Christmas and the holiday season are not always times that are cheery and bright. Loneliness and loss have a sharper edge then because they contrast with our longings to have Christmas be a time of warmth and love and joy. Suffering and grief can also inflict a terrible sense of alienation on our hearts. We can feel as if we don’t matter. But what we are going through is taken seriously by God. We are taken seriously by God. We matter to Him.
When I think of suffering in the Bible, I think of Job as most people do. David, Jeremiah, and Joseph also come to mind. We see glimpses of the anguish of Joseph in his experiences in Egypt, however, Job, David, and Jeremiah left us torrents of words as they cried out to God. In their words you feel their affliction. Their words give us a voice and can help lessen our isolation as we read them because we realize someone else has known what I experience and felt exactly as I do. Their words teach us how to grieve before God. Their words keep us turning back to God. I think God’s inclusion of their laments in His Word is a mark of His consolation for us as we suffer—what we are going through matters to God.
God never trivializes us or treats our pain lightly. In Job we see a man, a good man, who struggles with his doubts and his longing to trust God. Job’s horrific circumstances drive him to grapple with life at its depths as he asks why. God answers Job in the closing chapters of the book, not by explaining why he has suffered so greatly, but by giving Job an understanding of who He is. As He questions Job and calls him to observe Creation, Job realizes that God’s wisdom and power and justice are matters far beyond Job’s ken.1 There are no glib answers here—there is a call to trust. No glib answers means the horror of Job’s circumstances is not trivialized, and neither is Job. Neither are our circumstances trivialized, and neither are we. We matter to God. Peter encourages us,
I have a New Testament in which that last phrase is literally translated as, “because to him it matters concerning you.”2 He cares. You matter. Who you are and what you are going through right here, right now, matters to God.
God calls us to trust Him. But how can we learn to trust God in the midst of loneliness and sometimes horrible circumstances? Os Guinness’ words in his book, Doubt, have helped me immensely.
“Not surprisingly it is those whose faith in God is anchored in the incarnation—God become flesh, crucified, risen—whose faith can pass through the fires of suffering. For there is no question however deep or painful which cannot be trusted with the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.”3
“Anchored in the incarnation—God become flesh, crucified, risen—” “no question however deep or painful which cannot be trusted with the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.” This is why I can trust God. He sent His Son to die in my place. Such great love brings me to continue to trust Him when I hurt and don’t know the why of my days or understand the times of my suffering. I’m not just talking to you—I’m also talking to me because I’ve cried my own Christmas tears.
For all of you who have Christmas tears this year, may you know the depths of God’s love through the gift of His Son.
Hope is here.
And remember, Christ was born that day so that one day there will come a day when we will see and know:
Depression-loss of loved one: I can no longer find the source, but I believe this photograph is in the Public Domain.
Miedo ajeno: RayNata. Public Domain.
1E. S. P. Heavenor and David Atkinson both speak of these themes in God’s speeches to Job. Atkinson writes (my emphasis: “God is a God of wisdom (nature reminds us [Job 38–39]), of power (the monsters remind us [Job 40:15–41:34]), and of justice (as God now says to Job [40:6–14]). With this assertion of divine wisdom, power and justice, we have a description of the character of God in whose hands lie the mysteries of this world’s suffering. Before such a God every escape hatch is closed to the human logic which would play one part of God’s nature off against another. God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all good.”
David Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and grace (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove IL: 1991) 151, 153.
E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, third ed., D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, London 1970) 443.
You can find my posts on Job at Read the Bible in 2011: Winter Quarter and Read the Bible in 2011: Spring Quarter.
2Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI:1958, 1959) 921.
3Os Guinness, Doubt (Lion Publishing plc, England: 1976; Third Edition,1987) 212.
This post was originally titled, “Christmas Tears.”
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