Not exactly a joy-filled title for a Christmas post, I know. However, if we're being honest, this may be closer to reality. We hear the Christmas songs and we want it to be our story, but it's not. I can't muster up the "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" spirit. I'm not "Dreaming of a White Christmas"; I'm longing for a time when there will be no more tears. Let's face it, life is hard. And it's not getting easier. Every year that goes by I look back and think, I'm so glad that's over, and I think, surely next year will be better. You know the story, next year comes bringing a whole host of new problems. They seem to pile up until the dam breaks and life crushes you, leaving you doubting your faith, dreading gatherings with family or friends, or depressed about the curve ball life has thrown you. Illness, relational tension, faithlessness, finances - all are major stressors magnified this time of year. If only I had exercised more. If only I hadn't said what I said. If only I believed better. If only I had saved more money.
These are real feelings, real circumstances and this is real life. The hard part about Christmas is that everyone around seems so filled with the "Christmas Spirit" only increasing your awareness of your own lack of it. You look around and think; "What's wrong with me?" "Why can't I just get it together...everyone else has!" So, you try to get it together, and you try to do it by Christmas day! The pressure is on so hurry up and do the things you need to do to get the spirit going. Pray more or party more. Serve more or shop more. How's that working for you? I'll go first - it's not working at all...I'm still doubting, dreading and depressed. At first glance those seem like strong words. Here's how they play out:
I am doubting my faith. I can't explain it. Things don't seem to make sense to me like they once did. I have questions and I am doing some fist shaking at God. My heart feels cold to the things of God. What once excited me about worship, doesn't now. I feel like a fake and like I'm just going through the motions. I keep thinking it's going to get better.
I'm dreading church because of my doubting faith. I love my church. But now, I'm reminded of how cold my heart feels and I dread walking in and leaving once more feeling the same way. Again, I ask myself, "What's wrong with me?"
I'm depressed about all of this. Not in a true clinical way, but the kind of depression that seeps in and hovers. The cloud that doesn't seem to lift. The constant heaviness and numbness of heart.
Good news? Well, I know what it is intellectually. You know what it is too. We are reminded of it everywhere this time of year. Christ came as baby - the ultimate power clothed in weakness. He came to rescue wanderers, rebels, thieves and prostitutes like us. We weren't looking for him; in fact we were running. He seeks out the runners, the hiders, the pretenders. He marched on towards the cross - the place where Justice and Mercy kissed. He triumphed over death and sin and accomplished what he came to do - to set at liberty those who are enslaved and oppressed - and yes, to set free the doubting, the dreading and the depressed. Problem is, I'm having a hard time believing all this right now.
So, I wait.
Like Thomas I say; "Unless I see...I will never believe."
This is the same Thomas who said; "Let us also go, that we may die with him", knowing that going to Jerusalem surely meant the end for Jesus.
This disciple was willing to die for Jesus, and yet, after the resurrection he cowered and boldly refused belief unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and felt His wounds with his own hands. I like him. His faithlessness resonates with me.
Good news? Jesus came to him. Jesus showed himself to Thomas. He remained unfazed by Thomas' doubting. That's the gospel. Jesus comes to the weak and the broken. He seeks out the doubting, dreading and depressed. He came to Thomas knowing Thomas would never believe until he saw. Jesus knows that about you and about me too.
This time of year is a reminder that Jesus came then, and comes now, for all those who are in over their heads. He comes for the depleted, desperate and drowning. He comes for those who have tried a life preserver and realized they don't just need a helping hand. We need a death. We need a Resurrection. We need a Savior.
If you can't muster up a "Merry Christmas" like me, try these two words...they are on my lips too: