~ An Advent Post ~
Last Christmas my husband, I, and our three children still living with us lived in a camper. While there was a makeshift way of accessing my husband’s office to use the bathroom and kitchen, we very much lived in a small camper. Five humans and three dogs in a camper in the frozen tundra that is Midwestern Wisconsin winter.
We had planned to start building a home when we sold our house in the fall, but Proverbs 16:9 seemed to be the theme of last year…
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
With rising building costs, it looked like our plan was becoming less likely and the fear of the unknown often troubled my heart. Add to that the other sufferings of the past year and I will admit that peace was something I rarely felt.
The Bible tells of another Christmas and another couple, like my husband and I, who had plans.
Joseph and Mary were engaged. They were going to become husband and wife and had hopes and plans for their future together. Little did they know that God had a different plan.
We all know the story…
Mary, a young virgin engaged to be married had a visit from an angel who told her she would become pregnant with God’s son. She knew nobody would believe this story. She knew everyone would assume that she had cheated on Joseph and had intercourse with another man. She knew Joseph would likely not want her as his wife any longer, nor would any other man, as she would be considered a mark, an adulteress, and unrighteous sinner. She knew her family, her father and mother, would likely disown her, pretending she never existed. She knew everyone would believe she had done something punishable by death. She knew her world was about to become anything but peaceful. Yet, she trusted God’s plan, even in the suffering.
Joseph, betrothed to Mary, learns of her being pregnant and as Mary assumed, decided he didn’t want her as his wife any longer. He wanted to divorce her silently, which tells us his heart was soft towards Mary, even though he believed she betrayed him and their engagement covenant. But an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him the truth of Mary being honorable to Joseph, but still being very much pregnant with the Son of God. And then the angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife. Joseph knew that in doing so, he too would be cast out and marked with Mary. He knew in choosing to marry her that everyone would assume it was because the baby was his and that he too was an unrighteous sinner who lacked self-control. He knew that his name would be tarnished along with hers. He knew his world was about to become anything but peaceful. Yet, he trusted God’s plan, even in the suffering.
Years later, that baby boy that they were chosen to be the earthly parents of, well He too knew a time was coming when His world would become anything but peaceful. Yet, he trusted God’s plan, even in the midst of suffering.
Christ understands our suffering because he knows suffering in a way none of us ever will. It is also worth noting that Jesus had hope that there was another way. He said,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”
He hoped that God would remove suffering from His path, but he also chose to find the peace he needed in his darkest hour, in his sweating blood anguish to say,
“…not my will, but yours.”
~ Luke 22:42 ~
This same peace in trusting God with our lives and our suffering, we have access to it.
“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness…”
~ 2 Peter 1:3 ~
His divine power has given us everything we require! Everything we need! This means that we can hope that suffering will declare a ceasefire while also choosing to find the peace we need to say, “Father…not my will, but yours.”
And just as God sent an angel to comfort and strengthen Christ in His darkest hour, God has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen us in in ours.
“But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you…Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.”
~ John 14:26-27 ~
I mentioned above that peace was rarely felt over the past year and a half. And it became harder and harder to feel as things like my daughter’s miscarriages stacked upon other sufferings. Sorrow and despair would hit as I was walking through a grocery store and I had to hold back the tears that stung my eyes. It turns out that peace, like hope, isn’t always a feeling but a choice.
That being said, let me draw your attention to the last eight words in the quoted verse above, especially the words
This means we have a choice. I know that when in the midst of pain and suffering it is extremely difficult not to focus on what is troubling you. It has a grip on our heart and mind. But I am here to tell you that we have a choice in what we allow suffering to do to our hearts. We can let it cause us to be troubled or afraid or we can choose to fight back with the help of the Holy Spirit and it’s reminders in Scripture of hope and peace.
Peace doesn’t mean the absence of fear and suffering. Christ very much experienced both. But he chose to reach out and take the hand of peace and let it walk with Him through His suffering.
We will have suffering in this world. Jesus said we would in John 16:33, but He follows up those words with,
“Be courageous! I have conquered the world!”
It takes courage to allow your heart to hope for something more than suffering. It takes courage to calm your troubling heart with the truths and choose peace. But I encourage you, be courageous! Trust that two thousand years ago He already conquered the battle you are currently in. Choose to hope! Choose peace!
And while you courageously choose to hold the hand of hope and peace in your season of suffering, I am praying this same prayer that I prayed over my camper living family and over my daughter and son-in-law as we walked through our season of suffering. And because it is encouraging to know people are praying for us, I want you to know that before pushing the publish button on this post, I listened to the link song while on my knees praying it for each of you who reads this blog post, because without knowing what you are going through, my heart truly hurts for you and I want a breakthrough in your life. I speak the name of Jesus over you, friends.