It is a time of giving because we were first given. This gift of love that promised to bring peace, we were given freely because He first loved.
Matthew 1:23 (ESV) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us.
God dwells with us. We meet God in our living. He was with us when we gave our first cry. He was with us when we first recognized familiar sounds and images. He was with us when we had our first crawl, mumbled our first words, made our first step to walk and then to run. He was with us when we had our first fall and was with us when we got up from our fall to get running again. He was with us through the ages and generations. He was with us.
He is with us in our darkness when the music fades and all is striped away. He is with us in hopelessness when all signs point to drought. He is with us in our sufferings when pain is the only constant denominator in our waking moments. He is with us.
Seeing Light in our darkness
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released. Not a die-hard fan of Star Wars but I like how we can have a glimpse of the existence of God with the Force, a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy, created by George Lucas. “May the Force be with you” an achieved cult status from a symbolic expression of the Star Wars legacy. This Force comes also with the Dark Side, a concept which represents a corruptive and addictive aspect of the Force that is rejected by the Jedi, who view it as evil. Latching on to this fiction and linking to our biblical truth, we can relate this Dark Side of the Force to the fallenness in the world we now live in.
I love Christmas. I love to give. I love to be the one giving. I love to see the glimpse of joy and a sense of gratefulness in people’s eyes when they see what they are given. Out of my love for giving, I worked hard to be able to give. I did not just give out of what I have but out of what I did not have. It all sounds so good and even biblical to some extent but it rooted from an ugly truth-I wanted to give so that I can be accepted. I practiced giving of my time, finances, knowledge and compassion, but all for sake of being accepted. There is nothing wrong with wanting acceptance but this well of giving will eventually run dry when the source of giving is generated from only my own needs and wants, whatever good reasons they can be.
R.C Sproul stated in his article, Radical Corruption, that the tragic fall had radically blurred and corrupted our created whole being in the image of God that affects every part of our character and being that reaches our minds, our hearts, our souls and our bodies. He further made references to Augustine, who said that before the fall, man was posse peccare and posse non peccare, that is, man had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. Not sinning was a possibility that Adam had in the Garden. Possibility of posse mori and the posse non mori, that is, dying or not dying existed also as options for Adam before the fall. Since the fall, man no longer has the posse non peccare or the posse non mori, a double negative. All human beings now have lost the natural ability to keep from sinning and thus to keep from dying. We are all born in the state of sin and as mortal creatures, destined to death.
I am reminded of a familiar verse we like to quote as good Christian, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). As any good Christian, we also claim another verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 as our godly life’s motto, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Indeed, only God’s grace is sufficient. The more we discover our weaknesses, the more we see darkness, our darkness. But it is not easy to see our darkness. It takes humility for us to be decreased and trust in God for Him to increase. And we cannot stop at just seeing our darkness. We need our relationship with God, rooted in Christ, to see beyond our darkness, to see light in our darkness and it is only through the power of Holy Spirit that we have the ability to choose Christ (John 6:63). Augustine said also that apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that God performs in the souls of the elect, no person in His own power is able to choose godliness, to choose Christ, or to choose the things of God.
There was no way I could see anything of God when I was blinded by my own needs and wants. I grew up blinded by the feeling of rejection that had trapped me in my own darkness. I learned to adapt to my blindness in order to continue living in this world. God found me but I took a long time to come to terms that I can trust Him, let go of my self-developed aids and open my eyes slowly but surely so I can see the light.
Seeing Hope in hopelessness
On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world. Global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years. The mean of yearly national suicide rates in Singapore is about 10.2% over the last decade.
There are possibly a whole load of reasons for someone to start considering suicide such as pain, loneliness, rejection, abuse, deep sadness, guilt, depression, helplessness and the list goes on. More than anything, I believe people who commit suicide feel hopeless. They are hurting so badly and want the pain to end, but they cannot imagine it ever going away. They cannot see light at the end of a very dark, lonely tunnel.
I was there. I was in that very dark, lonely tunnel, in pain, loneliness and rejection. I hated the circumstances forced upon me, I hated betrayal, I hated people who claimed to love me but made their choices without even considering my existence, I hated my past, I hated myself, I hated how hard I had to try, I hated God if there was even one to start with. I spent my entire growing-up years putting the blame on everything and everyone else. I tried very hard, but in vain, to find a light. In the midst of confusion, God found me. I spent yet another decade trying to figure out this faith, this hope, this love. I kept telling myself, only if I try and try harder, I could walk out of the misery imposed by others on me. I had a hope in my hopelessness but this source of hope is insufficient because it was generated from self-an empty shell, it was. In hopelessness, all I wanted was to not feel, not think, not live, to end the misery. I did not think of dying but I did not want to live either. Suicide came to mind out of desperation. The thought was as painful. There seemed to be no way out. Very soon, I lost all motivation, courage and hopes. I stopped trying. I refused food, not a drop of water for days and could not sleep a wink, when I did not wish to stay awake. I went into a state of isolation then, doctors suggested, it was depression. Days and weeks went by. There was still no light. All I knew was to end the pain, to stop feeling, to end living.
Since the fall, whichever angle we take to view the double negative-the posse non peccare and the posse non mori, results in hopelessness. Without Christ, Man lives to sin and then, die.
However, even with the fall, God did not just walk away from us. We can see His grace and mercy throughout the old testament. Hope was gracefully and mercifully given even in our hopeless rebelliousness. God’s promises to our forefathers, Abraham, Issac and Jacob, stand tall til this day. The birth of Jesus gave hope. And in Christ, is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Our hope is rooted in our faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). This hope is brought into being through the presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25) for the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), our transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1). With Christ, Man now live for eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7).
In the midst of chaos, a still small voice comforted my soul. He called me His precious daughter, keeping me safe and secure in His palm. This Hope in Christ was birthed in my hopelessness because God called out to me. I am grateful, there is no turning back.
Seeing Blessings in our sufferings
Through our sufferings, hope is produced by endurance (Romans 5:2-5). Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of our Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:12; 15:13). I believe joy and peace are gifts to us from God. Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-14, 1 John 3:3). The apostle Peter wrote words of encouragement to a group of suffering Christians in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” The treasures in jars of clay are given to those who are called and believed-For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
I am here, suffering because of our fallenness, because of the awareness of our corruptedness out of knowing God. At the same time, I am here, enjoying the blessings of the fruit of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), out of knowing the same God.
This Christmas, yet another time of giving because God first given. God dwells with us-a good reminder indeed. It’s Christmas time.
Radical Corruption by R.C. Sproul, viewed on 26 Dec 2015,
The National Suicide Statistics
His beautiful & relentless love makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.