For many, (dare I say most?) of us things haven't been easy this year. In fact, we may feel that if we had to graph our life's circumstance, there would be a red arrow falling and pointing further downward.
The stranger you pass by at the grocery store may have a smile on her face, but chances are she or a family member is experiencing the pain of illness, addiction, divorce, perhaps even the grief of a spouse or child's death.
Why are things like this? And is it really getting worse? Will things turn around? Will your red arrow rebound and face upward in the near future?
Believers take comfort in the words of Jesus who said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Those who may have walked away from their faith, or those who never believed should not think they are alone, or that they've been singled out. Pain is an inevitable part of life.
We seem to understand that physical pain takes time to heal, but have trouble being convinced that emotional pain also takes time to heal. Everything, pain included, is temporary.
When we learn that Southern Delaware had what the feds call a "suicide cluster" in Sussex and Kent last year, 11 deaths, 116 attempts ages 12-21 in just five months, we're heartbroken and seek answers.
If these kids had somebody simply put an arm around them and assure them that their feelings and their circumstances are temporary, would some of them be here with their families this Christmas?
Jesus also said, "God causes the sun to shine on the good and the evil, the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous."
Where is the "why" in all this pain? In most, if not all cases, the "why" is because we all have an "I" problem. Individually, we make everything about ourselves, and our own desires, and cause an avalanche of hurt to others.
As a people, our “I” problem began in Eden, when the first couple turned from God to do things their way, bringing about a curse that exists today, causing the sickness, decay and death we endure.
If any readers are tempted to stop there, please accept this Christmas gift, just some quick truths to ponder.
As the temperature drops, consider why. Our planet changes its tilt away from the sun in winter, yet is closer to the sun in its orbit. We're exactly where we have to be in this vast universe to sustain life on Earth.
Now take an imaginary walk through a deep forest, and stumble upon a gold watch. You notice it's still working and displays the correct time.
You'll immediately assume that somebody dropped it there, and probably not that long ago. It certainly didn't put all of its parts together and appear on its own. Even if you can imagine millions or billions of years going by, the addition of time would never create a working gold watch. It had a creator.
Pick up a blade of grass, and consider the miracle that its individual cells have the ability to turn sunlight into energy and give off the oxygen that you breathe. Like the watch, something or somebody created that. A billion years of unguided nothingness didn't make it happen
But perhaps the most undeniable evidence for a creator who is who He says He is, and the most evident fact that we were created in His image is our ability, necessity, even compulsion to create.
Look around at the roads and houses and every manmade item in your view. Each began as an idea out of nothingness. From your chair, to your smartphone, an idea out of nothing became something.
However, our ability to do this is also why we believe we are our own Gods! When in fact, our ability to create something from nothing is because we were made in His image.
Along with the ability to create something from "nothing" God gave us the free will to choose to be our own gods and love ourselves, or to choose to love Him. Without this free will, our love for Him would not be genuine. With this free will, by choosing our own way, we have created a giant "I" problem.
In a world of six billion people, this “I” problem causes an awful lot of pain, disease and death.
Imagine you created an entire world out of Playdough, include all the creatures you desire to make, and somehow have the ability to breath life into all of them. Each is able on its own to create whatever it desires, and even has the ability to make more creatures like themselves.
At first, your favorite creatures, the ones you gave the ability to think and fully understand, knew you and were thankful that you created them, but before long convinced themselves that they simply happened by chance.
How would you feel about that? How would you feel about this world you created as you saw all of the choices your creatures made cause more and more pain for them?
Would you be willing to step down into the world you created, knowing you’d be ridiculed, tortured and killed? Our creator did just that.
For now, He gave us many ways to endure, even overcome much of the pain He knew we would experience. For example, he gave us a tongue; a small body part that has the both power to speak love or to start wars with the words it speaks. Yes, words have great power.
One of the bible's great mysteries appears in John, "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
This is not something to comprehend, but certainly something to consider.
Remember the most simple math formula, the commutative laws? If the Word is God, and God is Love, then the Word is Love. That's the "natural" order of things. Only the "I" problem gets in the way.
Today you have the power to "speak life and love" to everyone you meet.
A positive word, a compliment, a thank you; they're all free, and they are gifts you can give that has the power to change a person's day. Consider that when this word is offered with a capital “W” as in "Word," it’s also a free gift. That gift came in the form of a child born in a manger two thousand years ago.
Our creator (God, Jesus, the Word) took the form of a child, in the lowliest of circumstance, in order to make right what we made wrong. He didn't come as an earthly king to make the world a better place, free from pain. He came to offer himself as a sacrifice so that when this brief time on a sin-cursed planet ends, you and I can be with Him forever in a place without this pain.
Today, you can turn somebody's day around, simply by sharing a kind word, or better yet share "the Word," this Christmas and turn somebody’s entire life around.
We were all given a free gift 2013 years ago from Bethlehem. In 2014, let's share it throughout Southern Delaware and everywhere else.