Thursday, June 29, 2017

More of Him

Recently, I’ve been working with my massage therapist to find some ways to reduce the arthrofibrosis (a fancy way of saying scar tissue or contracture, causing stiffening of an injured joint), to increase the range of motion around my knee. She has been somewhat successful, and I am cautiously optimistic that this might actually make my knee a little more functional and a little less painful, if I keep it up. When I first recognized that this treatment was helping, I really praised God and worshiped Him for bringing along this treatment. Sadly, however, that period of praise and worship was short, because, as usual, my heart wants more.
More pain relief: It went from a 6 to a four. But I want a 3. (Really I want a zero, but I know that’s not likely.)

More flexion and extension: It went from super-stiff to moderately stiff. I want no stiffness.
More walking: Before, I couldn’t walk a block. Now I can walk half a mile. I want a mile.
More standing: I could stand through one hymn at church before. Now it’s 3. I want 4 hymns and the prayer. 

See how my heart works? No matter what I have, I want more. The Bible calls this discontentment. It also reflects a lack of gratitude for the improvement I do have. As I prayed about this condition of my heart, it dawned on me that I am not alone in this. Many of us struggle with discontentment, especially when we have pain or disability. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is truly contented in every area of life, at least if they are completely honest. So this leads me to believe that it is a part of human nature, and a result of the fall.

But let’s think about this for a moment. Discontentment seems to me to be in the same category as loneliness. Lonely people long for human companionship, and most of us would become lonely if we were isolated for a long period of time. I believe that God wired us this way so that we would long for relationship with Him. There is no kind of intimacy that satisfies like intimacy with our creator. God is also a relational being, as we see clearly from the relationship among the Trinity. Since He made us in His image, it makes sense that we long for relationship. So, as I see it, He has created us with a desire for relationship so that we will seek Him.

Perhaps this is true with contentment as well. Though discontentment is clearly sinful, I believe it is a twisted version of something good that God put in us—a desire for contentment—which would have produced a good and acceptable longing in our hearts if it had not been corrupted by sin. We always desire more. What if we could take our discontentment and shift it over to a desire for more of Him? What if I could recognize my desire for more pain relief, repent of discontentment about it, and shift it over in my thinking to desire for more of Him: More knowledge of the Holy; more intimacy with my Creator; more godly wisdom and love; more hope of heaven. These things would surely calm and comfort my heart in those desperate moments when I think I can’t live like this another day, wouldn’t they?

Saint Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” This expresses exactly what I was thinking as I wrestled with this most recent bout of discontentment. God has put a longing in our hearts, and we search everywhere for satisfaction of that longing. For me, the thing that distracts me most from longing after God is my desire for comfort, pain relief, and mobility. When I make that my God; when I seek my satisfaction in that, I can never be satisfied. There will always be pain in this life, and there is no guarantee for any of us that we will be able to stand, walk, or enjoy comfortable days always. But God has promised us Himself, and we can be satisfied in Him.

So, each day, as we drag our stiff and aching bodies from the bed, rather than asking the Lord for pain relief and renewed health, what if we asked Him for more of Him?

More love.
More hope.
More joy, peace, and patience with others?

These are things that are ours for the asking.

I am now determined to stay discontented, but not because I lack those things I said I wanted—more standing, walking, and pain relief. I’m planning to stay dissatisfied with how much I know my Savior, how much I look like Him, and most of all, how much joy I have, simply in Him. I am going to take all those things that have caused me such discontentment, and count them all loss for Christ.

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  ~Philippians 3: 7-11


Oh, to truly desire nothing more than we desire Jesus Christ: To tap into His power, to enjoy that sweet fellowship He offers in this life, and finally to be truly conformed to Him in every way, when we see Him face to face! What a day that will be, when we shout, “Hallelujah! What a Healer! What a Savior!”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Will You Join Me?

It has been a while since I’ve posted here. Life has gotten so busy! Counseling, administering online Biblical Counseling Training Program, writing for the Biblical Counseling for Women Blog, and keeping up some semblance of a personal life has me busier than I’ve ever been! Don’t get me wrong, I love everything I’m doing, but it leaves little time for documenting my personal journey of pain. I know that some of these articles have been an encouragement to many of you, and I don’t want to neglect any opportunity to be a part of that!

