Oppression Is A Heavy Burden
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Can you hear them? I hadn’t. I couldn’t. I’d been waiting, wishing, and even desperately trying to conjure their sound. I needed to hear it, the words of the truth that “peace on earth” could be real. Was it real? Was it even possible? I sat at the piano, playing with my right hand while holding the hymnal in my left. Life was rough then, oppression was heavy on my shoulders. It was tangible and the weight was having an impact. I played on.
Is Peace Possible?
“I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along th’unbroken song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
I believed. I’d spent my childhood learning these messages and songs of peace and joy. Though I’d doubted through my teen years, I’d recently met and fallen in love with my Lord and Savior. Yet, there I was, seriously questioning whether peace was possible. Satan was doggedly determined to hurt and destroy me, using even the people I loved and cared about most.
Why Is Evil So Strong?
“And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”
I did. Just as the song had said, I played the notes, read the words, and bowed my head. I was defeated. I was hurting and lost. Why was I losing everything I had? It seemed impossible to protect those I loved. Why was I so strongly being attacked? I was convinced, at that moment, that peace was not real, and mocking its reality was appropriate. How could hate be so strong? Why could one intentionally and ultimately succeed in taking another’s peace away? The timid, the weak, and the loving always seemed to be attacked. We are no match for evil. Why can’t we win? Can’t the world see that we are not the ones wrong, that we are being wronged? “Why?” I sobbed.
God Revealed Them – I Heard the Bells!
“Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead: nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”
Oh my goodness! I heard the bells! Did you? The answer was there, in black and white, in the reverberating sound of tolling bells. I’d read the words, I reread them once more to be sure. I felt it in my Spirit, deep within my being. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail WITH PEACE on earth, goodwill to men. I can hear them!
The bells tolled in my heart that day. I felt an immediate relief from the weight that had wrapped its heavy darkness about my shoulders. It physically felt different!
God Is Mightier Than Evil
My life transformed instantly. My heart’s focus on Christ deepened as my trust of Him and His plans for me became more concrete. I wasn’t going to “win” in any earthly way that would show the public how great I was or how I was being done wrong. No, I was going to “win” because I was now able to experience peace regardless of circumstances, something my enemy would never be able to feel. The desire at that time to care what people thought or judged of my life disappeared. I lost the need to be in control of my circumstances, because I knew God was really in control. I became confident that the worldly failure or success people were waiting to see was insignificant. The peace God gave to me that day was the ultimate Christmas gift!
God’s Peace Can Be Experienced in the Midst of Chaos
“Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
The world continued on, revolving and shedding its light and darkness upon our lives in an endless pattern, seemingly normal. No earthquake alerted the population of God’s touch that I’d experienced. No public win of any sort occurred exposing my goodness to the world, or the evil of my enemy for that matter. Life went on, but as it did, my heart’s desire changed even more. I prayed for peace. I prayed for others to experience and believe in the peace that I was experiencing. It did not take away difficulty. It did not mean a lack of problems. Peace was not what I had always expected it should look like. I felt the power within it, and one day, I came to the realization that I wanted desperately for my enemy to experience it as well.
Father, I know that only those that You draw will meet and experience the beauty of a relationship with Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray, this Christmas season, that You touch many in need, that they experience the transformation that leads to Your peace which passes all understanding. Let them hear the bells! I pray they sense Your love and guidance and grow to trust You, for that brings comfort and confidence in Your plan, regardless of circumstances. In Jesus name, Amen.
Check out “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” as sung by Casting Crowns. For another blog about Christmas, read Behind the Scenes of the Christmas Story.
Peace can often be disrupted by change. Change can wreak havoc on our faith, encouraging us to put our hope in the next season, for the peace found in heaven. Is the peace of heaven your goal?
It’s brilliant, the colors produced by frost, but this is July. Summer in New Hampshire isn’t a time for such change. The weather has been wacky. We’ve gone from heat wave to frost filled nights and back to summer in a matter of days. Due to the unexpected frigid temperatures, the vines growing alongside the road have turned a vibrant red. These colorful leaves are a view not normally observed in summer. Nature has an expected course, and yet change has disrupted it.
