God With Us

Written by Julie

On December 17, 2022

Christmas is not here to offer a four-week escape from the pain of the world with a paper-thin layer of twinkle lights.

It is not here to anesthetize us with bows and eggnog lattes.

Christmas is not offering us the chance to escape the ache of life through piles of presents.

Christmas is God saying, “Yes, this pain is too much. Yes, it is too sad. Yes, the ache is too great. Hang on. I’ll come carry it with you.”

@meredithannemiller on Instagram

In Matthew 1:21, an angel tells Joseph to name the child Jesus, meaning “Savior,” “the Lord is salvation,” or “Yahweh saves.” Matthew 1:22-23 tells us that a prophecy is fulfilled and that His name Emmanuel means “God with us.” The prophecy is from Isaiah 7:14, which is a very familiar verse.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign;
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

But do you realize why that prophecy was given, what the circumstances were?

Judah had turned away from God for the nth time, resulting in so much depravity, darkness, pain, fear, etc. Syria and Israel attacked Judah, specifically Jerusalem. The Judean king, Ahaz, and his people feared; their hearts moved “as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). God tells Isaiah to tell Ahaz that he doesn’t have to fear, that Syria and Israel won’t succeed. He goes on to tell Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refuses (why he refused is a whole other topic). God says, “Okay, I’ll decide what sign to give you: a virgin will have a son called Immanuel.”

The promise of God being with us came during challenging, scary, painful circumstances.

That’s why we celebrate. God showed up, entered in, was present. He is with us.

It doesn’t erase the pain, the fact that we live in a broken/sinful world.

But it doesn’t have to; that’s not the point.

I believe I first discovered Grace Anne (aka, Totally Graced) through Instagram, and I’ve been subscribed to her Tuesday Letters since April 2021. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, she sent an email that I thought fit with this post.

Life is a constant process of learning how to hold celebration and grief simultaneously, to cup them in our hands and allow them to coexist, and there’s never more of a spotlight on that than during the holidays.

One of my favorite newsletters to read is by an artist by the name of Mari Andrew. …

This week, she wrote about gratitude, and about the fact that when you’re having a hard time, slapping gratitude onto the end of it doesn’t necessarily fix the feeling. For example, if I were to say, “My job is stressing me out, and I don’t know how to fix it, and if I get one more email yelling at me for something I didn’t do, I’m going to cry…BUT I’m grateful I have a job!” ….it doesn’t exactly make everything better. The problems are dismissed as irrelevant, and the gratitude feels, well, more than a little forced and false. 

What Mari says, however, is that if you allow those feelings to coexist with gratitude instead of being dismissed by it—that’s the first step you need. 

So, instead of slapping that “BUT I’M GRATEFUL ANYWAYS” on the end of the situation that’s making life hard these days, you can acknowledge the good there, too—you can say, “Well, my job is stressful, and I don’t know what to do, and I’m at my wits end with these emails. And I’m also grateful that I have work right now, and that I have a coworker to laugh over dumb customers with. 

“And” leaves room for both–the hard and the sweet. The heavy and the holy. It doesn’t erase the hurt that this season might flare up, but it doesn’t blot out the good that lives here, either.

It takes away the expectation that the good has to somehow make up for all the bad–because let’s be honest, it often can’t. There are depths of grief that can’t be glossed over by turkey dinners and Christmas carols and Hallmark movies. But the moments of light can live alongside that heaviness–it can be said that good still lives here, too. There are still things to be grateful for.

Grace Anne Johnson, Tuesday Letter “#177 // and we’re grateful” (underlining and last link added)

One of my favorite Bible passages is Psalm 46. It talks about God being “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” It says we won’t fear, even though all these bad/hard/scary things are happening. Verse 7 proclaims:

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 46:7 KJV

God is with us. Selah–pause, reflect.

Note that it doesn’t say “God is with us, and nothing bad will happen!” “We don’t have to fear, because God will keep absolutely everything harmful, challenging, uncomfortable, or inconvenient away from us!”

No. The very first verse says that God is our help in trouble. John 16:33, which is Jesus speaking, tells us that in this world we will. have. tribulation.

“But be of good cheer,” Jesus adds; “I have overcome the world.” He has overcome, and He is with us. Be of good cheer; take heart!

Take heart, dear soul.

Yes, this world is not the greatest.

Yes, there is so much sin and sorrow.

Yes, we ache and we long for something better.

And yes, there is joy.

Yes, one day this will end.

Yes, we will be healed and satisfied.

Yes, our Redeemer is working all things for good.

Yes, we have a God walking beside us, feeling our pain, pulling us to Him.

Yes, yes, yes.

He is with us in every feeling, every situation.

He enters into the darkness, pain, etc., and He brings light, hope, healing, etc.

Make space for both the celebration and the grief, the hard and the sweet, the heavy and the holy, the light and the heaviness.

God is with us.

📷: Welcome to All! ツon Pixabay

		
Julie

Julie

Hi, I'm Julie, a 17-year-old lover of books, music, and Jesus. I'm a senior in high school (Abeka Academy) and have been blogging for three years. I also co-publish a digital magazine called Priceless geared toward teen girls. My desire is to use my words to glorify my Saviour and to encourage you in your walk with God. I'd love to hear from you!

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