I’m writing today to invite you to help me keep Near To the Healer going. Some of you have written to me about your own personal journeys with pain, and they have been inspirational and encouraging to me. I’d like to ask you today, will you contribute? I would love to read any and all of your stories of pain, victory over self-pity, struggles to trust God with disability, or anything else that might be on your heart regarding your personal journey with physical pain and spiritual victory.

If you’d like to contribute an article, just drop me an email, with your article attached, at suzanne@ntth.gmail.com. Please include a brief biography, and how you came to experience your painful condition. The only content requirement is that your story is encouraging, and that it points the reader to Christ and the Word of God for comfort and hope.
I’m excited to hear from you!
In Christ,

Suzanne

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Not Just The Spirit

Just as I’d begun to boast that I’d made it through a whole winter without catching any of the nasty bugs that had flown around, I began to feel a little off. Sneezing and sinus pain made their way into my picture seemingly overnight. I blamed it on allergies for a while, since our Missouri February had been unseasonably warm, and things had begun to bloom early. But, after a few days, it was clear that this was something more. Long story short, I’ve been battling a sinus infection for a couple of weeks now, and it has really knocked me flat!

Today is the first day of our annual B3 conference, and I am still not quite up to par. But, ministry does not wait for complete recovery, and I am very excited to get to participate; also grateful that the timing of this illness did not providentially prohibit me from going. However, this morning, as I prayed and read my Bible, I sensed some anxiety in my heart about how I was feeling physically. Still a bit “wrung out” and weary from the sickness, I wondered whether I would be able to make it through the rigors of a 3-day conference, and particularly my own workshop, for which I have been preparing for weeks. I asked the Lord to show me Truth about what was going on in my heart, and He led me to Romans 8:11, JBP:

Once the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives within you he will, by that same Spirit, bring to your whole being, yes even your mortal bodies, new strength and vitality. For he now lives in you.

I’ve always thought of this verse as being more about spiritual strength, but that phrase, “yes, even your mortal bodies,” really struck my heart today. I was especially encouraged by the promise of vitality. My dictionary says that vitality is the state of being strong and active. It is energy! That is what I have found so sorely lacking these last few days. I thanked the Lord for this word to me today, and also just for the fact that He brought such a personally relevant little phrase out of His Word, to encourage me in exactly the way I needed on this particular day. What a great Friend He is!

Almost as soon as I thanked Him for helping me, I knew that His gracious provision was not just for me. It is for everyone who suffers with pain, low energy, or sickness. All these afflictions fall in the category of weakness in which I found myself today. Many afflictions that have a both a spiritual and physical component, and I believe this applies to them, too. Friends who suffer from anxiety have rushes of adrenaline and other hormones that can cause rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shaking hands. Those who have ongoing sorrow or grief can have physical symptoms like low energy, insomnia, headaches, and the like. Many of you could offer details of your struggle that also would fit in this same box.

Dear friends, here is the bottom line: Whatever the cause of your physical affliction, take heed to this promise of your Father, who loves you. Does the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead live within you? Then you need to muster up whatever energy you can and praise Him right now, because, by that same Spirit, He will bring even your mortal body new strength and vitality. Spiritual strength and vitality are a given when we are talking about spiritual life. But physical strength is an extra blessing that we can also count on, according to this Scripture.

But what is the purpose of this strength and vitality? Is it just so we can feel good and have our energy back? I don’t think so. Remembering that any text studied without its context presents a risk that we may misunderstand the meaning, I had to consider the rest of the passage. I also know that God doesn’t always restore vitality in sickness (the death rate among humans is still 100%), so I knew there had to be more, and there is. Paul goes on to talk about living according to the Spirit, and putting to death the deeds of the sinful nature. 

As I read the passage, here’s what I came away with: God has called us to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. He has promised to give us His Spirit, which supplies the desire to obey His commands. He also, according to this passage, has said that He will supply the physical energy we need, to follow through with that obedience. The conclusion? We are never too physically weak to pass Spiritual tests. Just as 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises, God is faithful, and will provide the way of escape.

This is why feeling sick or being in pain is not an excuse to be cranky. Even in pain, God will give us the physical strength to restrain ourselves from saying unkind things or taking it out on our loved ones. By the same token, being weary or tired is not an excuse to bow out of ministry opportunities we could fulfill if we had the right attitude. I’m not saying we should press on when we have a serious illness or are providentially prohibited by disability, but in general, as much as we are able, we can press on through tiredness or manageable pain, to bring glory to God and to fulfill the ministries He’s assigned to us. We do need to listen to our bodies, follow medical advice, but sometimes there has to be a case-by-case consideration.