Our lives are similar to the roadside vines. We’re comfortable. We schedule our days, plan for futures, and have become complacent with the world that surrounds us, as if what is will not change. Everything has a season. We work hard, strive toward goals, and expect that one day we’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor, both financially and personally, but unexpected change can disrupt those plans.
Unwelcome and often difficult to accept, diverting our journey in directions we never imagined, things beyond our control arise, impacting our calculated steps. Change is hard. Rather than life conforming to our plans, we find ourselves adapting on the fly. We scramble to adjust, intent to still achieve the end goals we treasure, our eyes ever on the future. With our focus so often on what’s ahead, our energy spent on maneuvering the myriad of unexpected diversions, we’re never at rest. But the goal is worth it, isn’t it?
This scenario resonates in our Spiritual lives as well. When unexpected issues arise and challenge our faith, we struggle, and work diligently to get the path to peace in view once more. We look forward to heaven and what God has waiting for us there, as if that’s the end goal. Infuriated by the world’s injustices that we can’t seem to rectify, we look forward to the peace we’ll experience one day in heaven. We anticipate a time in which peace and love will rule. Just as with our plan toward retirement or material goals, what is beyond our reach has become our focus. However, God’s Kingdom is meant to be experienced today!
It isn’t beyond reach. It’s not an unseen image off in the distance taunting us. You don’t need to work toward or wish for the end goal of heaven’s peace when God’s Kingdom is present and surrounding you now. You simply need it revealed to you. Turn to Christ. Commune with Him. Be with Him. There is no effort necessary, just a choice to let Him be your King. Let Him open your eyes to the Spiritual realm that is closer than you humanly can perceive. The more intimate your relationship with Christ, the more you see God’s will at work. Unexpected chaos or change becomes seen as God’s purpose. You sense the filling of His Holy Spirit within your being, imparting peace and joy, regardless of circumstances that previously challenged your walk.
Autumn in July
Nature has no choice but to go along for the ride, adapt without complaint, and glows in brilliance from the circumstances it endures. Rather than looking ahead toward a goal and working to achieve it, rest and enjoy the space of today, sitting at the feet of our Savior. Live in His Spiritual realm now, the Kingdom of God. Let His will be done, and enjoy His peace as it wraps around us. Tomorrow will likely look different than we’d hoped, but God is there and allows us to adapt to His will. Trusting that He is in control and resting in that is powerful.
In a moment life changes. That’s all it takes, a moment really. An accident, news from afar, a secret brought to light. Many things can happen that alter the course of life forever, leaving us derailed by tragedy.
How do you dress for that, the moment that changes life? I stood before my mirror, contemplating my outfit, my hairstyle. I applied my make-up with a feeling of melancholy tugging at my heart. The Christian music playing in the background of my mind encouraged me to, once again, trust what God was doing. I stepped down the stairs, ready as I’d ever be for whatever was coming.
“Stay where you are. Something very bad is coming. If you remain faithful to me, you will be truly blessed.” God had spoken those words to me long, long ago, and when bad came, though the storm was powerful, I never felt alone. Though rattled, I could not be shaken. God’s strength, peace, and direction had become my everything. The presence of God was the center of who I was.
He spoke to me once again, way back then, giving peace to my timid heart. It was in the words of a song, the direction that freed me. “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth.” You see, I wasn’t going to win some big battle that would announce to the world that I’d done well. The fact was that I’d already won, because I had peace. Peace in the midst of chaos. Peace in the middle of the storm. Peace regardless of circumstances. In that moment of revelation and clarity, weight lifted from my shoulders. It had been a weight declaring that I’d failed. It’d been a weight of segregation as I’d been left to fend for myself. It’d been a weight of loss, for the life I’d envisioned I was to live was not to be.
In that moment of clarity I realized that I was meant to be alone so God could be my strength. I was meant to love my enemy, because that is what God is, love. I was meant to endure loss of my own expectations, because I was not in control, God was.
