Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Joy to the World. Peace on earth. Christmas cheer. These are all phrases we are used to hearing during the Christmas season. The problem is not all of us feel, happy, merry, cheerful and joyous during this season. Words like sadness, loss, despair and loneliness seem to resonate more for some. For many, if not most of you here tonight, your Christmas is more blue than it is merry. Maybe this Psalm paraphrase reflects your feelings accurately.
“O Lord, I have been on my knees to you night after night. I am so troubled, and in so much agony, I feel like I have one foot in the grave, in deep and dark places. I am absolutely without hope, including in you. You really don’t seem to care.
Actually, let me be blunt: you’ve abandoned me and so this is all your fault. You’re the one who makes me feel like this. You’re even the one responsible for my own friends looking at me like I’m some sort of freak show.
Even so, all night and all day I’m on my knees praying, still calling to you for some relief—I’m desperate. But you keep on hiding. I’m in absolute pain and the only friend I have is darkness. Thanks for nothing.” (Peter Enns P. 58 The Sin of Certainty)
Do you feel this way? Does this paraphrase make you a bit uncomfortable, because we all know that believers are always supposed to trust God, never complain against Him and certainly never question Him? This is far from the truth. A simple reading of the Psalms will tell us different.
There are three types of Psalms
- God you are great and I praise you.
- God things aren’t going so well, but I will still praise you.
- God, things are not good at all and I feel alone and abandoned, where are you?
Questioning God was a common practice among men and women of the Bible did over the centuries and eve in some part still do today. Abraham questioned God when He promised Abraham’s wife would one day bear a son, Job questioned God when he lost everything that was precious to him, Elijah questioned God’s whereabouts when he flees for his life from Jezebel and the Israelites continually questioned God in times of calamity. Jesus himself questioned God in anguish, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” All of these examples should comfort us. Why? Because we see some of the greatest men and women of faith having struggles and they had the guts to cry out to God with their tough questions and express their true emotions.
Some believe questioning God or voicing their true emotions and complaints to God is wrong, disrespectful and irreverent. I could not disagree more whole heartedly. God is not taken back, intimidated nor offended when we bring our raw unfettered emotions to him. In fact He welcomes the cries of despair and raw emotions we express to him.
I don’t know how you are all feeling tonight or this season. I don’t know your stories, I can’t say that know what you are going through. But I do know that there are some things going on in your life that may be causing you to be feeling sad, hopeless, lonely, abandoned, scared, empty, anxious, and angry etc. in life.
Two years ago this Christmas season I was in a place of despair. I lost my job at the church that I served for 7 years. I was betrayed, beaten down and humiliated as people I loved and trusted turned their backs on my family and me and abandoned us. As a result I had to work three jobs and barely made enough money to pay the bills, put food on the table, let alone get Christmas presents for my children. It was a dark time. These dirty, ripped and tattered gloves serve as a reminder to me of this difficult time in my life. These were the gloves I wore at one of my jobs, Wal-Mart Distribution Center, where I worked long hours during the third shift and barely made enough money to survive. I have a pair of work gloves pinned to my wall in my office to remind me of the pain, despair, and depression I was going through in this stage of my life; but they also remind me of hope that is brought through Jesus. I felt like the psalmist in Psalm 88 who was complaining and crying out to God in despair and I stayed there for a long time. However in this darkness, I had hope. God is a God of hope. He hears us when we cry. He understands when we question. He responds in a loving manner, to show us that through His son Jesus Christ, there is hope. This reality may not change your situation right now, this very moment. But it can offer a glimmer of hope when all can seem hopeless.
So in this night… The longest night of the year, I close with this quote, “Most of us probably live much of our lives in Psalm 88 – in that place where our spiritual scaffolding has crumbled, and we are no longer so sure about God or much else. What we thought we knew, what we could be certain of and count on, turns out not to be certain at all. And we are left shaking our fist at God. People, like me, and I imagine most of us, need to hear we are not alone.” (Enns p. 60)
You are not alone. We are here together for one another. God is also here with us. He wants to meet with you and he wants to meet where you are right, this moment.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.