If we’re honest, you and I know that we are sometimes tempted because of our chronic physical condition in one of two ways: To use it as an excuse to get out of doing things when we are mentally or emotionally weak; or to give in to fear that it will get worse if we keep going in fulfilling a commitment. That second place is where I was this morning. But God didn’t leave me in that fear. He gave me this passage of Scripture to encourage me. More than that, I have His entire Word, along with a growing record of His faithfulness to me in many similar situations. He will provide the strength I need, not just to endure the conference, but to enjoy it!

As I finished my prayers this morning, I began to look forward to seeing students, former counselees, and colleagues that I haven’t seen since the last conference. No longer dreading it, I am excited to go, and to see how the Lord will work as my team and I minister to those in attendance. What a blessing and privilege it is to be in ministry! What a wonderful Friend Jesus is, to wipe out my fear and replace it with happy anticipation. Hallelujah! What an Encourager! What a Savior!



[i] In case you’re looking it up, this phrase is not in the JBP that’s on Bible Gateway. I purchased the copy I have from a thrift store, and it says it’s the Revised Student Edition, latest copyright 1972.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Pain, New Gain

Do you suffer from some type of chronic pain or disability?  If so, then you know that fearful sense of dread and doom when a new pain or weakness arises. Perhaps you’ve gotten used to your “new normal,” whatever that may be, and you’ve come to accept—maybe even embrace—your limitations. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, some new pain arises, and you go into a panic.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it would go something like this: “Oh, no! Now what? Did I do something to myself? (At this point I’m wracking my brain for how I may have overdone it at some point recently.) Is this a further progression of my condition? Is this something new, separate from what I’m already dealing with? What new medication or therapy will this require, and how will I fit that into my schedule and budget?” As I’m going through all these questions in my mind, my emotions are revving up, and if I don’t get a handle on them, this will become a genuine panic!

Before I even know what I’m dealing with, I can let my emotions take over. When that happens, whatever twinge inspired the whole thing has become genuine pain because I have become so focused on it. Thankfully, by the grace of God, it has been a long time since new pain inspired such a vortex of emotion for me. God has given me many opportunities to grow in this area, so today I’ll share with you three things that may be helpful to you the next time some new physical affliction surprises you.

Don’t be caught off guard.
That very surprise is the first thing you must guard against. Even those who do not suffer chronic pain must always be prepared for the physical degeneration of their bodies. After all, we are all aging, and, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (AMP), “progressively decaying and wasting away.” So, why are we surprised when something goes wrong with our bodies? Are we especially entitled to have no further pain or physical suffering, just because we already have a lot of it every day?

No, my dear sisters, we are not. Our chronic condition does not win us any special privileges when it comes to the decay of our bodies, so we should expect that these new pains will crop up from time to time. You will be pleasantly surprised at the reduction in fear and anxiety that is produced just by taking out the element of surprise. When you are prepared in your heart for the eventuality of more pain, it loses its power to frighten you.

Set your mind on things above.

Did you know that, according to Colossians 3, you have already died? If so, then what are you fearing right now? Think about it: Deep under the soil of panic over a health issue is that root fear of death. Yes, there are surface fears of medical interventions, increased pain, and decreased capabilities. But underneath those things is a common-to-man fear that inspires them all.  Christ came to take away that fear. Colossians 3 tells us that, as far as this world is concerned, we have died and our new, real life is hidden with Christ in God.

So why do we act as though we are still in bondage to that fear of death? I believe it is because we do not follow the instructions of Colossians 3. We don’t set our minds on things above. We have our mind firmly fixed on just one thing on earth: Our comfort. We forget that, because we have already “died,” we can now live our real life, which is hidden with Christ in God. We have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to God’s image. We must train ourselves to put off fear and anxiety, and put on that new man, who knows that death is no longer a threat, and God can be trusted.

Get on with life.

