This is a post I started years ago when my kids were really small. I never got around to posting it because, well, I had kids that were really small! My daughter was six years old at the time, and my son was three. I hardly had time to eat and shower, let alone work on my blog. But the message is timeless and still worth sharing.
One of my favorite times of day (usually) is putting Heidi to bed. Every once in awhile it’s a struggle. Every once in awhile she fights it. Every once in awhile I just want to toss her in there and shut the door and call my day done. But I’ve been diligently trying to see this as sacred time with her alone where we can read, talk and pray before bed. I’m often in there anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, and I have found it especially comforting during this Christmas season as we cuddle up in the glow of her tiny Christmas tree.
A few nights ago, we had already read a book and a bible story and had settled in for a little prayer time. As I was saying amen, Heidi interrupted me.
“WAIT!” she said, sitting up. “You forgot to pray for the kids who don’t have grown-ups!”
My heart melted. I had been trying to explain to her how privileged she is. How some kids don’t have toys or beds or enough food for the day. How we need to be aware of the people around us and how we can share what we have and help where we can. When I was explaining this to her, she was appalled that some kids didn’t even have mommies and daddies or houses to live in.
She had looked up at me with wide eyes, filled with all her three-year-old innocence. “But mom, that means they are cold and all alone.”
I had nodded slowly, feeling tears sting my eyes. Her innocence and her shock that there are people living without the simple things she enjoys every day made it more real for me than ever. Her perspective made it personal. It wasn’t just that there were orphans out there somewhere without a home. It was that there were little kids her age, someone she may even call a friend, scared and lost and lonely and sad, crying each night before bed wanting a home and a family.
My heart can barely stand it sometimes. The pain and injustice of all that takes place on earth seems to fly in the face of a good God. How do I reconcile the two? And more than that, how do I explain it to my little girl?
As I thought about it, and as we read the Christmas bible story, my discouragement faded. Yes, it’s heartbreaking there is so much pain and loss in the world. But we were sitting there reading about the answer to it all. God Himself came to earth in the skin of a tiny baby, to be with us. His actual name, Emmanuel, means, “God with us.”
We can pray, yes, and we can scream and cry and rage about it all. We can begin to feel dejected, refusing to watch the news ever again and shaking our heads at all the poor choices and terrible things that happen every day, grieving over losses and pain. We can feel intensely alone. But God promises His presence in all things…
…in broken relationships we never imagined we’d have to mend…or lose completely
…in weeks and weeks of therapy in an attempt to heal from something you never asked for
…in the ups and downs of becoming a new parent for the first time…or a parent at all
…in the pain and ache of a loss of any kind
…in the exhaustion and loneliness of a thankless job
…in the confusion and frustration of health problems
…in the sadness of dreams that never did come to fruition
…in a life that maybe didn’t turn out the way we wanted
He is in it with you. That’s Christmas. It’s not all the family gatherings and endless presents and shopping and instagram-worthy memories everyone is making. Those are wonderful, but don’t let them fool you. God didn’t come for all that. We can manage all that on our own. God came to feel our pain, to huddle with us in the dark, and to be with us in the mess.
He is close. He counts the tears. He’s been there. He’s felt the pain of rejection, injustice, and utter loneliness. He aches for you. Life can feel so unfair, but He sees it all, justice belongs to Him, and He promises to partner with us as we pick up the pieces one day at a time. Not only that, but He promises He’ll use it all to make our hearts stronger, our grace deeper, and our lives brighter.
I was touched my three-year-old was so concerned for the hurting and orphaned, especially mere days before Christmas. Her natural inclination was to mourn over the darkness of the world and then to do something about it, even if for now it’s a simple prayer. Children, I am convinced, are so close to the heart of God. If their natural bent is to feel concerned for the hurting in the world and do something about it, we would do well to follow suit. There is too much pain in the world not to.
This Christmas, I hope you feel God close in all of your joys and sorrows and that it carries you throughout the year.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Emmanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2-3