Merry Christmas???


I’m going to come right out and say it. Christmas is far from my favorite time of year. I hate the rush, the constant push of advertisers, the endless Christmas songs that speak of what it could be, when the reality is that it is something far more shallow. Of course, my working in retail doesn’t help with that.

Add to that that my daughter Anna has been struggling a lot over the last few weeks. She wonders why she can’t be “normal.” She wonders if she will ever be happy again. She has been struggling with cutting again. In fact, last week while I was on air recording our weekly cigar podcast, The AshHoles (yeah, that’s the name they gave it, but it’s actually a very fun show and I enjoy doing it. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing podcasts in the country), she sent me a picture of her hand with needles stuck in it. She was begging for help. Fortunately, my dad lives close by and was able to head right over, and I left for home as soon I could. That was a hard night.

In a word, the last few weeks have been brutal. More so for my wife who is with her much more than I of late. It is hard for her to see her daughter struggle so hard. She struggles with the voices in her mind that try to convince her that it is her fault. Of course none of it is. She could no more cause Anna’s mental illness than she could alter the rotation of the earth. But a mother’s love and personal connection makes those thoughts hard to fend off sometimes. Truth be told, she is not happy with God’s providence right now. She feels ignored at best and punished at worst. Will things ever get better? Will things ever change? Her questions are very similar to Anna’s.

I keep this picture of Anna on my tablet.

It was taken in September. She and I were able to enjoy some daddy daughter time in Wolfboro, NH. We were staying with some friends who took us out for a ride on their boat. She was, as the picture testifies, genuinely happy. I loved the joy on her face. I wanted to remember it. I wanted her to remember it. I wanted her to remember that it is not always Dark; that joy was not something she never experienced. I wanted to remind her that her heavenly Father would not leave her in the Dark, or forget about her. These times have not come to stay, they have come to pass. How or when I do not know, but I know that they will. That is what that picture means to me.

For similar reasons, I have been learning that is why it is important to keep in the Word and to pray. Keeping in the Word reiterates God’s promises of grace, love, forgiveness, and redemption. Reading Scripture I find not only God’s promises, but the stories of people whom I identify with. I’m sure Isaac was wondering what was going on when he was on the altar. Joseph, I am sure had times when he looked around the foreign prison he was in and wondered if the dreams of God’s blessings from his youth were more delusion than prophecy. I can only imagine what Jonah was thinking when salvation from drowning meant being eaten by a gigantic fish. And we all know that Job was asking the same questions, and clearly wondered if death was preferable to living through his crap. But in all these cases, God came through. They all found God’s mercies abounding on the other side.

Rotten circumstances, lousy people, headaches and heartaches cannot undo what God is doing. They cannot kill the grace that is in your life. But they can cover them like smog and lead you to think they are gone. Prayer, I have been learning builds thankfulness and reminds you of the blessings that God has been planting in your life. They are still there! Smog may hide the Golden Gate Bridge, but it can’t make it disappear. Scripture and prayer act like the wings of a plane that can fly you above the clouds and let you see that the Son is still shining.

That said, do not think for one minute that prayer and Scripture reading are going to make your problems go away. Oh, some might that is true. But that is not always the case. And as tempting as it may be to believe that if we prayed better, or studied the Bible harder, or had purer faith that our problems, doubts, and pains would evaporate like the morning dew, you need to know that that idea is categorically false. This is one of the points of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV), Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sometimes, to grow in grace we need to see how weak we are, how powerless we are, and how dependent on the Father’s grace we are.