As we set our minds on things above, we will be focused on bringing glory to God in our response to this new pain. Instead of focusing on symptoms and relief, we can look outside of ourselves, and into a world where there is pain and sorrow on a level that, by the grace of God, we will never know. How can we sit and stew over some new pain, when others are hurting so much more than we? This is the only time I would ever advise you to compare yourself to others. No matter how much you hurt, there is someone who hurts more. There is someone who has fewer resources than you with which to address her pain. There is someone who has less help; more responsibilities; and more limited mobility.

Begin today to train your heart and mind to fix your eyes on things above, not on things of the earth. Every new pain presents an opportunity to choose: Either you will trust in God, or you will trust in yourself. You cannot do both. God is far more faithful, trustworthy, and good than you or I could ever hope to be. Let’s be prepared. Let’s remember that our bodies will age, and let’s expect new issues from time to time. We can exercise proper care of our bodies, investigating the cause of new pain, but let’s take the fear out of it! The God of the universe, who created your body and knows it better than you ever will, is fully able to lead you through the process.


If you’re still having trouble trusting God, take a look at this video, where my friend Joni, who has been in a wheelchair now for 50 years, will give you some encouragement!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Three Strategies to Beat Self-Pity

Self-pity, like every other sin issue we may face as we deal with our pain and disability, is a thinking problem. But, like every other thinking problem, it begins in the heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, because everything else—thoughts included—flows out of it. So, as the pain becomes more intense, limitations are increased, and life changes yet again, we must diligently guard our hearts against the trap of self-pity. Self-pity is a direct path away from God because it means we have turned our focus to ourselves: Our pain, our loss, our sorrow, and our sadness. As these become bigger and bigger in our thinking, God’s place in our minds becomes smaller and smaller.

So, we know that we must guard our hearts against self-pity, but how? What are the practical steps to take so that we won’t indulge it this time, and the temptation won’t be so strong next time? I believe there are three things that have to happen in our hearts and minds before we will be able to overcome self-pity.

Biblical View of God
Before you can begin to address your view of yourself and your problem, you must have a biblical view of God. Many times, we who suffer with physical pain are perplexed that a good and loving God could allow us to be in such agony. If He loved us, we muse, He would heal and relieve us of our affliction. But wait. Is that really true? What does the Bible say about the goodness of God? I challenge you to do a study on this subject. You will find that none of the proclamations of God’s goodness are dependent on our circumstances or the outcome of our plans. God is God, and He is who He says He is regardless of what is happening in my life or yours. Read A.W. Pink’s The Attributes of God to fully inform your heart of who God is.

Biblical Grief
No matter what the cause of your pain or disability, it constitutes a loss. Maybe you are less mobile, less able to walk, stand, and move. Maybe you’re no longer able to drive, or your pain has caused you to give up favorite hobbies or activities. Perhaps you have friends with whom you no longer share a common interest, and they don’t come around as much. Whatever loss you have sustained, have you grieved it biblically? Have you cried to the Lord about your loss, and told Him how much it hurts? If not, this may be one reason you struggle with self-pity.
I am not saying that you should blame God, or whine at Him. There is such a thing as biblical complaint, and David was a master of it! Get a study Bible and look up the Psalms of Lament for a model and pattern of how to cry out to God about your loss. Dear friend, your life changing pain or disability marks a significant loss, and you must grieve that loss before you can leave self-pity behind. Bob Kelleman’s book, God’s Healing for Life’s Losses is an excellent guide for processing through your sorrow. I use and highly recommend this journaling approach to biblical grief.

Biblical submission
Finally, if we want to get out of self-pity, we must learn biblical submission. Submission is not a word that many people like. In fact, some equate it with oppression! But in biblical terms, submission is a true source of joy. When we submit our hearts to our loving and merciful God, trusting Him for our lives, we can rest. We no longer have to strive with discontentment, dissatisfaction, or self-pity when we know that the loving, all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe has ordained our circumstances for our good and His glory. What more could we want than to be directly in line with the will of God?

When you are biblically submitted to God, you will not only peacefully accept the condition of your body, but you will thank Him for it! Why? As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we can give thanks in all circumstances because they are God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. Think about this, my dear sister: God thought of you and me, desired to make us more like His precious Son, and came up with the perfect plan to do it! Granted, this might not have been our first choice of how to make that happen, but who are we to argue with God? Read Job 40 and 41 for a glimpse into God’s mind when we question Him!


