At Christmas, we rejoice in Immanuel—God with us. Jesus leaves heaven to pitch His tent in our neighborhood, to invade our world.
Healing for the holidays requires that we allow God’s eternal story to invade our earthly story. One of my dear friends from Uniontown Bible Church, likes to say, “When life stinks, our perspective shrinks.” She’s spot on.
When the holidays arrive and we grieve the loss of a loved one, when we feel the pain of the miles that separate us from immediate family members, when we agonize over a divorce that pulls families in so many different directions, it’s natural to focus exclusively on our pain.
It’s not only natural, there is a supernatural process involved—an evil supernatural process. Just as we can use digital photography to crop anything we want into or out of our photos, so Satan attempts to crop Christ out of our picture.
When life stinks and our perspective shrinks, we need to crop Christ back into the picture. We need to expand our eyesight to God’s eternal perspective.
See in This Some Higher Plan
Our eyes darkened by despair, we need grace-eyes. We need to weave in another way of looking at life. Biblical weaving is entrusting myself to God’s larger purposes, good plans, and eternal perspective. I see life with spiritual eyes instead of eyeballs only. I look at my suffering, not with rose colored glasses, but with faith eyes, with Cross-eyes, with 20/20 spiritual vision.
There’s an amazing scene in Les Miserables where Jean val Jean, a paroled prisoner, takes advantage of a grace-filled Bishop. Stealing from him, Jean val Jean is captured by the French police. They return him to the Bishop, fully expecting him to implicate val Jean which would lead to a return to prison without hope for parole. To the shock of everyone involved, the Bishop says, “But my brother, you forgot these,” and hands him two silver candlesticks.
Everyone is floored when the Bishops says, “By the witness and the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, I have bought your soul for God. Now become an honest man. See in this some higher plan.” Val Jean, amazed by grace, changed by grace, then concludes the scene by singing, “Another story must begin!”
A friend of my, recounting this to me, commented. “Now everything that happens to me, I’m looking for God’s higher plan. I’m setting my thoughts on things above—always wondering what God might be up to in this. For me, another story must begin—God’s story that doesn’t obliterate my painful story, but that gives it meaning.”
Joseph’s Story: Grace Narratives
In your holiday hurt, hear Joseph’s words to his fearful family in Genesis 50:19-20. “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Joseph uses “intended” both for his brothers’ plans and God’s purposes. The Hebrew word has a very tangible sense of to weave, to plait, to interpenetrate as in the weaving together of fabric to fashion a robe, perhaps even Joseph’s coat of many colors.
The Old Testament also used the word in a negative, metaphorical sense to suggest a malicious plot, the devising of a cruel scheme. Other times the Jews used “intended” to picture symbolically the creation of some new and beautiful purpose or result through the weaving together of seemingly haphazard, miscellaneous, or malicious events.
“Life is bad,” Joseph admits. “You plotted against me for evil. You intended to spoil or ruin something wonderful.”
“God is good,” Joseph insists. “God wove good out of evil,” choosing a word for “good” that is the superlative of pleasant, beautiful. That is, God intended to create amazing beauty from seemingly worthless ashes for those who grieve (Isaiah 61:3).
Life hurts. Wounds penetrate. Without grace narratives, hopelessness and bitterness flourish. With a grace narrative, hope and forgiveness flow and perspective grows.
Instead of our perspective shrinking, suffering is the exact time when we must listen most closely, when we must lean over to hear the whisper of God. True, God shouts to us in our pain, but His answers, as with Elijah, often come to us in whispered still small voices amid the thunders of the world.
In weaving, God heals our wounds as we envision a future even while all seems lost in the present. Through hope we remember the future; we move from Good Friday to Easter Sunday while living on Saturday. Grace narratives point the way to God’s larger story, assuring us that our Savior is worth our wait.
The Rest of the Story
We’re nearing the end of our healing journey together. In the tenth and final part in our series on healing for the holidays, we consider worship. How can we find God even when we can’t find answers?
Join the Conversation
How could you crop Christ back into your holiday album this holiday season?
Help for Your Healing Journey
For additional help on your healing journey, learn more about God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting.