, I still question at times what difference would it make if I were not here? Genuine, close friends are scarce. I know God loves me, but I  question that He actually delights in me (I have my reasons). I bear within me a broken, wounded, battered, and perplexed heart. U2 says it well: “And in our world a heart of darkness, a firezone where poets speak their hearts, then bleed for it.” [1] While I can pour my heart out, you could not truly understand—unless you have experienced this too. My point is this, my depression did not just happen one day. I did not just decide one day to not enjoy life. There have been constant chips and wounds spanning many years. I have been lied to, betrayed, rejected, and forsaken by some I had trusted. There are reasons for my withdrawing, skepticism, and pessimism.

I am not saying the attitudes, thinking, or responses of the persons who are battling depression are good or right. What I am saying is there are reasons—even legitimate ones—for these. The depressed person is feeling a deep inner pain—one they cannot simply go to to the doctor, take a pill, and have the infection go away in a week or two. No, it is far deeper, and much more complex, than this.

People tend to feel uncomfortable around the depressed. To be fair, it can be like walking around on eggshells. No doubt, depressed persons have a tendency to push others away—this serves more as a defense/protective mechanism. The irony of it all is this is when the depressed one needs others more than ever.

The person struggling with depression does not need you to preach to, lecture, criticize, or judge them. What they need is for you to be there, and to validate (this does not mean you have to agree with) their feelings.

In the book of Job, we read:

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. ~ Job 2:11-13 (ESV)

Job’s friends were of great comfort to him for a week—and then they started opening their mouths, thinking they were qualified pastors, psychologists, and theologians. After this Job finally bellows, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all” (16:2).

Sometimes your love can speak volumes when you simply validate your loved one’s feelings, are present, and say nothing at all—until he or she is ready to talk.

Notes:

[1] U2 (words by Bono), “One Tree Hill,” from the album The Joshua Tree, 1987.

The Willow Tree

The Willow Tree

“Why does the willow weep?”
A child asks.
The question is ignored,
As he and his mother
Pass by the willow tree.
And but for a mere speck
Of time,
The willow rejoices,
In that someone took
The time to care.

Although I wrote this poem a number of years ago, the message remains the same. Those who are hurting (grief, depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.) do not need anyone to fix or lecture them, but
to listen and genuinely care. They need to know they are loved and have a sense of belonging, because they probably already feel like an island detached from the mainland.

Lord, Take Me Out of the Game! I Don’t Want to Play Anymore!

There are times when a person can feel so exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically that he just wants to give up. Hope seems to have abandoned him, faith seems to have left him stranded, and joy evaporated like a mist. Apathy befriends him, and he ceases to care about pleasure, fame, fortune, or even life itself. The only thing he really wants is to be pulled out of the game—for the boney hand of death to knock on his door.

Typically, I suppose, these feelings of utter depletion are a result of the constant hits in life (quarrels, stress, fear, rejection, loneliness, sense of meaninglessness, devalued, etc), and the feeling of having nothing else worthwhile to give. Sometimes such feelings can come from a chemical imbalance within the brain. There are a number of factors that can contribute to a person’s depression, death wish, and suicidal contemplations.

Such feelings affect persons from every walk of life. Like cancer, depression is no respecter of persons. It does not care about gender, color, religion, class, nationality, sexual orientation, age, etc. Perhaps as you are reading this depression has you entangled in its web. Please know that your feelings are not unique; there is nothing strange or devaluing if you are struggling. You are actually in good company with those who either feel, or have felt, the suffocation of depression.

It might surprise you to learn that one of God’s own prophets, one whom God used in incredible ways, fell into a major depression and prayed that God would take his life. After an astonishing victory and breathtaking display of God’s power, this prophet felt like a complete failure.

[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” ~ 1 Kings 19:4

No doubt Elijah had come down from an adrenaline rush—he had witnessed one of the most spectacular miracles recorded in the Scriptures. Added to this, he was tired from running, he was hungry, and he feared for his life. His was a fail-proof concoction for depression.

As the chapter continues, God begins gently speaking to His prophet. Elijah is not rebuked for his depression, he is not accused of having lack of faith. Before the Lord addresses the deeper issues, He makes sure Elijah eats and rests. The physical needs were addressed before the emotional and spiritual. After eating and resting, Elijah was in a better position to hear the Lord. Note, he heard God within the quietness, not in the noise and clamor.

In a person’s depression, the voices in their head scream accusations and criticisms. The voices taunt and mock, seeking to deepen one’s sense of despair.

O Lord, how many are my foes!Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” ~ Psalm 3:1-2

There may or may not be elements of truth to what is being screamed in one’s mind; that is, an individual might have failed, made a mess of things, etc. However, a person never fails so badly that God’s love, mercy, and grace cannot get him safely through. As Corrie ten Boom would say, “There is no pit so deep God’s love is not deeper still.” In the midst of the screams, the voice of the Lord will be as a “soft whisper,” bidding us to draw near to Him. Although He might bring to our attention where we have sinned or erred, His purpose is always redemptive. God’s voice will never be the one calling us a failure, disgrace, trash, etc. God’s voice will never urge a person to harm themself.

The Bible says God is our Abba [daddy], Father. A loving parent will correct—even discipline—but it is always for the ultimate wellbeing of their child. This is how God loves us.

Jesus tells us,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:16-17

I do not know who might read this. You might be a loner or the popular person; rich or poor; a worn out spouse and/or parent; a student; etc. You might feel pressed on all sides, and confused to the point of despair. Maybe you know exactly what it feels like to want to be “taken out of the game.” If possible, take some time to eat and rest. In the midst of all the voices assailing your mind with crushing thoughts, listen for His still small voice bidding you to look to Him, gently whispering His love and care for you. You are loved, you are needed, and you are of great value. If necessary, rest on the bench, but stay in the game!

Weak, Mighty Warrior

We people are a paradox: we are quite fragile, as mere words can cut us to the core; yet, we can be strong and resilient, rising up from circumstances that can otherwise be crushing.

This day, my friend, your night might be long, but know that morning will come and the sun will again shine upon you. Your winter might seem eternally cold, but your spring will again come with its warmth and beauty.

You might feel weak, as though you cannot go on—but you can, you must! Allow your storm to soften the ground so you can grow deeper roots. Sway along with the winds, yet allow them to strengthen your branches.

All pain hurts (physical, emotional, etc.), but none define. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ, even while you hurt, and He will not waste your pain, tears, or even your failures. As you are wounded, you will be strengthened. As you heal, you will be as healing to others. As you forgive, you will find freedom. As you recognize you are weak, you will also find that, in Christ, you are strong.

But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

Be encouraged, Warrior, you are weak, but you are incredibly strong!

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!

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!