Several of you have asked for me to share my devotional from the Ladies’ Christmas Tea earlier this month. I couldn’t type every word that I said, so I chose a few sections from my outline and summarized it for you here. As I told the ladies that evening, these words are directly from my heart and straight off the pages of my journal from a year that was full of very difficult and unexpected circumstances. Some of the words are from songs or messages that ministered to my heart – I linked to blog posts where I was able. I hope this encourages your heart!
You won’t see me posting Instagram pictures or YouTube tutorials on how to assemble and decorate a gingerbread house. When it comes to crafty things like that, I am the definition of a Pinterest fail! If I did attempt a gingerbread house, there are two outcomes that would certainly be the result of my efforts:
- It wouldn’t look like anyone else’s gingerbread house
- It wouldn’t look like I thought it would, even though I followed the directions and used all the right tools
That is a pretty good illustration of how our lives look at times!
#1 My life doesn’t look like anyone else’s life
Have you ever thought, “My life doesn’t look like hers!” Maybe you’ve said to yourself, “Her children are much better behaved than mine.” Or, “Her husband is so much more helpful around the house than mine.” “Her house is so much bigger than mine.” “She seems so much happier with her life than I do.”
That’s what I call positive comparison – when you see someone on Instagram, at work, at church or anywhere else and assume that because they have something or someone you don’t that their life must be better.
If that’s how you feel – Remember that while those women may be tremendously blessed, they may have silently suffered under some hard trials. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that we have been given a life sifted through the loving hands of an all knowing God. “I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, to give you hope and a future.”
There’s also what I call negative comparison – when you compare yourself to someone by saying, “At least I’m not as messy/unorganized/undisciplined/overweight as she is.” “At least my marriage isn’t as bad as hers.” “At least I’ve never had to pick up my kids from drug rehab.”
If that’s how you feel – Beware. 1 Peter 5 reminds us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. It’s so much better to be in a place of humility when we find ourselves in desperate need of grace instead of having to work through a few layers of pride! I also want to caution you that there’s no insurance you can buy that will keep certain trials from happening in your life. None of us are promised or entitled to a rosy, perfect life. Thankfully we are all promised grace for every need.
When you find yourself saying, “At least I’m not…” that’s the time you need to picture yourself standing next to that person at the cross. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness, and at the cross we are all the same.
#2 My life doesn’t look like I thought it would
Has there been a moment in your life where you stopped and asked yourself, “How did I get here? I made all the right choices and never anticipated this being part of my story!” Maybe you made a few wrong choices but didn’t intend for your life to spiral this far out of control. How did you get so far off track? Through your own fault or as a result of someone else’s sin or bad choices you may find yourself asking, “How did I get here?”
If that’s how you feel – Here’s what I want to say to you. You are loved! Psalm 89 reminds us that God told His people, “If they violate my statues…then I will punish their transgression…but I will not remove from them my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.” There is nothing that is outside the promises of God. No matter what has happened in your life, God loves you! You don’t have to be defined by your circumstances. You can choose to be defined by who you are in God’s eyes – loved.
So what? If we don’t look like other people and we don’t even look like we thought we might…what is the goal? What are we working toward?
Here it is – My life is supposed to look like Jesus! My goal is Christlikeness, so whatever path makes me more like Him, I can say, “I’m in!” Suffering is necessary for spiritual growth. It is not something to be avoided, because it is an opportunity for praise as we surrender to God’s perfect plan for our lives!
I love this quote from Wendy Alsup, “I can face the hard of life head on, confident in the grace of God that meets us not outside the hard but in the darkest innermost recesses of pain and suffering.”
This topic is even more applicable this time of year. We often find ourselves in those gingerbread situations at Christmas time – comparing ourselves to others who can give more expensive gifts or throw bigger parties, coming face to face with ugly family situations or just trying to have a happy holiday at home!
Christmas isn’t just about Jesus arriving as a baby in a manger. His birth was so much more than that! Jesus came to bring a new era for human life – the season of grace. When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating grace!
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1-8)