During this time of year, we run around like crazy attending parties, hosting friends and family, decorating, baking, wrapping and shopping, and we are worked into a frenzy by the time Christmas actually gets here. In almost every store, we witness the words “PEACE” on Christmas cards, banners hanging from the ceiling, wrapping paper and coffee mugs, but in reality, there is none of it to be found in our lives. Will you imagine with me for a moment Jesus standing in front of you today and handing you a beautifully wrapped gift box? He affectionately says, “This is from Me just for you.” And then, can you imagine if we politely thanked our Lord and tossed His gift under the tree! We like to think that we would never have such gall; yet every day Jesus offers us His gift of peace, and we summarily dismiss it.
This problem is not new. In fact, the disciples were offered this same gift of peace but struggled to receive it as well. In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was preparing His followers for the trouble ahead, and He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1) Jesus knew that the battle the disciples would face was more than they could handle, so He warned them: Don’t let your hearts get troubled. Let me stop here because this statement leads me to believe that we have a choice. We can let our hearts get troubled, or we cannot let our hearts get troubled. How is this possible! When trouble comes, do I really have a choice whether or not to let my heart get troubled? Jesus knew that the disciples would face an intense battle when He was led away, and He warned them to keep their hearts fixed on Him, trusting in Him. Jesus knew that the disciples’ hearts would want to follow the trouble, follow the fear and follow the uncertainty, but He quickly supplied the answer: Trust in Me. Instead of following our thoughts or feelings down a terrible path of fear, stress and worry, we are to turn our thoughts to Jesus and trust in Him.
In response to Jesus’ directive, the disciples responded much in the same way as we do now, with many questions. But here was Jesus’ answer: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus hands them a gift that will keep them from being troubled or afraid—His gift of peace. And He offers that same gift to us today. If we keep reading in John 14, we will discover that Jesus’ gift of peace comes through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Jesus knows that we cannot stop our hearts from being troubled, so He gave us a supernatural gift, the Holy Spirit, who will keep us in perfect peace. As I studied this passage more, I decided to write down some of the attributes of the Holy Spirit to help me understand and trust more. According to the Bible, look at some of the qualities of the Holy Spirit:
•Comforter—one who soothes, consoles, reassures •Counselor—one who advises, gives direction •Helper—one who provides what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need •Intercessor—one who petitions on behalf of someone in difficulty •Advocate—one who speaks in defense of a person •Strengthener—one who gives strength to or makes stronger •Standby—one who can be relied upon •Spirit of Truth—one who speaks truth and exposes lies •Teacher—one who gives instruction •Spirit of Power—one who supplies with supernatural power
The Holy Spirit, who lives in us as Christians, provides each one of these gifts directly to us. If our heart is troubled because the holidays are a difficult reminder of those we have lost, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He will soothe our soul and reassure us that we are not alone. Although we will still miss our loved ones, we can have peace because God is with us. If our heart is troubled because we are financially strapped, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is Counselor and Helper. He will give us wisdom to make the right decisions and will help us where we have need. If our heart is troubled because one of our loved ones does not know Jesus, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. We can ask that He supernaturally impact our unsaved friends and family members so that they may see Jesus. Regardless of the trouble facing our heart, the Holy Spirit provides the answer so that we may have peace.
Jesus has personally wrapped a gift of peace just for you, complete with ribbon and sparkling paper. What will you do with His gift? Today is the day to take a moment and receive. Read over the characteristics of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you in whatever area you have need. Our Savior loves to give, and He wants you to walk through this season proudly displaying and sharing His wonderful gift of peace.
"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."
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This is the season for giving, and though it is better to give than to receive, I will confess that I do enjoy receiving on occasion. I love those little gifts made from popsicle sticks, glue and glitter that my boys used to make for me, or the sweet gifts my husband gives where I knew he has had to trudge through the masses at overcrowded department stores, pore through the horrors of earrings and bracelets, and then wait in eternal lines just to pick out something he thinks I will like. And then there are the precious gifts from my brother who knows I love the Dallas Cowboys or my mom who knows I love everything silver. However, as wonderful as each one of those gifts are, there is a particularly priceless gift that our wonderful Savior has given us that I think we leave unopened under the tree—His gift of peace.