Winds of Change are Present
When sudden change hits it can cripple the unsuspecting. Life becomes immediately out of control, overwhelming, and frightening. When today becomes instantly unfamiliar, a step toward tomorrow is beyond comprehension. How do you plan for such events? Is it in making sure your plans for future, finances, family matters, or work intentions are well prepared? Is it in reading about, studying, putting into practice good organizational skills? Is it in trying to control your life as well the lives of those who impact yours? If all of these things are worked toward, it would make sense that the unexpected changes that could potentially alter all for you would be less likely. If you strive to make your comfort zone safe and lessen the impact of outside influence, it would seem that chaos may be diverted. Wrong.
“In a moment” changes will happen to each of us. Are you prepared? Can you be prepared? All of the things we strive for in order to be in control will ultimately not be able to comfort us when that day comes. The work we’ve put into securing our futures won’t be capable of withstanding the overwhelming suddenness of change. Tragedy is beyond our control. Chaos is outside our ability to manage as it is beyond the realm of plans and organization. Whether you are a planner or a fly by the seat of your pants person, sudden life changes impact us all similarly. We struggle, we deny, we overthink and worry, we strive to find balance that stops the threat to sanity. No matter who we are or what we believe, we are all created beings and will face such days.
The answer of how to be prepared for and handle such a time is only found in relationship with God. He is the Answer. Whether you reach for Him during the time of struggle or partner with Him prior, He is the power that will see you through. Come close to God today. Knock on the door of His mansion. Seek a relationship with your Creator. Let His qualities, the very essence of Him, fill and comfort you. As a deeply intimate and personal relationship with God becomes established, you will grow in trust of Him and His will. When the sudden changes of life strike, you will have a Rock to stand on, a peace that passes all understanding, and sound guidance through haze and storm. No amount of personal planning and effort can compare as that is created by us. Only the presence of the Creator can calm the storm and straighten the confused path that chaos creates.
The day ended, no different than it had begun really. I brushed my teeth, contemplating how change is happening without me being yet aware. God works all things together to accomplish His will. This takes time. It takes a seemingly unrelated string of happenings to bring about God’s will. That takes years of various circumstances occurring, intertwining at some point, culminating in results that alter our lives. And many times things must appear far worse before they get better. I trust Him.
Though God’s will for my life back then was unlike the picture I’d had, trusting Him made all the difference in the world. He was with me when the earthly expectations of life faltered. He held me and led me through uncomfortable waters. The blessings He suggested I could enjoy have been realized. They aren’t in material, emotional, or financial gains. My blessings are experienced in this amazing relationship with a God who loves me. It’s abstract, intangible, supernatural, but oh so real.
Life doesn’t happen with a happily ever after slogan splashed across it. That just isn’t reality for most people. I’d imagine it isn’t for anyone. However, for those who keep their eyes on the Lord, there is a peace that makes the highs and lows of chaos nonexistent. In a moment life changes. That’s all it takes, but with God at your center, you will not be shaken. Your life will not be derailed by tragedy. May you be filled to overflowing with the light of God, enjoy His comfort during times of change, and trust His will, regardless of circumstances.
“Thanks for your advice, but I’ll do just fine learning from my own mistakes.” If I didn’t say them out loud, those words were screaming in my head. My mother had shared another story from her past meant to enlighten and encourage me to skip the same mistakes she’d made. She was parenting, but much like most teenagers, I was quite brilliant. I didn’t need direction from anyone else, especially my mother.
Well, here I am thirty-ish years later in the same situation with my own children. “I really think you’ll notice the difference if you eat better,” I’d said. Instantly the eye-roll and irritation emanating from my young adult daughter was felt, if not seen. It’s much the same response I get from all my children when I offer advice from the many life-lessons I’ve learned. I shrug and pray for the patience to be quiet…now and the next time I want to offer my thoughts. Which reminds me of the serenity prayer I quoted in my video message: Sons and Daughters of the King, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.”
