When we got married, Sean and I weren’t sure we ever wanted children. We weren’t scrooges who detested children’s laughter or any such thing; parenthood just seemed like such a daunting responsibility in this day and age, and we weren’t sure we were up for the challenge. As God would have it, we conceived like 42 seconds after we decided to “just see what happens,” and 9 months later a beautiful girl entered our family.
Once the initial shock of pregnancy wore off, I began to let my mind wander to how our lives were about to change. My thoughts were peculiarly sober. It’s easy enough to allow our minds to run away with fears and what if’s. But what about when tragedy actually does strike? How do we cope and continue thriving in our faith in this crazy world of increasing violence, hate, and lack of faith in anything but self?
We don’t like thinking about tragedy, but ignoring it doesn’t make it disappear. The fact is, many families won’t be celebrating much this Christmas. For them, the most joyful time of the year is actually the most excruciating. While many celebrate good tidings and frivolous gifts with their loved ones, others dwindle in despair as their hearts suffer emotional decay.
Believe it or not, they have something in common with dozens of people during the time of the nativity. For many families, the birth of Jesus resulted in the most horrific nightmare imaginable. Because of Herod’s paranoia, several parents witnessed the cruel murder of their sweet, baby boys. Mothers who still nourished their sons at their breast, who wiped their tears, kissed their noses, and smiled at their giggly coos watched a scene straight from hell as their precious boys were slaughtered. They couldn’t rescue them, they couldn’t snuggle them close and calm their sobs. The only tears that remained were the mothers’, and haunted them for the rest of their lives.
How were they—how are we—supposed to deal with that kind of pain?
What kind of Savior comes to save the world but leaves His people in anguish?
Unfortunately, there’s no answer that satisfies us emotionally. Christians will always be able to ascertain comfort and peace through God’s truth, but it’s not automatic and it won’t always leave us full of warmth and void of pain.
The harsh (and quite unpleasant) truth is that we are sinners living in a deteriorating world. Ever since the fall, both mankind and creation have been contaminated by sin—utterly distorted from the beautiful, whole, and healthy image God created initially.
Sin is far more powerful than we give it credit for, and because of that, it penetrates deeper within our souls and the world surrounding us than we are even capable of imagining. One consequence of sin is tragedy—both at the hands of others and from nature as it degenerates. Sinners will sin, and we’re daft to expect otherwise. This is the inescapable truth for those living in this world, and it won’t change or go away until one specific event occurs—Christ’s return.
Before casting me off with the Grinch, do realize there is good news! The reason Jesus’ entrance into this world is such a big deal is because it offers something this world so desperately lacks—hope. Jesus infuses us with hope because He confirmed what God had been saying ever since creation—yes, mankind failed epically. Yes, there’s absolutely no hope for him if left to his own devices. But (and how ever so glorious is the word “but” in Scripture?!) God intervened and offered us a way out. Not away from all pain and tragedy that consumes this world in this life, but from all the pain and tragedy we deserve for all of eternity. And (another hope-infused conjunction for you), we do get perks even in this life! With Christ, we gain access to His power, peace, and comfort in the midst of all pain in the here and now. Even in the throes of the deepest conceivable pain, we have hope because we have Jesus. We have comfort because He is the source of all (true and lasting) comfort.
We succeed as parents as we instill these truths into our children and equip them to live well despite the decaying world around them. We’re remiss to shelter them from the realities of evil (though we should exercise wisdom in how it’s revealed). The greater grasp they have on sin, the greater their appetite will be for the gospel. Instead of ignoring pain, we seize opportunities to teach them the role of pain—where it originates, healthy ways to cope, and how we can hope and be encouraged through it because we know it will not last forever. We teach them to overcome evil when we help them see their lives and circumstances through the bigger, more tender and loving eyes of God and His gospel. But in order to do any of this, we have to embrace and live the gospel ourselves.
So this Christmas, embrace all the joy and wonder filling your home, but also be sensitive to the hearts of others. Offer Jesus—be His hands, feet, heart, and words to people who may smile on the outside but grow dim within. And be transparent with your children. Let them join you on your journey of faith as you join them in theirs—pain, joy, peace, and all.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
- How do we reconcile the slaughter of all of those baby boys right on the heels of the coming of the Messiah? How do Herod's jealous actions affirm the need for a savior?
- How does the incarnation set us free from the feeling that we have to make excuses for what God allows to happen in the world? How does it protect us from the feeling that He is absent or indifferent?
- Seeing the affects of sin is painful and uncomfortable. How can we use instances of violence and hatred as opportunities to teach your children about the world's need for Christ?
Mindi Furby is an author, speaker, and photographer. She holds a MA in Religion from Liberty University and considers her calling to be on the front lines of the fight against biblical illiteracy. She is the author of the children's book series Toz Knows, as well as More Than Words, and MAKE Bible Studies. You can view more of her literary work on her website. Mindi currently lives near Hilton Head, SC, with her husband, daughter, (plus another daughter on the way!), and pups—daily savoring the captivating adventure God unfolds for them.