When You’re Floored By Bad News

 

TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY

Christmas is a joyous season, but for some it doesn’t feel that way.

I understand. Some of the most painful events in my life happened in the month of December. The two miscarriages I experienced both happened in that month. My father died on December 7 in 2001. It was Christmas Day when we found out that my husband’s father had passed away.

Sometimes the happiness of the season only amplifies your pain.

Maybe this year you didn’t have a lot of good news. In fact, you had more than your fair share of bad news. Perhaps your job disappeared in the sinking economy. Or your doctor gave a diagnosis without much hope. Or you lost a loved one. You are waiting and hoping for some good news.

I bet the shepherds near Bethlehem on that Christmas night felt much the same way. The whole nation of Israel had been groaning under Roman rule. They were tired of seeing foreign soldiers in the streets. They were tired of obeying a ruler who lived far away. Life seemed like a long string of bad news.

So when the angel announced that he had good news for them, he immediately had the shepherds’ attention:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

The shepherds didn’t waste any time in going to see what all the good news was about. They raced to Bethlehem to see the baby and immediately told others the good news (Luke 2:17). They praised God for all they had seen and heard (Luke 2:20).

As I think about the shepherd’s response I am humbled. 

You see, the good news they received did not immediately change their financial situation. Sharing the good news probably gave them their 15 minutes of fame, but it didn’t get them wealth or power.

Still, they realized that this was the best good news and so they told others and praised God.

I, on the other hand, may not always be exuberant about the good news of the Savior. I’m tempted to continue to focus on the bad news: the doctor’s diagnosis or the generally lousy state of the economy. I forget that the good news of Jesus overcomes any of the rotten news of this world. Yes, things might not improve right away, but God promises a happy ending in heaven for those who trust in the Babe of Bethlehem.

So this Christmas I’m praying that I will be more like the shepherds–rejoicing in the best news ever!

The good news of Jesus overcomes any of the lousy news of this world. Click To Tweet

Jesus Christ is born! We are rescued from sin and death! In Christ we have life and peace! We are welcomed into God’s family. 

Next step: Write a prayer thanking God for the best news ever. And if this year is one of those years with more bad news than good, I would be honored to pray for you. Send me an email or share your prayer requests in the comments below.

THE shepherds

When You Are Waiting

soul waits - Copy

This December we are going to examine the characters of Christmas. We’ll look into the lives of the people who were part of the Christmas story.

Let’s start with Elizabeth and her tale of waiting. Elizabeth begins the story of Christmas with a miraculous birth of her own.

Luke describes Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah as “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).  Both of them carefully obeyed God’s laws for worship and daily life. But they had a great sadness—Elizabeth was barren. Plus, Luke tells us that she and Zechariah were both advanced in years. Years ago when I was struggling to get pregnant, people tried to comfort me by saying, “Don’t worry. You’re young. You’ll get pregnant soon.” No one was saying those words to Elizabeth any more. Elizabeth waited and waited and waited and still was not blessed with a child. All hope of ever having a child had long faded. It had now become, humanly speaking, an impossibility.

Then one day, Zechariah is surprised by the visit of the angel Gabriel who tells him that God has heard his prayers and that they will soon have a son!

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. (Luke 1:13-15)

And if that isn’t enough to knock over Zechariah with a feather, Gabriel goes on to tell the old priest that his son will be the one to prepare the people for the Savior!

This story is so encouraging to me! Elizabeth waited and waited for a baby.

We all wait. Wait for news about the new job. Wait for healing. Wait for the restoration of a relationship. And we hate it. Wait is a four-letter-word that we want to avoid.

But when I look at the stories in the Bible I see that God often made His people wait. It seems to me that often He didn’t work out the answer to the problem right away because the delay made the answer that much more miraculous. The birth of Isaac was that much more remarkable because he was born to ninety-year-old Sarah. Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt was even more amazing after spending years in prison. The Israelites possession of the Promised Land was more astounding after being enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, than if Jacob’s descendants had slowly taken over the region.

And now God drew attention to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby through a long delay.Because Elizabeth gave birth when she was “well advanced in years,” it seemed obvious that this child was going to be special.

Not only would the baby John be a significant addition to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family, he would be important to the whole nation of Israel—because He would prepare the people for the coming of the Savior.

God was doing something bigger than answering a prayer for a baby. He was answering the prayer for a Savior. If John was going to prepare hearts for the arrival of the Savior it meant Messiah was coming soon!

So whatever you are waiting for look for God’s hand in it. He may be working out something even bigger than you can imagine!

Next step: What are you waiting for? Write it down on a piece of paper and then write out a prayer asking God to help you be patient as He works out His will. Ask Him to help you see the bigger thing He is working on through the delay.

elizabeth

When Your Soul Doubts Its Worth

One of my favorite “jobs” of the Christmas season is to get out all of the Christmas decorations and put up the Christmas tree. I drag up all the boxes from the basement, assemble the Christmas tree, gently unwrap each ornament and hang it on a branch–all while listening to my favorite Christmas CDs.

This year while I was wrapping lights around the tree, one little lyric from the beloved carol, “O Holy Night” suddenly struck me as if I had heard it for the first time:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

The soul felt its worth.

Do you feel valuable?
Precious?
Do you feel you are worth something?
Anything?

In his book, Fearless, Max Lucado says that one of mankind’s greatest fear is the the fear of not mattering. Friends forget to call–we wonder, do they care? We shuffle through crowds looking for Christmas presents–we feel like one of a herd. Among a world population of 7 billion, does one puny life make any difference at all?

Thankfully, the truth of Christmas is that you do matter. You are especially important to God. You matter so much that Jesus left the comfort and splendor of heaven to be born to a poor Galilean couple. He loved you enough to lie on a bed of straw. He cared enough for you to experience hunger, thirst, and even damp swaddling clothes.

He came to this world because of all our “sin and error.” He came to redeem us so that each one of us could live with Him forever if we believe in His saving work on the cross.

This Christmas, if while pushing through crowds you begin to wonder if you matter at all, remember that you are valuable in God’s eyes. He tells you in His Word:

“You are precious in My eyes and honored, and I love you.”
Isaiah 43:4

When I reread those words, my fear of not mattering melted, and

“the soul felt its worth.”

Question: Where do you turn when you doubt your worth?