The Holidays have, perhaps, come too soon for some of you. Has it been a tough year? Have there been huge losses? I am sure we can all find something to be thankful for, but gratitude is a matter of the heart.
Habakkuk had a rough year. He could not eat. He was not in a festive mood. The bible says he trembled, his lips quivered. He was afraid. A war was about to happen, and we know that war brings a lot of grief and sorrow. In many ways, nobody really wins a war. There are losses everywhere!
Habakkuk 5:16-19 are the words of a wise man, who has learned lessons I have not learned just yet. I bring his prayer to this season of celebration, in spite of our losses and disappointments.
Habakkuk said, OK, let’s sing! Let’s sing and praise the Lord! Where else are we going to go? Who else is going to help us get through this? Any suggestions?
The holidays sort of "set us up"! We are expected to be happy! We have added to that long lists of things to do, people to buy for, obligations and we get very busy with all of that, and it is exhausting sometimes! What if this was the year you lost a child? What if you had no money to buy the expected gifts? What if you just found out you had cancer? What’s to celebrate?
Habakkuk says, "DO it anyway!" Do it, not for yourself, but for God and for others. We do for Him when we do for others. He is worthy! He is the only thing you have to get you through these troubled waters.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18-21 "…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, GIVING THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."
I tried different translations. I wanted out of that one. Thank God for everything! Surely not! I even paraphrased it so it would be more palatable: I know! We are to thank God in spite of everything! Praise the Lord anyway! I can do that!
I went through a divorce. There were young children involved. My heart was broken and I participated in the decision. I was part of the problem. That didn’t make it any easier, folks! I hated the holidays after that for years. I endured them, but I did not like them. I wanted my family back! I wanted things to be the way they once were. Christmas morning with the kids became a thing of the past. I found myself mailing packages, and spending many holidays alone, or with people who felt sorry for me, which in some ways was worse! God bless their hearts! They tried!
I was not doing a good job of praising the Lord, anyway, let alone thanking Him for my circumstances.
Shakespeare wrote, Oh, that I were as great as my grief, or lesser than my name, or that I could forget what I have been, or not remember what I must be now.
One morning, I surrendered. I just quit arguing and analyzing and I just got on my knees and said, "Oh, God, I thank you for my wounds!" Wow! Where did that come from? It was an epiphany I cannot even describe. My circumstances did not change, but I did. What did my wounds ever do for me? Well, I will tell you. Through those wounds I drew closer to the Lord. I got acquainted with the suffering Messiah. I felt His pain on the cross, just a little, and when He cried, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me," I began to see a glimpse of where He was coming from. And when I compared my suffering with His, I was ashamed, but He did not make me feel ashamed. He cared for my wounds. They did not have to match His. He said he would heal them by His own stripes. And something else happened. I started looking at other people who were hurting. The Holidays are a good time to do that, because you can identify those who are not having such a Happy Time! And you can’t fix it for them, but you can let them know you see their pain, you care and you will pray for them. That is a lot! That is huge! You can’t buy that in a store, and you cannot order it from a catalog.
Have you any wounds? Small ones, big ones, old ones, new ones? Of course you do! Well, let me tell you, whatever brings you closer to Christ, it is worth it! He is worth knowing intimately, and suffering brings us closer, folks, in ways that nothing else can. This Christmas, join Habakkuk and thank God for them, won’t you? You will be blessed, and everything will taste better. In good times and bad, wounded, heart broken, full of joy, full of pain, come to the King’s table, like the crippled Mephibosheth and say "Thank You!" It is always appropriate!
I close with the words of Bo Baker from his book "Believers at the Breaking Point." Bo was my pastor for 15 years. He lost his wife to cancer, and a son more recently. Bo remarried and now he is taking care of his wife, who is ill. I love this man. He baptized all three of my children, and has been such an inspiration and encouragement to me on my own journey.
One of the most beautiful expressions of Christian remembrance I have come upon are the deeply meaningful lines of Longfellow when he wrote:
"The Holiest of all the holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart, the secret anniversaries of the heart."
Someday, when the storm has stilled, and the gentle winds of grace have dried every tear, someday when we look back upon the times of our severest testing and come to bare our hearts to the Father, may we look up to smile within His priceless presence and celebrate the "secret anniversaries of the heart."
Wherever you are in your journey allow me the personal pleasure and joy of wishing for you -
Songs that only the quiet can hear,
Sights that only closed eyes can see;
Sensitivity that only Spirit’s breath can explain,
And, Serenity that only believers can understand
Words in italics by Bo Baker, "Believers at the Breaking Point" page 150, 151 Stonebridge 1998