Searching for Emmanuel
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1 For Christ followers, Christmas is a time filled with joy, peace, love, and hope--a celebration of God’s promised Rescuer come to our world to save us. But what if the situation you’re in is far from joyful and hope seems out of reach?
Many of us struggle at Christmastime. Difficult relationships, job loss, depression, or grief are heavy burdens to carry especially when others are celebrating. The darkness of life situations can dull the joy of the season. We haven’t forgotten the enormity of the gift of Christmas. But we are in a searching place, longing for a glimpse of Emmanuel, God with us.
There’s a video we show the kids at church called The Big Story (produced by Lifeway), and it tells the overarching narrative of the Bible. God’s plan to rescue and redeem the world from the devastation of sin. I’ve watched it often, and one part brings me to tears every single time. After Malachi’s prophecies, the video cuts to black, and the narrator says, “Then silence. For 400 years, God remained quiet.”
In Psalm 13, along with others, David wrote vulnerably, crying out to the Lord who he felt had abandoned him. He feels the Lord has been silent during his troubles. Those words give voice and validation to the times in our lives when we can’t see God through our suffering.
In C.S. Lewis’s book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia has been cursed – It is always winter but never Christmas. That’s a wonderful picture of what it feels like to carry heaviness at this time of year. While living in a season of endless winter without the hope of Christmas on the horizon, God’s silence is so loud it hurts.
Returning to the earlier video, it thankfully doesn’t end with an eternity of God’s silence. After a weighty pause, the tiniest light appears in the middle of the darkness. The narrator says, “The silence was broken by the cry of a tiny baby, born in a manger. His name was Jesus.”
In Psalm 13:5-6, David chooses to trust in God’s unfailing love. He recognizes God had been good to him in the past, so He has no reason to believe God will not do the same in the future even though things are dark at that moment.
If you’re in the midst of a personal winter, it’s okay to not be okay. Hold tightly to any part of that tiny beam of light you can. You will find Emmanuel’s presence again, and this winter will not last forever.