Setting my little boy on the kitchen counter, I gently lifted his thumb and looked deep into his eyes. “Baby, this is going to hurt, but Mommy has to get this splinter out. Once I get it out, everything is going to be okay.” Tears filled both of our eyes, and the extraction process began.
Nick sorrowfully pleaded, “M-m-mommy, it’s okay. Just leave it in.” Even as I write these words, my eyes are once again filling with tears, not because the problem was so big, not because the problem could not be fixed, but because my child was hurting and I wanted to take away the pain. Within moments, the splinter was removed, and we both let out a big sigh of relief. I hugged him to let him know that he was deeply loved and everything was going to be okay, and he hugged me back, unknowingly assuring me of the same thing. As though nothing had happened, my curly-headed little boy was back outside climbing on the same swing set that had given him the splinter in the first place.
Why am I sharing this small, insignificant story? Because if we look close enough, we can see the heart of our heavenly Father in this picture. The heart of a loving parent did not start with us; it has its origins in the heart of our heavenly Father. But sometimes we have a hard time seeing Him in this light. We can easily see Him as God the Creator, the One who made the heavens and the earth. We can see Him as God Almighty, the powerful God who controls the winds and rain, and we can see Him as the Most High God, the One who righteously sits high above all things. But sometimes we struggle to see Him as God the Father, the One who lifts us up to Him, looks deep into our eyes, holds us close and compassionately removes life’s splinters.
There are probably many lessons we can glean from this story. For example, we can clearly see that the splinter was the source of the pain, but from the eyes of a little boy, he just saw his pain coming from the hands of his mom. This sounds a lot like us. How often have we believed that God was causing our sorrow because He was not answering our prayer? How often have we felt pained by God because He was not responding swiftly to our dire situation? But maybe He is actually carefully removing the very splinter which is causing us so much anguish.
There are undoubtedly many other takeaways we could learn from this story, but I want to share with you the one God highlighted to me. He showed me this simple truth—the Father hurts when His child hurts. You see, when I was removing the splinter from Nick’s thumb, I knew that everything was going to be okay. I knew that the pain was temporary and Nick would recover quickly, and I knew that Nick would be better off once the splinter was removed. Yet, my heart hurt when I saw my child hurting. Do you ever see that kind of deep love and compassion coming from God for you? Do you ever recognize that His heart aches for you just because He loves you? Although God knows that you are going to be okay, He knows the plan and the outcome, and He knows that this splinter needs to removed, He still hurts because you are hurting.
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s mercy and compassion. Psalm 34:18 tells us that the Lord is “close” to the brokenhearted. We know that God is always present, but this verse tells us that He draws even closer to us when we are hurting, like a father drawing his child into His arms. In Hosea 11:4 God is portrayed as a father bending down to lift the yoke from his little child’s neck and stooping down to feed him. And then 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us that God is the “source of all comfort.” If our love and compassions are stirred when others hurt, how much more is the heart of our Father stirred! Comfort, love, empathy and compassion originated with Him.
Oftentimes, we are unable to see the heart of the Father because we are so focused on the pain of our splinter, but the splinter has to be removed. So, if you are in the midst of having some splinters removed today, will you take a moment with me and imagine your heavenly Father picking you up and gently setting you on His kitchen counter. He carefully holds you close to Him as He begins to take away the source of your suffering. And as you cry from the pain your splinter is causing, you look up and see the eyes of your Father—filled with love, filled with compassion, and also, filled with tears.
"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."
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A few days ago I was recounting a story to my youngest son about a time when he was a toddler with a serious splinter in his thumb. The splinter had become infected because he did not want to stop long enough to show me this trivial annoyance embedded in his skin. The slight pain he suffered in receiving the splinter was manageable, thus he played his way right through the discomfort. But as with any unchecked problem, the pain only increased. This minor hindrance soon turned major when his thumb became infected, and he was forced to come clean. With puddled tears in his big brown eyes and a bottom lip quivering, my sweet toddler held up his swollen, red thumb. We both knew this would not be pleasant.
As a responsible adult, I knew that removing the splinter would fix the problem, but as a loving mom, I knew that removing the splinter would bring a significant amount of grief.