“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” -Romans 12:12
“Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God.” Robert Schuller
- Remember to call your prayer partner today. In the midst of the holiday season, it is so important to keep praying with one another. Now is a time when most of us need extra prayer to get through the stress and busyness, so don’t give up!
- Take a moment to appreciate the blessings of Christmastime. Soak in the beauty of your Christmas decorations, make some peppermint tea, or light a Christmas candle. Get cozy with your book, Bible, and journal. Treasure this special time with your Father.
- Read Romans 12 and write verse 12 in your journal.
Joy in Hard Times
Christmas time is a season to celebrate peace, hope, joy, and love, but what if you’re not feeling very joyful or you seem to be in a hopeless situation? Friends, that is the perfect time to ponder the peace and joy of God! Set aside holiday busyness and spend quality time with the Lord. We share the Spirit of Christmas through personal relationship with Jesus; it’s not something we should fake in order to meet cultural expectations. You can and should observe Christmas in a way that genuinely nourishes your soul, which may or may not be festive.
There is nothing wrong with taking a week or a year off from hanging Christmas lights or baking gingerbread so that you can shift your focus to leaning on your Savior in prayer. That’s exactly how I’ve spent this Christmas season, and it has been so nourishing. I have drawn closer to Jesus in a unique way. I simply don’t have time or energy for the Christmas fanfare I usually love, and Jesus is okay with that. On the outside, it may seem as though I’m not in the usual Christmas Spirit, but on the inside I am developing a new understanding and love for my Savior.
Through my current season of struggle, I am learning to find joy in my trials instead of forcing joy in spite of those trials. I am learning the true meaning of being joyful in hope. By definition, hope is something that hasn’t yet happened. To be joyful in hope is to thank God for that messy and difficult hardship that is bringing you to your knees in prayer. It is having faith that, all things work for the good of those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). You don’t need to downplay your struggles; in Christ, you can face them head-on, filled with joy because your hope in Christ is greater than any present struggle.
The Israelites awaited the Messiah’s arrival from a very dark place and time in history. God’s Word promised a Deliverer, the King of all kings, the Prince of Peace, while their reality was oppression under a brutal Roman dictator. As baby Jesus was learning to walk and talk, King Herod was overseeing the slaughter of Jewish infants. As Jesus grew into a man, Satan attacked the nation with unprecedented plagues and demonic possession. However, Jesus’ light was all the more evident when contrasted with the dark world around Him. God called His people to overlook the fear and pain around them, cling to His promises, and accept their Holy Savior.
As Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds gathered around baby Jesus that first Christmas, they gazed into the face of a helpless baby and clung to God’s Word. They didn’t know how this baby would fulfill all that God had promised, but they trusted His Word and held it deep within their hearts. If we exercise our faith and hope in the dark times—just as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ first followers did—joy will see us through to the light.
If we truly live as though “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength and [our] shield,” then life’s inevitable trials and hardships will not be so devastating (Psalm 28:7). We know that,
…Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Spend this Christmas season focusing on the unseen glory and love of God, growing in strength and love. If you do that by making Christmas crafts and playing the Christmas radio stations every day, that’s great; if you do it by listening to a few powerful Christmas hymns and spending more time in prayer, that’s great too. Whatever your life may look like right now, may your faith, hope, joy, and love grow in tandem and bring your heart closer to your beloved Creator this Christmas.
Blessings and Love,
Questions to Ponder
- Think of the hardships in your life in which you leaned on God in prayer. What good came out of it? Thank God for those difficult times and the good that came from them.
- Are you in a good place—a season in which joy comes naturally? Thank God for the trials that got you there. Look for God’s hand in your life’s struggles and note how God used those struggles to guide you into peace.
- “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). Do you truly believe this verse? Ask God for wisdom to understand your hardships and what good they are accomplishing.
Prepare yourself for spiritual warfare before it comes. When hard times strike, we often feel confused or anxious, unable to look past our own emotions. Write down verses that remind you of God’s presence and provision now, and keep them in a special place in your journal or phone to serve as a reminder when you need them. The verses throughout this study provide a great starting point. So does Job 36:15: “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.” Add encouraging Bible verses to the list regularly.