15 Comments

  1. Nice to see you back Dan. I have been enjoying your posts on Facebook!
    One thing I have learned through this cancer is that it is important for me to look for the grace He shows me in the midst of my deepest struggles. Grace is always there, as well as mercy, and there have been hundreds of examples of that as I recover from this bout with cancer. God never leaves us! Sometimes we fail to see the little graces along the way, but they are there if we look for them, as well as the mercies.
    I am so sorry to hear Anna has been struggling so deeply. My prayers are with you. I am reminded of her struggles every time I see your Facebook posts. I will add to that list your wife. I can only imagine what she goes through dealing with these things. I pray God will intervene soon!
    Be blessed my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words Pete, I really appreciate them. I’m also grateful for your prayers. God’s grace is always there that is very true. I think people who are going through deep things like yourself have a real understanding of what myself and my family is going through. Everything is not always hunky dory just because you love Jesus. I think one of the main lessons of these times for me has been that it is not at all up to me. He wants me to see that it’s all him. And I think he wants other people to see that too. I also think there’s a lot of hidden hurt in the church, and we don’t often talk about it. I think it needs to come out.

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  2. Merry Christmas, Pastor Dan! May you feel His presents (presence) everywhere you go.
    My heart goes out to you and your family. We’d lay our very lives down for our kids if we could, so to watch them suffer has got to be one of the most excruciating things we can ever experience. God Himself has been there, He knows that grief so well. He did the same for us.
    Not everyone is chosen to hold that same kind of emotion, not everyone is worthy. I had to stop asking myself “why me” and start focusing on “why not me?” Am I not worthy of this kind of love? Is God’s word safe in my mouth? Is His trust in me misplaced? Feels like it sometimes, but it isn’t true. God calls some of us to a whole new level of the game. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
    My kids are bigger now, the youngest is 18, but I’ve had to let them go spiritually, had to place them in the Lord’s hands, had to just speak life over them, over and over again, and to declare, “if this is the path we’re taking, than show me the pearls in the cesspool and make me and this child the best representatives of who He is that we can possibly be.”
    Hang in there and keep the faith. God is good always, even when everything is too big and overwhelming for us to understand.

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    1. Thank you my friend I always find your words very encouraging. Don’t worry about me letting go or not hanging in there. I have no intention of doing that. Frankly I don’t see a better option than holding on. I try and keep my sense of humor going and seriously work at looking for the things to be thankful for. I always find them. I’ve never had a day go by when I did not come up with a very big list of things to be thankful for. The one problem is is that I have not done it every day. It is so easy to get distracted from these good things we want to do. But it is good remember that God’s grace and his mercy and his healing and his promises that we all can place all of our hope in, do not at all depend on are being good enough or there enough. It all is on the shoulders of Jesus. And he’s already finished at work. Nothing I can do can change that it good or bad. I am the first to admit that sometimes I want to think differently or catch myself thinking differently and acting differently. But I am more and more quickly reminding myself that it is not up to me that it is up to him and that because of him it is already done. I don’t know what his plans for Anna are. I hope they are plans that I will like here in this world. But even if that turns out not to be the case here is not the real world is it? In heaven everything will be better. All of her problems will be gone. And she will have overcome the mall because of the grace she was given by the one way love of Jesus Christ.

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  3. Dan, my daughter cut also. You have my tears and my prayers. Is she treatment resistant; drugs don’t really work for her? My daughter is. The one place, the solution for her was Austin/Riggs in Stockbridge, MA. They specialize in treatment resistant conditions and they saved her life. Meanwhile, may God strengthen and guide you and your family!

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    1. She has something called Non Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). It’s been lumped into the autism spectrum. So we are dealing with severe clinical depression and anxiety. I will check out Austin Riggs. Thanks for the tip….and the prayers. 👌

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  4. Nice to see your post Dan.. I will continue to pray for Anna.. Believing that God will give you and your wife strength.. It is a beautiful picture of Anna, cherish the moment 🙂

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  5. Dan, as I read that scripture my eyes filled with tears, as I have struggled with so many things in my life, and co tinue to at times. And hearing of your struggles. I just keep reminding myself of the patience God is building in me, the strength he gives us; even when we do not see it. God has brought you to it, and He’ll bring you through it! The othe sucky part is, His timing IS NOT our timing. Please Jesus, help us!

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  6. Sorry for the delay in seeing this. I am so sorry for all that you and your family are going through. I know that dealing with depression and it’s effects are not easy. I will continue to pray for Anna and your entire family. God bless you all!! Love and ((Hugs)) to you all!

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