This Christmas I’ve been thinking about gifts. Not the ones I’ve purchased or the ones I’ll receive from family, but the greatest gift of all. The gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Savior and hope for the entire world.
There is no gift more valuable than that of Jesus Christ and what his birth, death and resurrection means for all of us who believe in him. He gives me hope, purpose and meaning. He saved me from myself, accepted me with all my flaws, all my sins and shortcomings, and loves me without limit. Because of Jesus, my time on earth has a different meaning. It doesn’t mean everything. It is simply a temporary passage to my real eternal home with Christ.
Lately I have been ill and it has made me depressed. I haven’t felt up to going anywhere or doing much of anything. At times I’ve felt kind of useless, because I haven’t been able to accomplish anything. It is in these weak moments when my faith is the most important to me. When I am physically exhausted, emotionally drained and mentally spent, I turn to the Lord. I know he is there even when I don’t really sense his presence. He is always there. I just have to seek him… through his word, prayer, meditation, listening to podcasts.
There are so many ways to connect with him. Sometimes I forget because they are higher, different ways than what is in the world. I’m not going to find him on Facebook. He’s not on Twitter (thankfully). I can’t text him. I have to humble myself, get on my knees and speak aloud to him, fervently pray and ask him for help. Sometimes I am in such distress that I can’t think of the right words, so I just say “Jesus, please help me” or something like that. I know he hears me. I know he answers my prayers. I may not always like the answer, but he always gives one.Sometimes the answer comes when I’m not expecting it.
For example, since last spring, I’ve been embroiled in the painstaking government process of applying for VA benefits for my father, who served during the Korean War. I’ve submitted reams of information and have heard either silence for the VA or a form letter saying they need one more thing, one more data point to prove he has dementia, heart failure, was a veteran, doesn’t have any assets, you name it. They have come up with all kinds of requests. I’ve prayed about it so many times and have gotten frustrated and discouraged.
Approximately 10 days later, I was contacted by the head of the VA office for the state of Louisiana. He said he had received my White House inquiry and my claim was being “expedited.” Two days ago, I received a letter from the VA approving my father’s full benefit, including back pay to the original claim date of 4/19.
Not every answered prayer is as splashy as this one, but they are equally meaningful. When God gives me information, he is affirming my connecting with him. The information sometimes comes through other people or events or–and this is the most common one with me–it’s just a Knowing I have that I’m headed in the right direction. Not a feeling, because feelings can lead me away from God. They often are not from the Lord. It’s more of a certainty, a sense of ease and comfort and then things click in place. It’s like I’m going with the tide instead of fighting against it.
I try to remember these things, because I will need them when things turn dark. When I get sad or am hurting in some way, it is sometimes hard to remember all the ways the Lord has saved me. All the times he has pulled me out of the fire. Instead my inclination is to wallow and feel sorry for myself, to give up and submit to the hopelessness I feel around me.
But then I am reminded of what he did for me when he came as a child. I think about the sinless life he lived, the power of his ministry during the short period of his life. I focus on the incredible agony he endured on the cross and the sacrifice he made for me, one I do not deserve and can never repay. One I will never have to repay, because I have been saved by grace. The grace of God. Nothing I can do or earn, just his unbelievable grace.
I think of this child, this living Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know there is nothing that will ever match this gift. I am so grateful he came for me. I am so grateful I belong to him.