Feelings get magnified during the holidays. During the hard years, the holidays seem to bring a constant light to the struggles. I remember a couple years ago my life felt like it exploded and I had such pain in my heart. As the holidays came around, I kept thinking about the years before when things were so nice. I felt like I was in survival mode and in a haze through all of the traditions, thinking of what used to be or what could have been. If I didn’t focus on God (and on the present), I felt myself going into despair and analytical thinking – trying to figure out if I could have prevented the hurt. In the hard years, my choice was simple: focus on God and on hope He has for me or live miserably for a few months in the holiday season. I chose the former and felt fulfilled like I never had before. It was just me and God and every time I was tempted to get triggered, I ran to Him. I had never felt the truth of Psalm 23 quite as much as when I was suffering.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Sometimes, I remember feeling like I was suffocating in my thoughts, unable to see truth and hope, and I remember His peace flooding my body. I would breathe it in and rest into the reality I was stable and loved.
But just as holidays make bad years feel worse, they can also make good years feel better. And this is what we all see on Facebook. We see a lot of the people that are having great years posting pictures of days with wonderful, smiling families, all with matching pajamas and seemingly perfect. We see marriages, children, houses, vacations, breakthroughs and happiness. The holidays can be the time of seeing our blessings up close and personal – or our apparent lack of blessings.
This year, I’m having one of those great years. After not dating for four years, I felt God’s blessing for me to date the best man in the world. I love my job and where I live, and while I have troubles, they feel smaller this year than in past years.
And in the ease of this year, I haven’t been as desperate to run to Jesus for breath and life. I haven’t been as heartbroken or hurt, or as triggered, or desperate for His embrace. And, even though I am grateful to God for the blessings of this year, I miss how necessary it used to feel to get my joy from God.
I think during those hard times, I understood reality most accurately. I saw clearly that God was the only one I could depend on forever, no matter what. I had no idolatry. I didn’t view life’s ultimate goal as success in relationships or career. That was too painful to do, actually. I was tuned into the truth that life is fleeting, and ultimately, knowing I am God’s daughter is the success I was designed to have.
God is the one I will be with for eternity. If I am with God, that is what brings me purpose and joy.
In those hard years, I held onto that truth like a lifeboat.
I knew these truths because I needed them for my own wellbeing. My idols died because I felt like a failure if life really was about relationships and career and whatever else. And in the process of seeing my worth only through the lens of being God’s beloved, I had unsurpassed joy!
But now, as I’m in a season of blessings – which I pray for you too – I sense myself losing focus of what the meaning of life is. Of course, I want to be grateful for blessings, but because of the season of hardships I had, I know the importance of keeping those blessings in their place. Because as wonderful as blessings are, they will never fulfill me the way God can. When I think of what I’m thankful for, my answer is first and foremost that I know God, and in a way, the hard years were what led me to knowing that deep down into my heart.
So, whether you are in a hard year or an easier year, I hope you can feel the unsurpassed joy of knowing God, of trusting He is looking out for you even when it doesn’t feel like it, and of resting in His arms. I pray that God shows Himself to you the same way He did for me. It didn’t automatically take away all of the pain, but it was that lifeboat that I needed. And if you’re in an easier season, I pray that you know you need that lifeboat too. No other blessing is capable of giving you what you really need, what really fulfills.
I pray you define your life not by the blessings of God, but by God Himself. I pray you focus most on what is eternal. Again, I never would wish hard times on anyone. But I also never wish a life of idolizing earthly blessings on anyone either. Life is bigger than what you see and post on Facebook. You are purposed by God for a time as this. He is with you these holidays and He loves you so. This is true no matter what season you are in.