In this time of year, there are many who do not have to think twice about purchasing and giving gifts for Christmas. We have blessings, both material and spiritual. And we can always identify those persons who are in much more need than we are. We may even believe that those in need are in that position because of their own unwise individual choices. But we must recognize that the maladies of our hearts are very real.
There are specific conditions in our lives that leave us in bondage and in need of restoration, renewal, and revitalization, just like all kinds of other people.
Being a vital part of a local church does not automatically immune one from having serious needs. We must not suppress those realities and those needs, but name the conditions which are packed away in a closet of our heart deep inside us: the love of things and money; severed relationships; old grudges; hidden addictions; domestic violence; denial of depression; secret affairs; cutting; fear; anger; greed; and, hatred.
Outward smiles and small talk conversations may hide the truth from others, but they do nothing to hide ourselves from a God for whom everything is laid bare.
The good news is not just something for someone else who has “obvious” needs. The gospel must touch our lives and bring us freedom so that we can pass on that very real good news to the legion of social ills that make our world sick. There are people all around us who need spiritual, emotional, and material help. But we will not have eyes to see them or have hearts to help if we are ourselves stuffing burdens so deep within that we are blind to others.
Far too many church-going Christians have become expert emotion and need stuffers. We might think that other people, “those people,” need ministries of justice and help. But the truth is that many of us are either one paycheck, one prodigal kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one drink, one affair, one bad decision away from being one of “those people” – the people we typically identify as in need – the ones that bad things happen to – the ones we do not want living next door to us.
We just may not yet be vulnerable enough to admit our situation and so we keep practicing the denial of our spiritual poverty. What should we do? We should turn from the things that have caused us to be in poverty and be prisoners (not just secretly!) and delight greatly in the LORD by focusing on his grace, mercy, and justice (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11). Our souls ought to rejoice in our God because he will make a sprout come up. God will cause us to grow.
God will rebuild our ruined souls. God will restore the places of our lives that have been devastated. God will even renew the places that have not seen renewal for generations.
But it must begin with you and me allowing the justice of God to work within us. God cannot bring comfort to those who do not mourn; he cannot turn grief into joy if there is no acknowledgment of a dire situation. If we want to be an oak of righteousness there must be in existence a confession of despair and an allowance of the justice of God through Jesus Christ to work its way completely through us.
What is your true situation? What are the realities of your life that need to be named? Where will you go to address those needs and truths? Will you keep stuffing them, or will you become able to voice your inner personal needs? Will you be vulnerable enough to allow the church to minister grace to your needy soul?
Let us have a vision of Jesus coming into our lives and replacing a tattered hat of grief with a crown of beauty. Let us picture the Lord placing on us a garment of praise to replace our stinky clothes of grumbling. Let us allow our lives to display the grace of God in Christ because we have been profoundly touched by the justice of God. Let us herald the coming of the Christ child as the hope of us all.