I’ve always thought of Christmas as a time of joy, however, 2020 presented us with upheaval. Normal life has changed, and I find myself fighting worry. That’s one reason I enjoy history. The stories lift my spirit as I see how God worked in the past.
This week author Rebecca Price Janney was my guest, and she had a relative who fought in the Revolution. She related an encouraging story about a Christmas during the war.
“They should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for him, and find him, though he [God] is not far from all of us. For in him we live and move and exist…” Acts 17:27-28
Sometimes life spins out of control. That’s how I felt four years ago when my husband lay in an intermediate intensive care unit. After a sudden seizure, I rushed him to the hospital where doctors diagnosed encephalitis and pneumonia. His level of consciousness continued to sink and his temperature kept going up. A chill crept over me as I realized the doctors couldn’t control the infections. I could lose him.
For days I sat by his bed watching and nursing. I was still homeschooling, so I had my teacher’s manuals and my Bible. When he didn’t need me, I studied. The room was silent except for the beep of machines, and loneliness engulfed me.
I came across the passage in Acts where Paul addressed the citizens of Athens. The men of the city worshiped various deities. Fearful of leaving out someone important, they erected a statue to the unknown god. Paul took the opportunity to tell them about Yahweh, the true and living God. After meditating on that truth, I chose to believe God was nearby. Warmth crept into my soul as if someone draped a wool blanket over my shoulders.
Later, the phone rang. The person who called represented a firm that my husband worked with. She expressed her concern and asked if she could send a gift. I thanked her for remembering us but made no requests. As I put down the phone, I wished for a dish garden. The plants would last longer than cut flowers and brighten the room, but I didn’t tell anyone. The next day, that firm sent a huge dish garden, which included blooming plants. It was breathtaking and larger than the picture I’d imagined. If someone asked what I would’ve wanted, that’s what I would’ve chosen. The words of that verse came to mind. “…he is not far from all of us.” That particular day, he was close enough to know what I wanted. God heard my thoughts, and he chose to delight me.
I learned something that afternoon I’ve never forgotten. Prior to that time, I leaned on my husband during tough times, but during this illness he could offer nothing. The doctors battled the disease, but they couldn’t make promises. In that dark moment, God allowed me to see his gracious presence. He had the situation in hand, and let me know he loved me.
When I’m tempted to place all my hopes in someone who appears wise or strong, I think of that day. Psalm 146: 3 says “Do not trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no salvation.” Instead I remind myself “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146:5.