by pastor david
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
What a great time of year this is! Christmas is a favorite time of year for many of us. However, for some, it is the most difficult and unpleasant time of the year. This is often true of those who have had some tragedy or traumatic experience close to or connected with the Christmas season.
For instance, I talked with a friend of mine some time ago whose young son died in 2013 on December 23, leaving a wife and three small children. My friend said he was getting more and more despondent as the anniversary date approached.
My own mother passed away on December 23, 1993. Our families had to have our Christmas dinner and gift exchange before we even had her funeral or buried my mother. Naturally, this time of the year can be difficult, as we think of the void left in our lives.
For some, the Christmas holiday is challenging, not because of the death of a loved one, but because of the death of a relationship – a spouse, a child, or a friend. That person who was such an integral part of your life is now absent for reasons beyond your control. This too makes “celebrating” quite arduous.
Having experienced this kind of despondency myself, may I suggest some strategies that have been helpful to me? When you think about your loved one or the loss…
1. Think about what you had, not what you lost.
2. Think of the good, not the bad.
3. Think of what that person was, not what you wish they were now.
4. Think of what they contributed to your life, not the void they left behind.
5. Think about what God gave, not what you have lost.
6. Think about the fact that you are here, with much to accomplish, not the fact that they are not here.
7. If the person was a Christian, think about meeting them again, not about how badly you miss them now.
8. Let Christ be the Lord of your emotions and, therefore, control the way you feel.
9. Give God the glory, no matter the situation.
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
Please do not misunderstand me! I am not saying you should try to push your loved one out of your thoughts and memory – just the opposite. Think about them. Talk about them. Share your memories, but just do so from a positive platform and not from the mud of self-pity.
Perhaps you know someone who is experiencing this kind of grief right now. Whether you realize it or not, you can help him or her in tremendous ways. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Spend time with them. Don’t let them seclude themselves in self-pity.
2. Ask them about the person they lost or the situation that is causing the grief. They need to talk about it, even though, initially, they may be reluctant.
3. Don’t panic if they cry. Don’t say, “Please don’t cry”. This is their way of dealing with their grief and is very beneficial.
4. Listen intently. Don’t say, “I know how you feel” if you have never had the same experience.
5. As a matter of fact, don’t try to relate similar experiences in your own life. You are there to talk about them and not you. If you have had similar experiences, listening to them will be therapeutic for you as well. You can talk with someone about your situation at another time.
6. Be cautious about giving advice. They need a listening ear more than a therapist at this point. If you sense God does want you to give advice, make sure it is advice that aligns itself with Scripture.
7. Realize that all of these things are simply part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the family of God.
(Hebrews 10:25 - New Living Translation)
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourageone another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
Yes, Christmas time can be quite challenging for many people. I’ve heard people say, “I hate the Christmas season. I can’t wait till it’s over”. Well, it is really good to know that God understands and is ready and anxious to fill any voids that life may have created in your heart. Additionally, God can use you to help fill those voids in some brother or sister in Christ.
Let’s make Christmas an occasion for true giving - giving our time, giving a listening ear, giving a sympathetic heart.
(Matthew 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Just imagine that you were taking a walk around your neighborhood and as you passed the fenced-in yard of a neighbor, his dog came running out, barking at you. How would you respond?
Would you say, “How dare that dog bark at me?” Or, “I’m offended that the dog barked at me!” Or, “Dogs should not bark at people.” Would you say, “Let’s get a campaign started to put an end to all dog barking”? Would you be tempted to send out a prayer request asking people to pray for you because you became the object of an animal’s growl?
You certainly would not. Why? Because barking is what dogs do. It is a part of their innate makeup – something they received from birth, over which they have little control. Dogs bark! Live with it!
That being true, then why are we so surprised and appalled when those who do not know Christ as personal Savior and Sovereign bark at us who are followers of Jesus? Why are we so caught off guard and offended when they rush up to our proverbial protective fence and growl at us? Why would we think that the person who does not know God through Jesus Christ would, in any way, agree with our belief system?
In the scenario above, the dog barked because, in his mind, you posed a threat to him. You were invading his territory and he was afraid. The reasons the unbelieving world barks and growls at the Christian are the same. They think you pose a threat to them (their lifestyle might have to change), you are invading their territory (your beliefs and worldview have no place in their culture), and they are afraid (they fear you might indeed be correct).
I have found that the best way to stop a strange dog from barking at me is to try to warm up to the animal. Let him know that you pose no threat and that you want to be his friend. Strangely enough, I think the same approach may work with barking, growling unbelievers.
How will we ever have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them if they fear us or if they perceive that we are a threat to them. How can we witness to them about the love of Jesus if we can’t even get close to them? They must get quiet enough to hear the Gospel for “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NKJV).
Our task is difficult but simple. We must engage unbelievers in a conversation about Jesus and that cannot be accomplished from a distance. We must get close to them, without compromising our Biblical convictions, so they will listen to what Christ has done for us. At that point, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8 NKJV). As I like to remind folk, “The Power is in the Proclamation”!
As we consider those barking antagonists, let me make a few suggestions.
1. Find some common ground with the individual, something non-threatening about which both of you can
2. Listen carefully to his or her story. Ask questions about him. People love to talk about themselves.
3. Share some of your story; your life before and after coming to know Christ.
4. Share as much of His (Christ’s) story as possible. This may not happen in a single discussion. You will probably have to invest time in that person in order to give the whole story of the Gospel.
5. Invite them to church or Bible study or even a casual gathering with some of your Christian friends.
6. Continue to be their friend, regardless of their response to the Gospel. This is a processing generation. It may take time for them to grapple with the truth.
7. Be available to listen and discuss any questions they may have in the future.
8. Pray fervently for their salvation and let them know you are doing so.
Sometimes dogs bark. Live with it. Sometimes unbelievers growl and make a lot of noise. Live with it! Warm up to them. Get close enough to share the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor David Boggs
I hope these occasional posts will encourage and challenge you as we grow in Christ together.
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