I love Christmas time. I love all the rich traditions, the beauty surrounding it, the music, the love and camaraderie of family and good friends.
But I also know it can be a very hard time for some. There are those who are extra lonely at Christmas, they are sick, they are missing someone close to them who may have recently died.
Christmas has a way of increasing that suffering, because the hardship is such a contrast to the beauty and joy of the season.
We all go through hard times. Times where we may find ourselves saying, “Where are You, God, and how come You’re not helping out?”
How many times in my life have I used these words…or at least words of this sort?
We have black times when we pray and pray and pray and our petitions seem to be falling on Deaf Ears. Sometimes we might even find ourselves getting angry at God.
Every time I reacted this way, I regretted it. The dust would settle and I would see most clearly how God was working in that situation or how incredible blessings had followed a very painful situation.
My mom always told me to thank God even in adversity, while going through it…..thank Him when things look so murky and it looks like you or your loved ones had been abandoned.
That’s not an easy thing to do!! It’s definitely an act of the will.
But I remember the saying that goes something like this, “The devil trembles most when a person gets on their knees in spite of the fact that everything within him rebels .”
So I have learned through the years that, first of all, there will be dark times. That is the way of life. It has its sufferings. Period. We truly wouldn’t want it any other way. It is the Royal Road of the Cross.
I have learned also that these times are special because this is when I am sharing in His sufferings in just a little way…. a way that I know is pleasing to Him.
I also try to think about the many great sufferings of others, the sufferings of the persecuted in the Middle East (which is something that is hard to imagine in our day and age) and those who are suffering big things closer to home.
My own sufferings, though real and hurtful, (and God understands that) are nothing compared to these other sufferings. What a great reason to thank God!
I have also learned, finally, to be grateful to God for the difficulties themselves. Days of darkness will go by and I will forget… I will writhe in pain and look for ways to get out of it. I will pray, do extra holy hours or whatever I think I need to be doing. I know these are all good.
But then the light bulb goes off and I remember to THANK HIM for exactly what it is I am going through! I believe this is very pleasing to Our Lord.
I know that, in hindsight, I will be looking back and saying, “I thank You God for that situation and all the good that You have brought from it for me and for others.”
For those times when we may not see the blessings, even in hindsight, those VERY dark times….those are the times we just have to trust and lean on Him.
So whatever you’re going through today, whatever hardships you have during this Christmas season especially, take a moment to thank God for them. Give them as a gift to the Baby Jesus.
The light is always at the end of the tunnel and you don’t want to be guilty for shaking your fist at God. This is one time you DO want to “jump the gun” and “count your chickens before they are hatched.” You want to believe and KNOW that God is the Author of all and will turn this into good for you and for your family.
You want to take a moment to thank Him who is a most loving Father. He sees everything that we are going through. He WILL come. He’s shown us that many times in our lives, hasn’t He?
Remember, He has the hairs on our heads counted. That’s not just a cute cliché, it has a world of meditation in it.
Meditate on it, believe it and live it this Christmas season!
From Father Jacques Philippe:
Finally, we shouldn’t forget the sort of obedience that may be the most important and the most overlooked: what might be called “obedience to events.” This notion obviously poses a difficult theological and existential problem.
“Obedience to events” does not mean falling into fatalism or passivity, nor does it mean saying that everything that happens is God’s will: God does not will evil or sin. Many things happen that God does not will. But he still permits them, in His wisdom, and they remain a stumbling block or scandal to our minds.
God asks us to do all we can to eliminate evil. But despite our efforts, there is always a whole set of circumstances which we can do nothing about, which are not necessarily willed by God but nevertheless are permitted by him, and which God invites us to consent to trustingly and peacefully, even if they make us suffer and cause us problems.
We are not being asked to consent to evil, but to consent to the mysterious wisdom of God who permits evil. Our consent is not a compromise with evil but the expression of our trust that God is stronger than evil.
This is a form of obedience that is painful but very fruitful. It means that after we have done everything in our power, we are invited, faced with what is still imposed on our will by events, to practice an attitude of abandonment and filial trust toward our heavenly Father, in the faith that “for those who love God, everything works together for good.”
To give an example, God did not want the treachery of Judas or Pilate’s cowardice (God cannot want sin); but he permitted them, and he wanted Jesus to give filial consent to these events. And that is what he did—“Father, not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
The events of life are, after all, the surest expression of God’s will, because there is no danger of our interpreting them subjectively. If God sees that we are docile to events, able to consent peacefully and lovingly to what life’s happenings “impose” on us, in a spirit of filial trust and abandonment to his will, there can be no doubt that he will multiply personal expressions of his will for us through the action of his Spirit who speaks to our hearts.
If, however, we always rebel and tense ourselves against difficulties, that kind of defiance of God will make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God. What often happens is that, when we are confronted with painful occurrences, we either rebel, or endure them unwillingly, or resign ourselves to them passively.
But God invites us to a much more positive and fruitful attitude: that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who, as a child, said: “I choose it all!” We can give this the meaning: I choose everything that God wants for me. I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen.
St. Thérèse used the expression: “I want everything that causes me difficulties.” Externally it doesn’t change anything about the situation, but interiorly it changes everything. This consent, inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad.