by Toni Collier
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Sometimes it’s not the pain that crushes us, it’s feeling like no one sees us in pain that does. And isn’t it so hard to express the painful things we’re going through when it feels like everyone expects us to be jolly?
The holiday season typically marks a time when every store and radio station are playing non-stop Christmas music, gifts are being ordered to put a smile on the faces of boys and girls around the world, and the birth of our Savior fills believers with a sense of hope and redemption.
But what happens when the word hope hasn’t slipped out of our mouths in what feels like forever? What if redemption doesn’t feel like it belongs to us? What happens when the pain in our stories feels like it’s crushing us so deeply that our awe and wonder in a season where the miraculous birth of the Prince of Peace vanishes?
Well, we can learn to compassionately embrace the pain. We can find community that understands that joy and pain can coexist. We find people that can look us in the eye and remind us that even in the most hope-filled times in our lives it’s okay to hold hurt with it as well. Whether it’s grieving the loss of a loved one, not having enough money to give your family the holiday you desire, or going through another holiday season single, let this be your reminder that it is okay to carry all of that and feel every bit of emotion that comes with it. And when we give ourselves the permission to feel that, we can allow ourselves to also stand firm on the promises of the one who sits at the center of this most “wonderful” time of the year—Jesus.
Many of us know the Christmas story. Mary, who lived in the village of Nazareth, was engaged to a Jewish carpenter named Joseph when God sent the Angel Gabriel to tell Mary she’d conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. What’s incredibly profound about this story is not only that Mary was a virgin and still gave birth to Jesus, but that this birth had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah around 700 years before it happened. Isaiah 7:14 reads, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (NIV)
God always has a plan for you, even when there’s pain.
Before you or I even graced the earth, God had a plan for our pain. He knew what we would walk through and when we’d walk through it. He knew that we needed a way back to Him after the fall of humanity. He knew His son Jesus would be the Savior of the universe. He knew that you’d cry tears of deep sorrow and longing. He knew the anxiety and depression that you’d suffer wouldn’t crush you because of the promises He’d made long before you breathed your first breath that he would be close to the broken-hearted and rescue you when you feel crushed (Psalm 34:18). God knew.
And because He knew all along, He’s had a plan all along. He sees you and He knows your pain. He is not the God at the end of the tunnel waiting for you to clean up your mess and fake perfect. He is the God lighting up the tunnel saying, “Daughter I’m right here with you. I’m in the pain too.” And God wants you to find people that can be like Him to you as well.
I believe one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is believing in the with-ness of God. And then? Bring people you can trust close so that they can be with you in the not-so-wonderful time of the year. Now that’s something to get jolly about.
Toni Collier is a Hope Coach, author of Brave Enough to Be Broken and the founder of Broken Crayons Still Color, an international women’s ministry that helps women process their brokenness and reclaim hope. It’s her passion to show women that they can be both broken and beautiful as they work out their healing at the feet of Jesus. Toni and Sam live in Atlanta with their daughter, Dylan, and new baby boy, Sam Jr.