When Christmas Renews a Burden for Someone You Love

prayer

“How is your family doing?”

I ponder the question and wonder which version to give her. Does she really want to know? Or is she just making small talk?

With a half smile, I tell her they are fine. We talk about my parents’ physical health and my brother’s whereabouts, leaving the conversation short and not going into any detail.

To be honest, small talk exhausts me. It is a skill I developed over the years, but I would much rather dive into the deep things, the spiritual things, than talk about the weather.

But sometimes the truth is too much for short conversation, the heart of the matter too intense. Brevity and pat answers just seem easier, don’t they?

We are in a season that is defined by family. And our families define us too. We see picture perfect poses of siblings and cousins on Facebook and some of them actually exude love through the screen. You can feel it.

But there is another emotion that no one talks about this time of year. It is the heart that is burdened, hurting, and perhaps losing hope for a family member.

If you don’t have one in yours, I guarantee you know someone who does. You may not know it, but they sit beside you at church, at the kids’ basketball game, and at the Christmas play.

They wonder if their loved one will ever break the chains of that addiction. If they’ll ever come home once and for all. They question whether they’ll ever see the Light that can penetrate the deepest darkness.

For the person with the burdened heart, coming home is a reminder that all isn’t well. While the time and the absence away from family may have changed her, it hasn’t changed the one she loves.

I know because I’ve been there. I know because I live it.

Sometimes the enemy plants a seed of doubt in my mind. I question all the intercessory prayers I sent up. I wonder how many prayers it takes to change a life.

Perhaps you’ve been there? You’re walking through a dark valley and you’re losing hope. Can I take your hand and share a little glimmer of light with you?

In the gospel of Luke, chapter 11 opens with Jesus praying. When he is finished, his disciples come to him and say,

“Teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1 NIV

They don’t ask how to raise the dead or heal people. They don’t want to know how to obtain earthly wealth or skill. After all, they left everything they owned to follow him. No, they asked him for instruction in one thing: prayer.

Would it suffice to say they thought it was important?

In a following passage, Jesus tells an interesting story. A man has a visitor in town but nothing to feed him, so he bangs on a friend’s door in the middle of the night to ask for food. The friend, not surprisingly, doesn’t want to let him in.

It’s inconvenient. It’s late. He’s tired and cranky. But the man is persistent. He doesn’t give up, and eventually the friend lets him in and gives him food.

The story serves to illustrate an important point: God loves persistent prayer. Not only that, he answers such prayers. It is like a chorus of praise to his ears. He doesn’t get tired of hearing the same requests repeated over and over. On the contrary, he delights in it.

Jesus concludes the story by saying,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 NIV

Persistent prayer shows immovable faith. Even though we don’t see the answer, we trust the God who does.

Can I ask you not to give up hope this season? If you’ve abandoned the altar of prayer, can I encourage you to come before the throne of grace again? I promise to join you in a renewed vigor to keep asking, to keep seeking, to keep believing in a God who can do all things.

He’s waiting for you to come to him. He lives to intercede.

Never stop asking him to.

 

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1 NLT

For the One Who Doesn’t Feel Prepared

immanuel

If there was an award given for procrastination, I would be a top contender.

When people ask me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” the answer is, “No.” Not even close.

My kids received a Christmas card in the mail from Santa yesterday. It has no return address. It says he heard they’ve been very good this year.

How did he hear this? I have no idea.

Perhaps he is real and will be delivering all of their gifts down the chimney on Christmas Eve, saving me from the last minute hustle. One can hope, right?

In the midst of all the unmet expectations I place on myself, I know one thing is true. My kids have all they need this Christmas. They have the unconditional love of two parents who are loved unconditionally by our Savior. 

I asked my six-year-old what he wanted for Christmas and he didn’t give me a long list. He named one toy. A transformer named Chase, like his friend Dawson’s. I think I can handle that.

This year, whether you’re way ahead on your list of to-dos or far behind, like me, remember this: a pile of presents will never replace utter fulfillment in Immanuel: God with us. When we prepare our hearts for him, everything else will fall into place.

The good news already came. Let’s not forget it.

 

*Linking up for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of writers who free-write for five minutes each Friday on one word. Today’s word was: prepare.