There is much more that I could say about self-pity. If you’d like to learn more, you can purchase a recording of a breakout session that I did on this subject at last year’s B3 conference, here. The bottom line though, like just about every counseling issue, is knowing who God is, trusting Him, and honestly walking through each day very near to our Healer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Comparatively Speaking

So, at long last, Christmas is over. The presents have been opened and feasts and parties for 2016 are memories now. I hope you made some good memories with your family and friends. How did you do with the stress of shopping and choosing gifts? I hope you were able to set aside unrealistic expectations and truly enjoy the holiday. But even if you did manage to do that, the holidays are often difficult for another reason.

At Christmastime, we see many people that we don’t see at any other time of year. It can be fun to catch up on what’s happening in their lives, but if we’re not careful, that catching up can cause us to stumble. I found this to be true for me this year, and I thought I would share with you, partly as a way of confessing and partly to see if perhaps any of you have struggled in this way.

Most of my family members are very fitness oriented. They are runners, cyclists, and exercise enthusiasts. Some are marathoners. I, too, have always enjoyed exercise, but my physical challenges limit me to the pool for the most part. I used to love to power walk, cycle, and do aerobics. I’ve had to give those up since my failed knee replacement and the encroachment of osteoarthritis in various joints. As I wrote about here, the loss of my mobility has been a real grieving process for me.

Enter Christmas, and the annual update of all my fitness enthusiast family members, most of whom are older than me. One shared about her continued progress in running; another eagerly told us about her new Cross Fit class and what a blast it is. The marathon runners chimed in too, with pictures of their finish lines and sense of accomplishment. Then, there’s me. I kept quiet in these conversations for the most part, other than offering the obligatory congratulations and encouraging words. In my heart, though, there was a desperate struggle going on between my flesh and my faith.

I have many Scripture verses and passages memorized for moments such as this. For some reason though, they were nowhere to be found. My flesh, which has a maddening tendency toward self-focus and self-pity, won out over the voice of faith, which was trying to tell me that their activities have nothing to do with me. But, alas, it could not outshout my fleshly response, which said, “Why do they get to do these things, while my body becomes more and more disabled with every passing Christmas? It’s not fair!” I am embarrassed to even type those words, but they are the honest truth. Sometimes, I just can’t get past the feelings of loss and grief.

So now, here we are a few days later, and I am back on track. How did I get there? By repenting, and focusing my mind and my heart on Christ instead of on other people or myself. This renewed focus shines a spotlight on what was wrong with my thinking. Here are just a couple of truths the Lord has shown my heart as I’ve thought about how I got to that place of sorrow:

1. Comparing ourselves to others will almost always cause us to sin.

Whether we think we are better off or worse off than someone else, comparison always leads to sin. If I think that I am in better shape than someone else, this will encourage me to be self-reliant, and I will forget my need of Christ. For example, if I see someone in a wheelchair and say to myself, “Well, at least I can walk,” then I will see myself as stronger than she is, and I will be less likely to lean on the Lord. Additionally, the fear of losing my ability to walk may creep into my mind as I look on her state as being worse than mine. After all, it could happen to me, too.

If I see myself as worse off than someone else, then I may become jealous of her, as I did on Christmas, and this can lead to bitterness. The other thing that jealousy does is take relationship and evangelism out of the picture. If I am jealous of someone’s physical ability, then my attitude toward her will be negative at best. How will I represent Christ to her, or even nurture a relationship with her, if my countenance reveals resentment and my motivation to approach her is squashed by envy?

2. There is a direct correlation between sorrow over loss and gratitude for blessings.

As I listened to these conversations on Christmas, I became more and more sorrowful about my losses. Accordingly, my grief got bigger and bigger, and my gratitude got proportionally smaller and smaller. I’d thought that I’d become pretty good at being grateful. I’d begun to thank God for the pool every time my toe hit the water, and I’d developed the good habit of sharing with others how grateful I am for the many ways He has sent comfort in my distresses. In retrospect, I am amazed at how quickly I went from gratitude to grumbling in a single conversation on Christmas day. Reflecting on it, I could almost hear the “whoosh” as gratitude left the building. This just shows me the truth that my will is weak, and my flesh is frail when it comes to combating sinful thoughts in this area.

