Little did we know back then that the Christmas story would hold the key to our son’s hope. When Chris was five years old he recited Luke 2:8-14 in church. Listen to his tiny voice declaring ‘peace to His people on earth.’
In December 1996 on another Christmas, eleven years later, Chris unraveled. Psychosis clouded his thinking and ravaged his emotions. He needed peace. We all needed peace.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines peace as, “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”
Can there be peace in the context of mental illness (MI)? Can we hope for peace? Back in 1997 we experienced God’s peace in the midst of our sorrow.
Surely we have trouble. But we can rejoice: in Him we find peace.
John 16:33 reminds us that Christ’s birth brought peace. Jesus assured his followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Suffering has a way of illuminating joy. How is that possible? Think about it. Serious struggles in life clarify priorities. Small annoyances no longer bother us. Dark trials deepen our faith. Send us to our knees. That’s when we really experience God’s faithfulness, power, and love. The result: inner joy.
What are you hoping for this Christmas? That the calendar days will fly by and the holiday will pass quickly? That you’ll have an incident-free family celebration?
Maybe you’re yearning for the less-complicated life of the past—before MI struck your child.
Do you wonder how you can celebrate with a heavy heart? Are you afraid Christmas lights will mock your dark emotions?
Perhaps what we all need is peace. That’s precisely why we can embrace Christmas more than others who seemingly lead a carefree life. The message of the season is peace. But we know life is filled with stress and trouble. We can count on them: trials. Sooner or later we’ll find ourselves enduring a trial.
Paul accepted that fact and told the Thessalonians, “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3).”
Where can we find hope knowing that we’re bound to experience trials? Raising a child with MI can test our faith. How can we hold onto our belief in a loving, living God?
When things got tough for Paul, the unshakable faith of others kept him strong.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith (1 Thessalonians 3:7).”
We’re like Paul. We see others going through a similar trial raising a child with MI. Their enduring faith encourages us. With bolstered faith we say, “If they can keep the faith during their ordeal, so can I.” Their testimony renews our trust in God. With greater assurance we declare, “If they can keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, so can I.”
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he encouraged them with this reminder:
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).”
We all share in that ‘eternal encouragement.’ I don’t know about you, but I need endless encouragement. Reassurances from above that will settle my heart. And give me His peace.
The radio has already started playing Christmas songs. I love the familiar carols that remind me of His peace. Songs like these:
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
“Hark! the herald angels sing
‘Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!’”
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
“It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
With news of joy foretold,
“‘Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heaven’s all gracious King.’”
Give yourself permission to unwrap your Christmas present from God early. Open up Isaiah 9:6. You’ll find that blessed Gift, God’s Son, the Prince of Peace. Along with God’s Gift comes perfect peace. You’ll find the promise of that peace wrapped lovingly in Philippians 4:7.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
That’s one re-gifting we can all celebrate! It’s for everyone!!!