The Christmas season is often one of joy. But for some of us, it is one of hardship and sorrows.
Perhaps you’ve lost a family member recently. Or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with a disease you never saw coming. Maybe you’re struggling with the same sin over and over again. Or maybe you’re just plain tired! Whatever the trial you’re enduring, such a generally joyful season can almost seem…unattainable or far-reaching…while you’re in the thick of it.
And it is. On our own strength, it is indeed.
I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease. This is the first I’ve written about it, and I have a feeling it will be cause for many more meditations in the future. But for now, it is one of those hardships that arrived slowly and painfully, confirmed itself quickly, and has made joy seem somewhat illusive throughout the recent weeks.
It has made me cling to the cross all the more desperately. And it has made it clear that joy isn’t easy. Sometimes, it’s a fight.
But praise be to God, joy has dawned in Jesus Christ! Joy isn’t found in ourselves! And we celebrate our wonderful Lord and Savior as we anticipate Christmas these next twenty-something days. I hope you’ll follow along with me in Isaiah chapter nine for the next few weeks, to absorb all the glory of Christ during Advent.
Here’s the beginning:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
While much of the book of Isaiah is talking about God’s anguish over and wrath upon the disobedient and unfaithful nations, namely Israel, the book richly foreshadows the vanquishing of all sin and evil in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:15-17).
Our anguish does not determine our eternal outcome. Often it can feel like our pain and distress determines some sort of outcome, be it our emotional state or the way we treat our families. And that very well may be true. When I find myself in distress, it often leads to tears. But tears are temporary. “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.” At the day of Jesus Christ, every tear will be wiped away from our faces! As we have been saved from the coming wrath, how much more are our temporary trials and afflictions but a momentary trouble in light of eternity with Christ?
May our hardship and anguish be for God’s glory, in that they point us to what is eternal.
Christ makes us glorious, not ourselves. I don’t know about you, but when I’m having a hard day, I often try to find comfort in worldly goods or pleasures. Putting on make-up and jewelry makes me feel better. Hot tea makes me feel better. A good book makes me feel better. But only temporarily. None of us can save ourselves, nor give ourselves comfort or lasting peace. And God knew that, which is why only Christ would be sufficient for our weaknesses and the final sacrifice for all our sins. “He has made glorious,” says Isaiah 9.
May the reminder of our weaknesses and our desire for comfort lead us to our Eternal Comfort, the Glorious One who alone clothes his children in glory and honor, peace and security, beauty and strength.
Our joy is in our Hope. I remember playing games as a little girl, specifically the one where you turn off all the lights and have to find your way around the room. Scary, to say the least, with little hope for getting around without gaining a stubbed toe by the end. Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, came to redeem sinners who “dwelt in a land of deep darkness,” who could not see the light of day, nor have any hope for salvation apart from his light. We once were stumbling around in the dark, just trying to avoid a stubbed toe now and then, with little concern for our spiritual state. But in Christ, we have been made alive and awakened to the Holy Spirit’s presence and indwelling and richness! During seasons of affliction and trial, when joy seems hard to fathom, remember this: your joy is in your Hope. And your Hope is eternal, lasting, and indestructible.
May the hope of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus strengthen you and cause you to well up with praise, as you meditate on all that is yours, eternally, in Christ.