woman facing the ocean during day
Advent, Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Hope anchors the soul – a thought on Advent

When the pressures of life are crushing, where do we go?

Nine more days until Christmas. Did that just speed your heart up with the thought that there is still too many things that need to get done before then? Or did it speed up your heart in excitement of the anticipation of celebration?

photo of christmas tree during night

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves with the final week’s preparations, let’s take a moment and prepare space in our thoughts for Him.

Have we left room in our thoughts for Him? Or are we more prone to fill it with lies we tend to think are truth, thoughts about ourselves, or thoughts that look down on others? Are we filling our mind with to-dos and what ifs and should-haves instead of promises and truth?

This world has so many things that bombard our thoughts on a daily basis through news, social media, radio, and advertising. We have to be intentional in order to shove out the negative and make room for Jesus in the very middle of it all. 

All this “noise” can easily push out a core concept of this Advent season – HOPE.

What is hope?

Yakhal is a Hebrew word for hope that means “to wait for” – as in the time when Noah “waited for” the waters to recede.

Qavah is the Hebrew word for hope that means “to wait” as in a time when you pull a rubber band as far as it will go and you “wait for” the release of tension to break.

The combination of these two words of hope is what Christ followers have: we are waiting for Christ (yakhal) and we are also waiting for the release of the tension (qavah) of this life.

woman facing the ocean during day

God’s past faithfulness motivates hope for the future.

We have hope for the future because we can look back on His promises.

Like Psalm 39:7 that says 

“And so, Lord, where do I put my quavah? My only yakhal is in you.”

In other words: Lord, what else can I do when I am waiting on this tension of life to break? You alone are Who I wait for. We look back to the risen Jesus and wait in anticipation of His return again. This hope anchors our soul, no matter the storms that come, the hope of Jesus can hold us firm and secure.

I have found joy in Psalm 39:7, especially now that I have learned two of the different descriptions of hope. I encourage you to write this verse down and post it prominently in your home. Though it doesn’t appear as a Christmas verse, it can remind us of exactly what Christmas is about: 

Celebrating Christ’s first coming while we wait in hopeful anticipation for His second. 

As we prepare room in our thoughts for Him, let’s center on this hope.

May you find peace and joy in your heart during this Christmas season as you prepare room in your heart and mind for our Jesus.

silhouette of trees under starry night
Advent, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

When there is one less this Christmas season

silhouette of trees under starry night

The first holiday after a family death is disorienting. The usual practices of the seasons are happening around you – parties, gatherings, celebrations – but you find that sometimes you either go through the motions or want to just run and hide from it all.

Gathering together when your family is fractured by death feels out of sync. The usual rhythms that you were once used to have to be re-coordinated, new roles assumed, and traditions shift.

In times like these, when you are no longer as you once were and those who remain are trying to find their way – this is a time to gather in holy defiance.

Death, though it has lost it’s final battle over eternity, still gets it’s punches in while we walk this earth. The enemy continues to pull us away from hope and the promise of life in heaven. It likes to tug at us in our grief, pulling us into despair.

We could choose to let the Christmas celebrations go to the wayside. We may very well want to stay away from the cheery crowds and joyful celebrations. Or perhaps you’re joining in the merriment – the cookie making, the gift giving, and the carol singing. You’re going through the motions but they’re not necessarily coming from the heart.

And that can make the feeling even worse because you know the real reason to celebrate. You know that Jesus is the reason for the season. You know it but you just aren’t feeling it.

Believe it or not, this season is for you. This is exactly why Jesus came.

He didn’t come for the happy, the healthy, and the no-care-in-the-world.

He came for the sorrowful, the sick, and the low.

It was for those walking in darkness – THEY saw a great Light. It was for the poor in spirit, the downtrodden, and those who have lost hope.

What if we saw our choice to gather, despite our feelings, as an act of holy defiance? A stand-up against all the things the enemy wants our life to be consumed with? He wants isolation, pain, loneliness, and heartache. We can choose fellowship, hope, and healing.

If you’re feeling low, if this Christmas is a bit harder to conjure up the cheer, please, take heart. Spend a moment in quiet, celebrating in stillness the joy of a Savior made flesh, dwelling among us. Allow yourself time to grieve what once was. There is goodness found even in the house of mourning. He brought hope in the dark, quiet night all those years ago in Bethlehem. And He can bring hope to your heart, too. Jesus isn’t looking for the most festive and joyful Christmas spirit. He desires the hearts that come to Him broken, knowing He can heal.

top view of a family praying before christmas dinner

He wants hearts tuned to him, even when they’re broken. Hearts looking to Him, the true joy-giver. Hearts that know that the only hope, the only path to healing, is found in the Hope of Jesus. Hope came all those years ago in a small stable, and it’s still available for each of today.

So, this year, will you join with us who keep going forward despite the heartache? Who look up to the sky with expectant hope of our coming Jesus? Will you celebrate this Christmas in holy defiance to all that the enemy is trying to steal?

We may do it with tears glistening in our eyes, but we’ll also have a spark of joy in our hearts. Because we can take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming Messiah with the same holy defiance, despite the darkness that surrounded him –

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone ✨ Isaiah 9:2