God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea. God says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be praised in all the nations; I will be praised throughout the earth.” The Lord All-Powerful is with us; the God of Jacob is our defender. (Psalm 46: 1-2, 10-11 NCV)
Well, November finally showed up here in Central Illinois today. I didn´t hear anybody complaining that it was three weeks late. Indeed, I have been grateful for the 60 degrees and sunshine almost every day this month.
But today, we´re back to the 45 degrees and raining. And it won´t be long before the snow comes. We have danced our annual jig of setting the clocks back an hour for no good reason, so it seems like it´s dark all the time. And when it´s not, it´s cloudy.
As the holiday season approaches, we find ourselves amidst a whirlwind of commercialized chaos, a stark contrast to the tranquility and joy this time of year is meant to evoke. The relentless pace, coupled with the gloomy winter weather, can easily dampen our spirits, transforming the season of cheer into a maelstrom of stress and anxiety. It´s enough to bring out the Scrooge in anyone.
Oh, and let´s not forget, there´s a war in Israel. And Ukraine. And our economy is in the toilet. Pick your headline; they´re all bad. These times of trouble are enough to make anybody depressed.
Now take all these external stimuli and pile them on the shoulders of someone who already suffers from clinical depression and/or anxiety. What other people call ‟the holiday season” I call ‟Sixty Days of Night.” I drag in the morning, stare into space all afternoon, and feel like succumbing to the void around 6:30 every evening.
Peace on earth and goodwill to men? By mid-December, I just want to watch the whole place burn. If the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge were here, they´d tell ME to lighten up. 24/7 Christmas Music on the radio? I am not here for it. Black Friday? Yeah, that sounds about right.
A Ray of Hope
Yet through all of this, God is still God. He remains our unwavering anchor. It may be hard to find evidence in these times of trouble that He is still on His throne, but where else would He be? He does not change, no matter what happens down here. When we say that the world is “out of control,” we mean that it’s out of our control. It is never out of His.
However difficult this truth can be to hold onto in the turmoil of our lives, we must persevere in doing so. Whenever our way of life is threatened because of what’s going on in the world around us, we must remember that this way of life was never meant to last anyway. We are looking forward to life eternal that will not pass away. For this reason, we fix our eyes and our faith on the things that don’t move.
Overcoming Doubt with Faith
Bad days are going to happen. Sometimes we will have times of trouble that could last months or years when we don’t feel God’s presence. We may doubt His goodness, or even His existence.
However, whenever I find myself in such a spiritual funk, during the holidays or whenever, I always come back to Peter’s declaration to Jesus in John 6:68, after Jesus asked the Twelve if they were going to desert Him, as many other disciples were doing:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I couldn’t go back to my old life if I wanted to, and there have been days where I wanted to. There are days when it just doesn’t seem worth the effort or the sacrifice that it takes to live the Christian life, because I can’t see the reward from here. When my fear outweighs my faith, I forget what God has already done, throughout history, and in my personal life. Some days I just want to chuck it all and give in to the despair, but then I always have to confront the question, “OK, then what?”
A Practical Tool for Times of Trouble
One thing that I have done for myself, and that I highly recommend for others, is to keep a journal of some sort listing every answer to prayer, every unexpected blessing, any time you have seen scripture fulfilled, any change in your life that can only be attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit. Keep this in an easily accessible place. I have mine as a document on the desktop of my computer.
During times of trouble or doubt, revisit this journal. Satan can’t gain a foothold in your mind if you keep your memories of God’s goodness fresh. Daily scripture reading is a good weapon against doubt, but it becomes even more effective when combined with regular reflections on where you’ve seen God at work in your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Accepting God’s Timing and Understanding His Ways
If you do this, expect some gaps in this journal. You are not likely to experience a bona fide miraculous intervention every day. This doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It means that we must learn to trust His timing. A day will come when things fall neatly into place, and you can look back and see the progress that led to that point. Such progress is imperceptible as it’s happening, though. So, when it does happen, put that in your journal with a note of thanksgiving and praise that God was in control of the situation from the very beginning. Remember, unlike us, He can see the end of things from the beginning.
It is also critical to remember that God doesn’t always ride in and “rescue us” whenever we think we need rescuing. Sometimes, He lets us face times of trouble for reasons that we can’t comprehend. Sometimes our questions remain unanswered in this life. We can find solace in the faith that all our questions will be answered in heaven. God doesn’t come around to our way of thinking; therefore, we must do our best to align our thinking with His.
Overcoming Fear with Faith
Faith requires exercise to remain strong, just like our bodies do. If you are one of the many who has bought a health club membership, but not lost any weight or inches off your midsection, then you already know that your situation might improve if you actually went to the health club. Owning the membership doesn’t create actual change. Owning a Bible without reading it has the same effect–bupkus. Knowing about the power of prayer without actually praying—ditto.
Similarly, we must continue renewing our minds and reinforcing our faith by reminding ourselves constantly of God’s unchanging nature. His presence is unwavering. He is with us, and He is for us. And He always will be.
So, if you, like me, are prone to getting stressy and depressy during the holidays, take heart. Jesus has overcome the world. By placing our faith, trust, and complete reliance on Him, we can do the same.
Be still and know that.
(Try your best to have a happy Thanksgiving. I am taking the rest of the week off to spend with family, including my mother-in-law, who just turned 90 today! See you next week!)