And God Came Near

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Christmas for our family this year is hard. Confusing. Numbing. It feels as though we are living in an altered reality because we are. Life is altered. It will never again be what it was. The gravity of our reality brings a strong and persistent pull toward sadness, confusion, loneliness, and even despair. We pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We determine to get through it. We go through the motions of the season almost as if we are depending on the “muscle memory” of what celebrating Christmas entails. Those precious little boys pull us away from our grief in tender moments of laughter and wonder. And yet that stubborn gravity of our reality is always present. Incessant and cumbersome.  

A few days ago, when I walked into the school auditorium to enjoy Smith’s kindergarten Christmas program, I was completely unaware of the wave of grief that would invade that sweet moment. I didn’t realize until I walked into the room that the last time I had been in that place was with both David and Andrew. David was in the middle of his fight with leukemia and the school had invited him to speak to their high school students. He had given an amazing talk, challenging the students to make a decision about who they were going to live for, no matter what happens in life. He had connected with those young people so powerfully as he reminded them that God’s Got This. Andrew had come along to support us, helping David onto the platform because he was very compromised and weak.  The three of us were together in that place enjoying ministry together, and now both David and Andrew were gone. It hit hard. The gravity of my reality was waging war against the little bit of Christmas spirit I had mustered for a kindergarten program filled with jingle bell necklaces, paper snowballs, and oversized hairbows on little girls. Oh, and the twinkle in the eyes of our Mr. Smith!

When you’re living through a time of difficulty, whatever it may be, the Christmas season with all of its celebrating and cheer can be excruciating. The world doesn’t stop because of our grief or struggle or hard things. The jolly songs are still on the radio, and this year they seem annoying and silly. The calorie-ridden treats are passed around, and this year they don’t even taste good. How do we overcome that pull toward sadness and isolation? What do we do with Christmas when life is hard?

We must remember that in Jesus, God came near. Say it over and over… God came near. God came near. God offered eternal hope to a broken world, and He came near. The huge and miraculous event that we celebrate at Christmas was God coming near. God providing a rescue. God so loving each and every one of us that He sent His only Son. God knowing that we couldn’t do this on our own. We couldn’t rescue ourselves. We couldn’t pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. Impossible. We couldn’t fight the pull of gravity toward despair on our own.

That changes everything for me this Christmas.
When my heart is broken, I say it again. God came near. God came near.
When I can’t hold back the tears, I cry them with God holding me because He came near.
When I don’t want to celebrate Christmas, I choose to quietly remind myself that what I’m celebrating is God continuing to come near to me. Every single day. In everything. Always.
Now that is something I can appreciate, honor, and yes, even celebrate! 

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you are also living through something difficult, sad, scary, or overwhelming this Christmas. I encourage you to remember that God came near. And God continues to come near. It’s as simple as that. It’s so incredibly profound if you will let it sink deeply into your heart and mind.

You may be completely alone this Christmas… and God came near.
Maybe the darkness and confusion of depression is overwhelming… and God came near.
This may be the first Christmas after a devastating divorce… and God came near.
Maybe there was recently a difficult diagnosis… and God came near.
Maybe the doctor used that terrible “relapse” word… and God came near.
Whatever hard thing you’re living today, say the terrible out loud. Take a breath, let yourself feel it. And then say those true and powerful words: 

… and God came near. 
… and God comes near. 
… and God is coming near. 
… and God is near. 

It’s truth. It’s fact. It’s real. It’s for you.
Whatever is before your “and” is not too difficult for God.
Whatever is before your “and” will not surprise God.
Whatever is before your “and” is something that God wants to live with you.
Whatever is before your “and” does not turn God away from you.

Today, God comes near to you bringing His gentle peace and comfort.
In this very moment, God comes near offering you His enduring strength and hope.
No matter who you are or where you’re at or what you’ve done, God comes near to you extending His incredible forgiveness and freedom and eternity.

Our family is living a very difficult season of grief… and God came near. It’s true. It’s real. 
Though the gravity of our reality is strong, our great and mighty God is stronger!
God came near on that first Christmas day, and God persistently still comes near today, reaching out to us with love and hope.

If you are struggling this Christmas, please be assured that you are not alone. There is a community of fellow strugglers living the pain, fighting the gravity, and praying encouragement, peace, and strength over you. And even more importantly, there is a God who came near and who continues to come near. And continues. And continues. In this very moment. Our prayer is that you will reach out to Him, invite Him into your struggle, let Him love you and hold you and live through the hard things with you. Even today. Especially today.

 Resting in the nearness of God this Christmas,

 Carol Stoecklein

 And I - nearness of God to me is good - I have placed in the Lord Jehovah my refuge…  Psalm 73:28

Kayla Stoecklein