On holidays like Christmas, it can be so hard to look at Facebook and see one family picture after another – every family seemingly so happy and joyful being together. It is easy to think this is all as real and happy as it appears on Facebook. But is it really? Is this really reality? The truth is that it isn’t. Facebook is not really a place where people are transparent and show their lives as they really are. This Christmas hit me hard yesterday as I attended one of the Christmas Eve services at my church in Northern Virginia. Up until the service, the holidays had been okay for me. Suddenly, I found myself crying throughout the service – feeling so alone (as I went alone and sat in one of the few empty seats by myself). It APPEARED as though everyone else was experiencing the service and Christmas with immediate and extended family members in attendance. The enemy started sending piercing arrows my way:
- “You are alone, always have been, and always will be.” – Truth: I am never and will never be alone with Jesus.
- “You don’t belong, why are you even here in this service.” – Truth: It is my right as God’s child to come into His Presence, join in community with His Body, and worship Him.
- “Look at the families everyone else has to enjoy.” – Truth: All is not as it seems. It is a matter of perception.
The sermon was on the parable of the 2 Sons – both prodigals. As I sat, listened, and wept, I identified mostly with the younger son. I feel as though I have spent my time, energy, finances, and emotions on things that don’t satisfy and I feel utterly empty, an emptiness that only Jesus can fill and satisfy. You may ask, “how can I feel this way when I am a Christian?” The Christian life is not a perfect, happy, and joyful life day in and day out that is free of grief, loss, trial, tragedy, and struggle. Reality still exists. I was quickly reminded of a book a friend had recommended to me several months back called “The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller and I have been reading it since the service yesterday. As I was reading it this morning, I read a line about rights and was reminded of a blog I wrote 3 years ago about Gratitude and Entitlement. Here is part of that blog:
I want to say along with David in Psalm 16:6: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (NIV)
I have learned that I have no rights except these:
1. To be adopted as God’s child because of Jesus.
2. To cry Abba, Father.
3. To come boldly to the throne of grace anytime, any place, for any reason.
4. To worship Him with every part of me forever.
I am learning that ALL IS GIFT. Everything I have today is a gift from God. I came into this world with nothing and I will leave the same way some day. As I have learned about having no rights and receiving everything that happens and everything I am given as a gift from my Father, I have found great freedom.
When I live believing that I have rights to things, I end up feeling at the mercy of those things and feel despair when things don’t happen the way I think they should or things just aren’t the way I think they should be. When I live out of a place of gratitude where all is gift, I experience true freedom and true peace. It is all a matter of attitude and perspective.
Today, what this means to me is this: I will live today out of gratitude and I will receive ALL as gift: my aloneness, my singleness, my emotions, my emptiness, my weariness from the last year, my fickle emotions, my periodic struggles with doubt and unbelief, and everything else that the enemy may present to me as a loss, or failure on the part of my Heavenly Father to care for and love me perfectly. Each of the things I have listed I can be grateful for if I choose to. Why choose to be grateful? Because in every one of these areas, God is working and He will be glorified above all else!! He created me with all of my struggles, failures, and feelings that HE MAY BE GLORIFIED ABOVE ALL! May you realize you have no rights this Christmas and may He be glorified as you choose gratitude!! Blessings.