What do you do when life happens? I'm talking about the real stuff. Can I #NoFilterForASecondHere? Have you ever had a fight with your spouse? Or felt that no matter how hard you try, your kids are not perfect? Or discovered that no matter the size of your income, there seems to be more month than there is money? Does the sky outside seem gray more than it is blue? Life is hard and has no shortage of pitfalls and curve balls. What do you do in these hard times? What do you do when it's hard to get up in the morning and face the world outside? Or when you have to come home after work, open the door and face the chaos you know is on the other side? This time of year—the Christmas season—can compound the difficulties and challenges you may be facing in your life.
On December 13, 1996, my brother Doug was murdered. This event pushed my life into a tailspin. For the next four years I was homeless off and on, and living on the streets. The Christmas season was an excruciating time for me. All it did was remind me of what I had lost when my brother was taken from me. I did not want to be holly or jolly, never mind decking the halls. I just wanted to be alone and forget about the whole painful situation. Bahhh humbug! I know many people reading this blog have also suffered loss in a myriad of different ways. Maybe you've lost a child, spouse, friend or someone else very close to you. Christmas, traditionally a joyous holiday, can thus become a black hole. This was my holiday story. Or it was, until I discovered love. Although my wife is a ray of sunshine in my life, it is not of her I speak. I'm talking about a godly love, the love I found in Jesus—the reason for the season.
My life and outlook changed forever with that incredible encounter with Jesus on the street that day. The darkness in my life lifted because of the new light shining in my heart. Although the trials and tribulations did not disappear, I had a new way to look at them. If you look at the life of Jesus and what He did in the hardest of His times, it is nothing short of incredible. He was beaten and nailed to a cross where He hung and died, completely innocent of any sin. While on the cross what did He say? He asked His Father in heaven to forgive those who did this to Him, for they knew not what they did. Wow! Now that's unconditional love! In the hardest of His times, He chose to love harder. Rather than pushing away, He pulled them closer. This response is contrary to how the world thinks today. If you hurt me, offend me or wrong me in any way, my initial reaction is to push you away or hurt you back in retaliation. This is not how Jesus did life. Remember, God is love and His expression through our life should be exactly that love.
Now I am not saying that with Jesus everything is butterflies and rainbows. On the contrary, Jesus is clear that we will have trouble and we will be persecuted. The difference is we are able to love our enemies even when it is hard. Now you may be saying, “Jeff, that is not natural,” and you would be completely right! We need His help to walk in this type of love. That is why Christmas is such an important time of year. The baby Jesus grew up into the One who demonstrated the greatest expression of love—death on the cross for our sin. Without Him there would be no hope for humanity, but with Him, salvation can come not only to us but to those around us. So no matter what your situation is this Christmas season, if life is hard, love harder, be slow to anger and quick to forgive, and you will prevail. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow, but you will win! He brings peace to the whole earth. He brings the chaos back into order, and He does it all through love! Merry Christmas!