“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Peter 3:14-15
The delicate pages crinkle beneath my clumsy fingers as I turn them. The sound of each page turning draws me inward to the story beckoning to be read. I breathe deeply the scent of leather and paper, the mixture of these smells filling my mind with memories of the countless times I have thumbed through these pages. My eyes fall upon the black letters. To some, they might seem to have no real value, just words on a page that tell a meaningless story. But to me, these words are life. They are sacred, they are ancient, and they are an invitation. To any that might dare tread upon deeper waters, these words draw us in to know the heart of God, the mind of Christ, the ways of the Spirit. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” these words beckon.
This year our family has learned through hardship, questions, and suffering that God’s Word is good. We have found that it is life to our weary souls and hope to our desperate hearts. Some of our journey has been chronicled on my blog, but other aspects of it have been privately worked through within the safety of our loving circle of family and friends. It has been a rewarding but painful year. I know, though, that we are not alone in this. As a matter of fact, even during the most painful and overwhelming moments of our journey, I have often thought with a deep sense of understanding, “Oh, but it could be worse.” Perhaps it is because we have been forced to slow down this year as we journeyed through a difficult pregnancy, but I have been even more aware than usual of the grief and suffering of others around me. Living in a hospital for nine weeks will certainly allow anyone the opportunity to see this!
I think of several friends of ours who continue to ache in loneliness for the companionship of marriage. Another year has passed them by, and they find themselves once again single during the Christmas season. I have a few friends who are now on the opposite end of that heartache, with 2015 leaving them newly divorced and broken. One friend buried her stillborn baby in the spring; he was merely three weeks shy of his due date. Another friend cares for her daughter who has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Even as we have rejoiced in the blessing of another daughter after years of infertility, I call to mind several friends who are still in the midst of the isolating, painful world of childlessness. The joys of the Christmas season also bring to their hearts the stabbing reminder that they are without children. Some celebrate new life, while others grieve the loss of loved ones…children, parents, spouses, friends.
Meanwhile, the world is at odds as nations disagree on how to deal with a global crisis of refugees – displaced, desperate, and in need. Acts of terrorism continue to spread, and we all unfortunately find ourselves now thinking, “What will happen next?” Our nation is divided within itself as different groups wage war against perceived injustices, actual prejudices, and very real crises. Poverty and hunger have always been with us, and they will never leave. Even the church is often divided on how best to handle these situations.
Has this year been any more difficult than the last? Will next year prove to be easier? I find these questions harder to answer now. As a child, I had the innocent ability to see heartache as a season that did not necessarily define my entire year. Life was of a simpler nature then, and the messiness of life is much more apparent to me now. As an adult, however, the heartaches of one season often bleed into the next. The trials of others affect my life more quickly as my roles as wife, mom, daughter, sister, citizen, and friend are more developed and more complex. Often, there are no easy answers to the trials that plague us, and it becomes easy to let the tragedies and griefs of our days consume our nights.
But we, as genuine followers of Christ, are not without hope!
While we all bear the markings of a fallen world, we as God's children are not without direction as we navigate life. In fact, though it may seem that we are wasting away on the outside, He promises that inwardly the Lord renews us day by day. While our temporary troubles may feel hopeless and burdensome, we have an eternal perspective that promises life and healing, hope and restoration (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Where do we turn when the grief seems unbearable, when the unexpected happens, when our worst fears become reality? We turn to the same place we go on the good days – God’s holy, living, and active word. They are not simply words on a page; they are His sacred invitation for us to know Him more intimately. We have the answer to our heartbreak and suffering, and it is found in the mysterious unfolding of His story in our lives. His holy word draws us in so that we might know the Word, Jesus Christ, God with us. He is God’s answer to our brokenness. It is through the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ that God says to us all, “I see you in your brokenness and your suffering. I know.”
It is God’s ancient call to the hearts of every human being. Come to the waters of His word and fill your soul with the thirst-quenching, life-giving truths of the Gospel (Is. 55:1-3). Throw down your hardships and burdens, for you were never meant to bear it all on your own (Matt. 11:28-30).
I pray for you today. You, who grieve the death of your loved one. You, who weep from the brokenness of a marriage that is now past tense. You, who ache with the longing of dreams unfulfilled, of hopes unrealized. You and me, we could share our stories and our heartaches. We could allow the sadness and grief of this life to rob us of the joys found in Him. The holidays can be some of the hardest days of the year for those who grieve, and understandably so.
Today, though, may we allow the word of God to speak. May we allow the Word of God, His Word become flesh – Jesus Christ – to answer our heartache. Let us take our longings and our failures, our griefs and our sorrows, and lay them down at the foot of the cross as we find the true and pure promises of God’s word to be our hope for today.
And because Scripture put to music can often move our hearts in such a profound way, I hope you can find time to let the promises of Psalm 23 wash over you through this song.