3. When we are focused on self, we shut down our perception of others’ sorrow.

One of my fitness oriented relatives is estranged from her husband. He has chosen sin over his family, and she was alone on Christmas, without her children, who were with him. By being consumed with jealousy about her marathon, I completely disregarded the pain she must have been feeling as she looked around the room at the happy families sharing Christmas together there, one of which was mine. I had no sense of gratitude for my wonderful husband or my adult children in that moment; no compassion or care for her and her pain, though it is different from mine. When we become consumed with ourselves, my dear sisters, we miss many opportunities to express love and caring for those who may be hurting in a different way than we are.

I am very grateful to the Holy Spirit for His conviction of my sin in this area once again. I also thank the Lord for His forgiveness of me, which is ongoing. Part of my repentance has been prayer for my able-bodied relatives, none of whom know the Lord. I am so thankful that God saved me when He did. I hope that I would be willing to go through much more suffering if it would result in the salvation of my family members, through my testimony of gratitude for Him and love for them. I know that He is able to save them, just as He saved me. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

















Monday, November 28, 2016

The Pressure's On!

It’s holiday time! I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of pressure this time of year. Christmas shopping is just about the perfect storm for someone with chronic pain and mobility issues. Standing, walking, browsing, waiting in lines…Ugh, the very idea of it is dreadful. Yet, at the same time, I long to get just the right gift for everyone on my list, so I look for alternatives. Those motorized carts are so big and clumsy, and the last time I used one, it died in the middle of an aisle, at the farthest point possible from the door of the big box store I was in! Online shopping is less than ideal, as you can’t touch and turn the item in your hands. It’s hard to know how most things really look. Colors are often not true, and dimensions of things are hard to visualize. Gift cards are an option, but they seem so impersonal. It seems there is just no substitute for the painful process of actually getting out there and shopping, if you really want the “perfect” gift.

If you struggle with chronic pain and mobility issues, I’m sure you can relate, and you could probably add your own unique challenges to my list. So, my suffering sisters, what do we do with the holiday shopping dilemma? I hope you’re not like I was yesterday, feeling frustrated about the whole thing, snapping at my husband and generally being super grumpy (yes, I repented). I want to enjoy the holidays, don’t you? I want to focus on time with family and friends, not schlepping around the mall or sitting in front of the computer for hours. If this is going to happen, we are going to have to change our approach.

What is Christmas really about? Is it about gifts? Well, sort of. It’s about one gift—the gift of Jesus Christ coming into the world to save sinners like you and me. How is shopping necessary to celebrate that truth? It’s not. So why do we get so worked up over it? Is it because we want to express love to our families? We can do that without killing ourselves searching for the perfect gift. It’s OK to get a gift card, or to buy something online without knowing every detail about it. Girls, if we are going to enjoy the holiday, we are going to have to give up our insistence on things being like they used to be, or like we’d like them to be.

The fact is, the Lord has ordained this pain and/or disability for our good and His glory. If we keep struggling against the fact that “real” Christmas shopping is just too much for us now, then we will end up like I was yesterday, grumpy and discontented. We will need to die to ourselves if we are to truly represent Christ this year. Let’s give up this annual wrestling match, and enjoy the peace that this season embodies. The best way to let someone know you care is to love and encourage them all through the year, not to find the perfect gift for a single day.

It is not the gift that matters, but the relationship between the giver and the recipient. You can nurture that relationship without taking a single step into a store, or standing in any lines. Throughout the year, you can offer words of encouragement, a phone call to check in, a text of Scripture, daily prayer, and a thousand other things that will say to that person, “I love you and I truly care about you.” Then, when December rolls around, perhaps the gift-giving pressure will be off. Maybe you do these things already. If so, that’s great! What are you sweating about? Your friends and family know that you love them, and they know about your limitations. The last thing they would want is for you to put pressure on yourself for their sake.

Let’s do things differently this year. Let’s refuse to pressure ourselves about the gift-giving, and remember that God knows our weaknesses, and is able to give us the strength that we need—maybe not as much as we want—but all  that we need. Let’s trust Him to bless our Christmas in His way, by His grace. After all, this season only exists because of His birth. Who are we to say it has to meet certain expectations? No, we must repent of wanting things our way, and rejoice that He has already provided all we really need. Rather than becoming obsessed with the perfect gift, we must focus on the fact that we are perfected in Christ. Instead of standing in lines, we will stand on His promises. Cyber Monday can become a Sabbath, if we will only rest in His grace. Hallelujah! What a gift! What a Savior!