Perhaps it’s the holiday season–perhaps it’s just the excitement in the air over the election that’s come and gone, and the dreams people have of “something more” about to come (almost the feeling children have in dreaming about what they’ll find on Christmas morning), but as I write this article, my thoughts are drawn towards the question: “What are we hoping for and waiting on and dreaming about as we look at the world around us?” There are so many things that people hope in. People hope that their insurance companies will rescue them financially if an accident, or fire, or other tragedy occurs. Some people hope in the national government to send them a pension check, or welfare stipulation, or military benefits each month, and rest knowing that the government will keep its promises and all will be well each month. Other people rest in a paycheck, and promises of promotion, and natural skills, abilities, ambition or talents that help them move up the ladder quickly so that they can earn more money for themselves and their families. Still others hope in people around them–perhaps children who live at home and depend on their parents to provide, or friends who step in to take care of one another, but the truth is that all of us hope in something or someone. In other words, even the most dogmatic atheist who claims not to believe in anything is still trusting in something: even if it’s themselves.
Have you ever asked yourself why? Where does this faith come from? What is it deep inside of us that causes us to reach for something that we can hold onto? Again, even if you read this statement and say, “I’m not looking for anything to hold onto. I have everything that I need,” you are still trusting in something or someone. Ask yourself, “What am I holding onto?” Is it someone or something that could be taken away someday? Recently, I received the news that a friend I loved like a brother passed away at a very young age leaving behind a young wife. No one knew the news was coming. Just like that, my friend is gone. He spent his whole life believing in a God that never goes away, and in the end, he died knowing that he will spend eternity without sickness, or fear, or sorrow, or pain. He knew that he would immediately slip from this life into the arms of a God who has carried my friend from the day that he was born. His wife has the same assurance, and that faith is what’s carrying her through. Again, what are you resting on?
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” You might read that and see Jesus’ statement as arrogance or narrow-minded, or say to me that a loving God would not require every person in the world to believe in only one thing as an access into Heaven. Or, you can read that statement as it was intended in the way that Jesus meant it when it was first spoken: that we can choose to give Him all our cares, our worries, and our burdens, and let Him make a way for us. He chose to come, and give His life out of love for us in such a way that, if we will let Him, He will take away all the fear, and sorrow, and worry that can come from living in this life. He said, “In this world, you will have trouble, but don’t fear; I have overcome the world.” He paid the price for us, and took the responsibility upon Himself. That doesn’t mean that we won’t go through heartache or difficult times but wouldn’t you rather let the weight of those times rest upon the shoulders of a God who loved you enough to come and stand with you in the darkness until light shines again, rather than carry the burden of it yourself? Again, what are you believing in to carry you through?
The Christmas message is not a foolish one–or just a cute story of a baby lying in a manger–it is the ultimate testimony of a God who never wanted us to have to build our lives on a shaky foundation or live even one day alone. He came in our loneliness, our “lostness,” our questions, and worry, and fear, and said, “Come unto Me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He came so that we could lean against a strong, sure Foundation that can never be shaken. What love He gives to those who choose to come! It is not a narrow-minded, spiteful, religious message, but a message born of hope , and joy, and peace in whatever season you might find yourself. You can rest knowing that Jesus will never leave you, or forsake you: that He will stand with you in all the ups and downs, and joys and tears if you will choose to let Him love you. You might say that He is not real, or that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t know what you are going through. Nicole Nordeman sings a song that says:
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“What if you’re right? He was just another nice guy. What if You’re right? What if it’s true? They say the cross will only make a fool of you. What if it’s true? What if He takes His place in history with all the prophets and the kings who taught us love and came in peace, but then the story ends? What then? But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s more? What if there’s hope you’ve never dreamed of hoping for? What if You jump? Just close your eyes. What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise? What if He’s more than enough? What if it’s love? What if you dig way down deeper than your simple-minded friends? What if you dig? What if you find a thousand more unanswered questions down inside? That’s all you find? What if you pick apart the logic and begin to poke the holes?
What if the crown of thorns is no more than folklore that must be told and retold, and retold? But what if you’re wrong?…’Cuz you’ve been running as fast as you can. You’ve been looking for a place you land for so long. But what if you’re wrong? What if You jump? Just close your eyes. What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise? What if He’s more than enough? What if it’s love?”