It is Christmas time, the season to be merry and bright. We adorn streets, stores, homes, and even our conversations with phrases that span back as far as I can remember. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, merry, joy, peace…And How about the one our parents always told us? The one we tell our children and our children’s children-You must believe to receive. I remember hearing that as far back as my memory spans.
You must believe to receive-intended to affirm a child’s trust in a fictional character, Santa Claus, so they will be rewarded with the things their hearts desire. The pay off for believing, they receive and in turn are “happy.” It is a well-intended tradition that every nurturing parent perpetuates, but just maybe it is here where we unknowingly plant the early seeds of idolatry.
It is Christmas time. The season to be merry and bright, so why do I feel so melancholy? Perhaps it is in my striving to keep up with the socially acceptable norms of the season, that I am withering from the searing realities of my soul. If only my insides matched my outsides, perhaps I would not be so tired; tired from trying so hard to be merry when in reality life is so messy. Or maybe it is the memories of all who I am missing, and all that was that tug on my heart. I tend to remember what was through rosy colored lenses, and that can blind me to the beauty of what is.
The irony of You must believe to receive is there has never been a more crucial truth for living. It is not just a childhood charade. It is our salvation. It ultimately has nothing to do with Santa Claus, fiction, or the receiving of wrapped gifts. It has everything to do with a righteous Savior, a real story, and His unparallelled presence.
In the midst of trying to be merry this season, my cousin in her young 30’s is dying from cancer that has claimed her bones, lungs, and her life unless she receives a miracle. Not very merry.
A good friend right now is sitting at her mother’s bedside waiting for her mom to draw her last breath. She will likely succumb to cancer on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, leaving her family grieving. My friend’s Christmas will not be so merry.
Dear friends buried their thirteen-year-old son a few weeks ago. How do they find the merry after such an unimaginable loss?
I have handicapped parents who are both compromised mentally and physically. They are not living, just existing trapped in bodies that paint pictures that are painful to see. Messy.
Family and friends are battling addictions. They do not have the addictions; the addictions have them. Very messy.
There are broken relationships. Relationships defined by dysfunction and wounds that run so deep that I, in my weak flesh, strain to catch a glimpse of hope for forgiveness or reconciliation. Definitely messy.
There is so much demand for love in hard places that my supply of endurance feels inadequate. Love is messy.
In the midst of trying to be merry, our world seems to the contrary. Our people are killing and persecuting our people. Our protectors have become prey. One nation under God feels like empty words we recite with no conviction. The seeping wounds from past gouges of racial division are constantly being pricked. We are not living and acting out of present progress, but past wounds and injustices.
So where does believing and receiving fit in with all this brokenness, and suffering? How do I expect so many of the mentioned people to believe in the midst of sweltering circumstances? How do I believe when at every turn the pervasiveness of pain continues to multiply?
It is not an easy or efficient answer friends, but I promise it is effective. If you are looking for easy and efficient, you are not looking for Jesus. Belief in a Savior outside of ourselves and our world is an arduous fight. It is a choice; a sometimes very hard choice, but the most crucial one we make. It is only in choosing to believe that we receive the peace, hope and security of Jesus. A Savior, who holds when he cannot heal, sustains in the absence of surrender, loves in the midst of loss and bears all burdens of brokenness.
Believing in Jesus, and receiving His promises allows us to face our messiness and not be miserable.
Deuteronomy 29:29 is like water for my parched soul when I am crying out to the Lord in frustration and questioning Him with why and how. It tells us this: The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.
There is so much we will never know. There is so much we will never understand. Plenty are the things we do not like, agree with or accept in this fallible life. We are told this in Deuteronomy. This verse also tells us that we are only expected to understand that which has been disclosed by the Lord.
So what has God disclosed? Friends, this is the most important part of what you are reading. God has testified and proven on the record that He loves us and has something better in mind for those who love Him. John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever BELIEVES in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus has revealed that we are not alone in our pain and suffering in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew 11:28-30~Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God’s word has assured us of our secured salvation if we only believe in Ephesians. Ephesians 2:8~For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us we do not have to be fearful of our circumstances~Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
In John 14:1-3~ Jesus gives us the assurance of our inheritance of eternal life in Heaven~ “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
There are thousands of promises that have been revealed to us. Yes, what we do not understand can be implausible, but as believers, what we do understand from God’s word is the antidote for our weary, wandering souls. It does not mean we are void of emotions like sadness, fear, and worry. It means we have those emotions, but God has us in the midst of them. What He has revealed conquers that which is concealed, and sustains us until that day when all the broken, jagged and lost pieces of our life fit together to form a beautiful picture.
If we do not believe, we will not receive. All these biblical promises, the incarnation and the resurrection, they mean nothing to us if we do not believe. Saying we believe, reading our Bibles, going to church, having a quiet time, none of that is enough. All those things are good and necessary, but belief is very much a multifaceted action verb that demands a continuous battle to live the truths we recite. Belief requires an intimate relationship, not an obligated religion. It necessitates we become a daily, living sacrifice. We must die to the fast fixes of the world and fasten to the faithful promises of a Savior. Belief is worth fighting for!
It is not enough to have it in our brains and flowing from our mouths. Until we saturate our hearts and the deepest recesses of our souls where the thieves of belief taint our peace and stability, it will never carry over from our lips to our lives.
Our joy amidst the backdrop of life’s brokenness is for God’s glory. This can only be received in the midst of genuine belief.
I may not feel very merry this Christmas, but that is understandable. Jesus felt grief, pain, and sadness more than merriment at times, too. I would rather be true to my reality than suffocated by my reverie. Besides, I have learned there is so much beauty born from brokenness. I believe it, and I have received it! Although life is really messy right now, the merry, a little dim, is still there. When our perspective is formed in the image of the gospel, merry always trumps our messiness in the end. May you find the merry despite all the mess this CHRISTmas.
I do not see, but I will follow. I do not hear, but I will listen. I do not comprehend, but I will fight to BELIEVE. Heavenly Father help all of us enduring pain, suffering and unthinkable trials to trust and rest in you. May we all walk not by our senses or understanding, but guided by faith that although sometimes is shaken, it is never shattered!