Star of Wonder

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Is. 9:2a)

We live in the twilight, in a land of uncertain shadows and pockets of night. As the partial light shifts, so do our perceptions. Our searching feet grope for the path ahead; our fumbling hands fail us; we struggle to recognize friend from foe. We need a light that will not go out.

In a world where fire was the only defense against darkness, our ancestors worshiped the stars. Those ghostly, inexplicable lights in the sky represented warmth, sight, travel, food, in short: life. To the ancients, the stars revealed signs and omens, activity in the heavenly realm which directed the earth below. Consider the tides, magnetic fields, asteroids and eclipses which show us they were not altogether wrong. And when an image was wanted to describe the brightness of an angel who fell from grace, he was likened to a star (Is. 14:12). But that so-called “son of the dawn” brought only more darkness as he tumbled to earth.

But at Christmas time we remember that God placed a brilliant star in the heavenly night to announce the coming of the Light of the world (John 8:12). That glorious star was a portent, as of a god or a god-man, the promise of a greater light to come. Very few recognized its significance and perhaps fewer still walked its rays to find the source of its secret: a baby in a manger who is called the bright, morning star (Rev. 22:16). In this case “morning star” means the sun, the brightest star in our sky, a symbol for God Himself (Ps. 84:11). He came to help us see the world as it is, to see one another in love and to illuminate His Father, the God of creation and redemption.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that even now we see only dimly. The light of God is shrouded by the clouds of our atmosphere. The broken pieces of the world refract its brilliance, creating the shadows we fear. But a day has been promised to us when the shadows shall all flee, when our confusion shall be at an end, when no fire or moon or physical sun will be needed because there will be no more darkness (Rev. 22:5). We hold in our hands the lamp of God’s word which shines its rays into the circle of our existence, but even that flame is a temporary measure.

When you watch the lights twinkle on your Christmas tree or your neighbor’s shrubbery, when you admire all the stars decorating the cards in your mailbox, when you notice that streak of glory riding high over every nativity scene this holiday season, remember that it is a flickering reminder of the true light which came into the world two thousand years ago and will come once again. Be comforted and encouraged until the day dawns and the morning star rises (2 Peter 1:19) in all its final, celestial glory.

Let us, with the humble shepherds and prescient wise men, come to Him this Christmas – and SEE.


If this time of year is difficult for you, see our help-for-the-holidays handout.

What’s in a Friendship?

Dear Christian Counselor,

Is it really that important to have a lot of friends? I think that I can feel just as lonely even when I have a lot of friends. I am the one that tends to not call or not let people get too close to me. I think it’s the little girl in me that doesn’t want to be hurt over and over again. So I just keep a handful of friends, and I tell each of them just how much I want them to know about me. When I thought that I had a good friendship starting, all the other person wanted to do was talk about her life, her day and her everything. I understand that she obviously needs to talk, but when she is done she immediately says ok, well I have to go. What’s up with that????

Your blogs make me think and also think deeper about Jesus. Thank you.

Afraid of Friends


Dear Afraid,

No, I don’t think it’s important to have lots of friends as long as you have a couple of great friends you can really count on and confide in. Even before the fall, when everything was right with the world, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” We do need other people. But after sin entered the world, friendships got harder and messier. I had a wonderful professor who taught, “People get hurt in relationships, and they get healed in relationships” – but once you’ve been hurt, it’s harder to risk making friends.

The kind of one-sided relationship you are talking about is not mutual, and so I would not call it a real friendship. A friendship can be one-sided for a season, during a time of extraordinary need, but to be a real friendship there should be give-and-take over time, risk-taking on both sides, room for mistakes, space for confession, true forgiveness, love and laughter. When only one person is sharing, giving, taking, etc., you are talking about a role you have in their life, not a relationship. It might be appropriate in some cases for you to have a role like that – with an elderly relative, for example. But if you are feeling used, as though you are simply a warm body on the other end of the phone, I think you are free to step back from that relationship and look for one that feels more like a friendship. You are not being fed and refreshed, and the sad part is that you are becoming resentful.

I know it will take courage for you to reach out and try again. I pray that God will give you that strength. You’ve already been hurt in relationship – may you now find some healing in a true friendship.

Are You Lonely?

 

Ironically, loneliness is something which binds us all together. Introvert or extrovert, nomad wanderer or family man, no matter who or where you are, we all feel alone sometimes. I’ve been told there’s no loneliness like a life of being single, and I believe it. I’ve also been told there’s no loneliness like being married and yet on your own. I believe that, too. Loneliness is a hallmark of the human condition.

 

When Adam and Eve fell, they became separated in all their relationships – from each other, from Creation itself and from God. And their descendants inherited their misery. All our associations have become a daily struggle. We misunderstand our friends and malign our enemies instead of ministering to those around us. We fight with the weeds in our yard rather than cooperating with the soil to bring life and color into the world. And we are prone to forget God within moments of knowing His gracious presence with us. You are not experiencing anything strange or unexpected when you feel alone, but loneliness IS a painful form of suffering.

 

So what can you do about it?

 

  • Accept it. You will never cure all your loneliness in this life. Like a clap of thunder on a sunny day, it can strike you at any time, out of the blue. Loneliness sometimes triggers sorrow, frustration, confusion, desperation, anxiety and the feeling that we must be doing something wrong. While you cannot cure all your loneliness, you can refuse to give in to the temptations that come with it, temptations to believe and to do things to fight it, to explain it and to end it. Instead, accept it. It comes with being human. There is something better ahead. If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world (CS Lewis). You are just going to be lonely for a little while here, and that’s OK. Everyone else is, too.
  • Connect with others. The walk of faith was never meant to be a solo journey. Even before the Fall God said it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Jesus Himself had friends, and He sent his disciples out two by two. God placed us in families, in neighborhoods and nations so we could reach toward the hands and hearts of those around us. The church needs you, and you need the church. Even if it scares you, you were made for relationship. I always tell people that it takes between three and five attempts to make a new friend. Devise a prayerful plan, and be ready to persevere. It’s worth it.
  • Connect with creation. Even if you have a terminally brown thumb like me, you can find ways to enjoy nature. I find that spending five minutes outside (even in the Florida heat) brings me a peace I cannot find indoors. One of my favorite activities is snorkeling where I experience a beautiful world normally witnessed by God alone. He made us for garden life, so get out there. Take a walk. Get a plant or a pet. Arrange some flowers. Paint a landscape.
  • Connect with God. Read Romans 8. Even when you don’t feel it, you are NEVER ALONE, NEVER UNLOVED, NEVER HOPELESS. God knows intimately all your circumstances, your blessings and the heart groanings even you don’t understand. If He loved you enough to send His only Son to die for you, why would He abandon you now?  Stay in God’s word. Study it with others. Pray at every opportunity and in every state of mind. Keep a gratefulness journal.

You cannot finally cure your loneliness by doing these things, but sometimes you will get a taste of the future which waits for us in which we will never be lonely again.