Last Christmas, I attended a live music viewing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The 25-minute film played on a screen at our local indie theater downtown while a jazz band performed Vince Guaraldi’s music in sync. It was spectacular!
As the movie begins, Charlie Brown feels ho-hum and is in search of Christmas cheer. Nothing is quite right. He didn’t receive a Christmas card from his friend Violet, he is frustrated by his sister Sally’s self-centered wish list for Santa, his dog Snoopy is caught up in a decorating contest, and to top it off, Charlie’s friends laugh at the small and bare tree he picks out for the Christmas play. “I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about,” sighs Charlie with dismay.
Thumb-sucking, blanket-carrying Linus offers the answer to Charlie’s woes, reading the angel’s proclamation of Christ’s birth to the shepherds from Luke 2:8-14 with confidence and clarity. The true Christmas story begins to soften and soothe Charlie’s heart in the midst of his sadness. By the end of the film, he joins his group of friends in song.
Like Charlie Brown, I entered the theater last December with the holiday blues. 2016 had been an incredibly difficult year of illness, trauma and grief. I kept up with work, my small group and my family throughout the year, but other areas of my life had been placed on hold to heal, physically and emotionally.
Some of you may be in the midst of challenging circumstances — mourning a break-up, feeling stuck at work, or battling loneliness. Perhaps you’re dealing with a strained family situation this Christmas. Or maybe you’re just feeling “off” like I did. My encouragement to you this holiday season is to bring your suffering to “the God of all grace.”
A Bible verse that brought hope to my heart last Christmas was 1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
God will restore you.
The word “restore” is so rich. It means “to bring back to a former, original or normal condition” or “to make return or restitution of anything taken away or lost.” No matter how much you have missed the mark in your own thoughts or actions, God can restore you. No matter how much has been taken from you by the actions of others or by loss, God can restore you. Ask diligently for restoration, renewal and healing in troubled times, and stay faithful to the way of Jesus in the waiting.
God will confirm you.
Upon salvation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. He confirms our belonging as sons and daughters, reminding us that we are forever accepted. In sadness or suffering, the Holy Spirit comforts us, counsels us and helps us discern the truth from the lies of the enemy so that we can claim victory. When tempted to despair or feel general disappointment or discouragement, the Holy Spirit confirms our identity and will intercede for us when we don’t know how we ought to pray.
God will strengthen you.
When we are weak and weary, we have access to God’s supernatural strength. Our mighty God is for us, not against us. He is a very present help in trouble. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. Utilizing Scripture, we can gird ourselves for battles, resist temptations and tear down strongholds…or lighten any end-of-the-year, holiday blues. The Lord is our strength and our song.
God will establish you.
Have you ever seen a sign hanging in a family’s home, announcing the year the couple was married as the year their home was “established?” In Christ, the bond is even more certain and will last beyond our lives on earth. Our relationship with God cannot fail or be taken away from us. We can stand in faith upon Christ, our solid rock, with confidence.
The Christmas story, as read in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” reminds us that God sent His Son to us. We have no reason to fear in the midst of the daily grind, troubles, sadness or suffering. Because of Christ’s birth, perfect life, finished work upon the cross and resurrection, we are assured that God fulfills His Word to His people. He will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. It’s a promise.
Warren Wiersbe summarized 1 Peter 5:10 by saying, “We need to look up to the God of all grace, look back and remember that He called us, look ahead and recognize the coming glory, and look within to see how God is equipping us through our difficulties.”
We, much more than the fictional characters of Linus and Charlie Brown, have a reason to be filled with hope this Christmas season.
Which Bible verse has comforted you in a season of sadness or suffering? What brings you hope this Christmas?