Can we change those we love? Should we try to change them? How much energy, worry, and control should we exert on the decisions of those we care for? Over the course of my child-rearing years, I’ve learned that we, as parents, aren’t really in control. I’ve realized that we can’t fulfill any promise to keep our children safe from harm. It’s clear that many influences occur in our children’s lives that either we’re unaware of or painfully wish had never happened.
During my early parenting years, God spoke to my heart. He was present, offering peace and easing my mind. His strength gave aid to my defeated soul. He offered wisdom and direction, clarifying my role in my children’s lives. You see, God is the only One who is in control. He is the Creator, and these children are His. He does allow bad things to happen. We (you and I) grow, learn, and change largely based on the struggles we face and endure. Our children are no different. If He has intentions that my children experience things I strive for them to avoid, He has His reasons. His will never fails.
Struggling to control a child’s direction and filling with anxiety when they don’t listen wastes energy, causes faith to falter, and fills us with stress. Looking at life’s circumstances through a belief in God and His will, even for our children, allows us freedom. We gain the ability to let go and entrust them to Him.
That doesn’t mean that we stop parenting. However, remaining constantly in communication with God, seeking His wisdom, and trusting His will allows two things to happen: 1) We are comforted when things don’t go the way we’d hoped, and 2) Our children see us in peace during moments where chaos is expected or present. It is a quiet visual of relationship for others to witness, rather than ranting that these difficult times or bad choices are not what we or God would want. When we keep our eyes on God, we step out of being a factor in or source of the chaos itself and become a vessel of peace.
We can relate to our children. After all, we often sense God’s direction in our lives and respond much like an adolescent to a parent, “I’ll do just fine, Lord, learning from my own mistakes.” As you know, life would be so much easier if we’d heed God’s advice. Let me encourage you to come close to God and grow in that relationship. His direction may, at times, be difficult, but the beauty of what He is creating is worth it, and the peace He imparts on the journey gives us strength to endure.
Watch what God can do in your child’s life. When we co-parent with Him, we experience peace in the midst of chaos. Witness the difference that peace in your own parenting can make for those in your life. Though some things take time to change, you can be sure that when you entrust your children to Him, He’ll do a great job. Be a quiet but powerful force of faith in your child’s corner. They will benefit!
Do you trust God? Spend some time pondering this question. The answer to it is extremely important and may be life changing for you. You will learn a lot about yourself and your relationship with Him by taking a deep penetrating look inward.
God loves you. He planned for and created you! His is a love in which you can find absolute security, and it is this love only that you can be set free. It is unconditional and very personal. All growth and maturity in your life will begin with the revelation of this love. Who can reveal this love to you? Only God can draw you to the saving grace of His Son, Jesus Christ. He prepares the soil, and He sows the seed. No amount of work that you do can draw you closer, but once you seek Him with all your heart, be prepared for life to change as His mighty hands work the clay and creates the vessel in which His Holy Spirit will indwell.
Once the Lord reveals His love of you to you and the awesomeness of this is realized, you will naturally fall in love with Him. He becomes your lover, your friend, your confidant. You begin to realize how special you are, and the feeling of being CHOSEN by the Creator overwhelms you. Revel in this state for a time, it’s a wonderful place to be. You find that you want to live in this moment and not stray from the love that surrounds and consumes you. You feel complete. You are complete. You will love yourself, perhaps even for the first time. In the security of His unconditional love, you will gain self-respect, and others opinions of you will seem much less important as you desire His company. You will realize what it truly is like to be loved as you are; mistakes, flaws, and all. As you focus on such a caring Father, you will not even realize He is working in you.
At some point, you will notice unnecessary desires have been displaced and realize how you’ve changed through no effort of your own. Note: through no effort of your own. You will realize this, how easy it is for God to come in and change you without your being aware. God does this through love. This is much easier than “working” to “look” Christian. You become accepting of the dross being burned away as you allow the Lord to take things out of your life that He deems unnecessary. You realize you are trusting in the unseen. How awesome is that?
Now, God is in your life. You’ve allowed Him to become the center of your being. You’ve chosen His unconditional love for you over the darkness and insecurities the world has still to offer. You have entered into His kingdom which is peace within you. Welcome, dear child of God.