Our street is still cheered by the warm glow of Christmas lights on the houses at night. I like them lighting up the snow. In only a handful of days they will be switched off – to be taken down later when it’s a little less like a freezer outside. Still, the Christmas festivities will be over. It will just be winter for the next few months. No added glow to light up the relentless white. As I looked out of my window the other night thoughts of the winter months filled me with a little dread.
Can’t it be Christmas for a little longer? Time to relax and read, and escape.
The months leading up to Christmas for us were months of contrast. On the one hand we’re involved with Kids Club, seeing prayers answered almost weekly, stepping out of our comfort zone, getting to know families we would otherwise never have met. Saturday mornings were our highlight of the week. On the other hand we’ve faced increasing pressure on our personal finances. Losing Saturday mornings to work put pressure on Tim as well. I’d been working on getting us free from relying on credit cards to get us through each month and we almost turned a corner. Then December slammed us with some unexpected expenses setting us right back. It seemed the more we prayed the worse things were getting. Both Tim’s truck and our car needed work. We broke our ban on credit cards, yes indeed, Christmas on credit. We’re far from perfect.
During one hard week in December, I came in to the house after running some errands. I’d been praying in the car, pouring my heart out to God. We leave BBC Radio 2 on for the puppy while we’re out, and when I came in a country music show was playing. I went to turn it off only to hear the lyrics, ‘sometimes the greatest gift God gives is unanswered prayer.’ I have no idea what song those lyrics belong to and I wasn’t going to wait to find out at the time. I switched it off. It took all I had in me not to throw the computer across the room (well, we can’t afford a new one)! You have got to be kidding! God, please, we need answered prayer. We need miracles! We need change! (You can almost hear my foot stamping like a toddler having a tantrum.)
I’m not sure whether God was actually speaking to me through that country song or whether it was just one of those things. Yet it is so hard to see God answering prayers in one area and seemingly silent in another. It’s hard to keep the right attitude and remain thankful for all we do have. We are thankful though. He is a God who does answer prayer after all! All the time I hang on to His promises. God is our provider. He will never leave us or forsake us. I feel my faith getting tested when we’re down to the wire and I can’t see the way ahead. How long, Lord?
I know we all face challenges whether it is in our finances, health, relationships, so many areas in our lives. We don’t always get the answers we like. It doesn’t mean God is not faithful though. Quite possibly He is at work in a way we haven’t seen yet. Tim and I usually get to the point in prayer where we’re saying, ‘Even if we lose everything, you are still faithful God.’ I usually weep. I do believe He will provide for us though.
Just as winter seems relentless, sometimes our problems seem so too. I think this is why I felt so sad anticipating no more Christmas lights the other night. I like the sparkle and the highlights. Life is full of stretches of plain old persevering though, through the snow drifts, through the cold, through the problems, through the pain. Life is full of those times. The good news is Jesus is right there with us by His Spirit through it all. Better even than any string of Christmas lights, more hopeful and more sure – and as with any winter, spring will eventually come.
At our church meeting on this New Year’s Eve, the message was called, ‘New year, New Tests, New Faith.’ Appropriate, even when we feel we’ve been in the same test for a long time. The good news is God gives us faith to believe the promises He’s given, even in times of testing. Here’s my diagram from my notes:
Testing comes in the space between a promise being made and the promise being fulfilled. God giving us promises in the first place leaves me amazed and humbled, and if God promises He will do it.
So happy new year to you wherever you are…and may you put your trust in God whether you are riding on the crest of a wave or going through difficult tests and trials.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3 ESV