Heaven Isn’t Run by Hallmark

Have you ever found it hard to wake up in the morning and greet another day?

Ever wake up crying, full of anxiety, certain that the day held no promise except that it would be a challenge to suffer through from one end to the other?

Has it ever been that the encouraging words of others, rather than a blessing, felt like burning acid poured on your already scalded spirit?

Ever felt that the promises of God were meant for others but not for you?

You’re not alone (although I know it feels that way).

Today ushers in the holiday season. And while, for some, that means favorite decorations, special foods, and cherished traditions, for others it means a magnifying glass has just been thrust over the deficiencies of their lives and the white hot sun of the upcoming season will bear down on them like a lasered sunbeam on a helpless ant.

Sorry, we aren’t hiring until after the holidays.

No, they won’t let me come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I can’t make it to the New Year. I’m leaving you now. I don’t care what it will do to the kids, I have to think about me.

The landlord won’t extend until December. We’ll have to find a shelter right now.

Are you his parents? I’m sorry to have to tell you this but . . .

 They’ve cut back on hours. I know we aren’t making it but I’m lucky just to have a job.

No, I don’t understand why she’s acting this way either but I can’t seem to reach her. I feel so helpless.

 There’s never any change in his condition except that it gets worse. It’s just the way it is. No, he won’t recognize you.

For people just barely making it through their days because of any number of stresses (emotional, financial, marital, parental, medical), the holiday season appears like a different flavor of torture. Now, they’re not only in pain but they need to smile through it. Now, they’re not only depressed but they will have a front row seat to others’ happiness. Now, if they show up, they’ll just ruin the good time for everyone else.

And within the family of God, this can be just as hard, if not harder.

You just have to trust God. Don’t you believe He’ll provide for you?

Just keep praying and waiting. I’m sure things will turn around.

God loves you and has a special plan for your life. You need to praise Him, tithe more, serve others, forget your own problems, give it all over to Him, be positive, focus on your blessings, repent of your depression, think about the real reason behind the season, smile and keep your eyes on Him, come to our pageant, you’ll feel better being with a group.

 People mean well.

They really do but suffering has an isolation factor that’s hard to penetrate from either side. That doesn’t mean, though, that we should give up trying.

If you’re suffering, first of all, be honest with God. Read Jeremiah 20 if you need a blueprint for this:

“Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you,” making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the LORD overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow,and spend my days in shame?” Jeremiah 20:14-18 (ESV)

Jeremiah knew how to throw down some agony before the throne of grace. Whatever you’re thinking or feeling, God knows already so make it a prayer, a real conversation with God.

Second, hang out near safe people and avoid toxic ones. You know, the ones who really don’t get it.
But, don’t judge them. You’ve no idea what their story is behind that sweater with the Christmas puppy on the front and the giant plate of gingerbread. They may be hurting just like you but they’ve been trained to stick a bow on it and smile.

Third, remember that heaven isn’t run by Hallmark. God doesn’t frown on you for mentioning your situation when it’s supposed to be all about Him. He doesn’t take a break from real issues because it’s December. He hasn’t lost you in the crowd because He’s got a list of things to do a mile long. And, He’s not limited, so He isn’t just focused on the people with “real” problems or the ones who have their acts together.

God is WITH us. He’s not donning sunglasses and packing for a holiday cruise. He hangs out in homeless shelters, homes with foreclosure notices and no heat, kitchens with empty cupboards, hearts with fading hope, offices full of pressure, minds distraught with fear, and relationships at the breaking point.
He’s so there.

If you’re not suffering this season but really do love people who are, seek the heart and mind of God.

Give sacrificially and personally. Don’t just send shoeboxes far away, look to the needs in the next pew. Sometimes cash actually does solve problems (like when the problem is a lack of cash, for instance).
Pray sacrificially. Intercede for those who suffer. Don’t increase your shopping time, triple your prayer time. Don’t decorate, advocate. Barrage the gates of heaven with intercession. Instead of an errand list, write an intercession list and work it!

And if you are able, provide a safe place for those who are in pain to be whatever they are right now. Are they angry, scared, lonely, depressed, frustrated, or confused? Don’t insist that their hearts conform to the calendar in your presence. Let them be real and show them the face of Christ that doesn’t reject authenticity.

God knew where He was sending His son. He’s not shocked by our pain, our problems or our suffering. He isn’t repulsed by our failure nor does He reject our humanity. It’s why He came.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” Isaiah 61:1-3 (ESV)

God is at work during the holidays as much as the rest of the year. There’s no reason He won’t meet with you now. He’s not tied up with receiving all the gratitude of Thanksgiving or all the attention of Christmas.

He’s with you. And He’s not afraid to enter your suffering heart. Let Him in.

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    The Conversation

  1. Heather says:

    Lori, great post. I am reminded of so many of the Christmas hymns that speak to God reaching out to us, Christ coming into our dark, hopeless, and fearful world. Thanks for the reminder to reach out to others in the midst of their suffering and not just be dazzled by the displays of “joy” around us.

  2. Angel says:

    Great insight Lori.

  3. Your article immediately brought back intense memories of my family’s two year journey into and through the very depths of hell. One year ago today, God delivered us out of it in an unforgettable way. But I pray I never forget what hell was like; I will cease being compassionate and comprehending toward others and, therefore, I will not be able to serve the Lord the way He intended. Wonderful article. Cynthia Howerter at SOAR WITH EAGLES blog.

  4. Leslie Payne says:

    Beautiful post, Lori. Would you post it again the beginning of December? I think it would be worth reading again right about then. Thank you.