Resolve And Praise
Posted by Priscilla Carr, December 13, 2023
How are you doing this Christmas season? Have you completed all your shopping and fulfilled all the wishes of those who’ll receive your presents? Are you flustered while still looking for the perfect gift? Are you longing for the end of the season already? The Christmas season can be a time of such joy, but it can also be such a time of struggle.
Some are struggling with wayward loved ones whose whereabouts are unknown. Others are struggling with loved ones who’ve made their way back home but are making home anything but a place of peace. Some are struggling with personal sickness or the lingering illness of loved ones. I’m struggling also—my mother’s dementia is making it more and more difficult to relate to her. I’m losing her day by day. There are a myriad of things that can cause us to struggle, especially during this time of the year.
So, what are you doing to cope? How are you dealing with all that makes this a season of struggle and exertion instead of peace? For Advent 2022, I participated in a small group study of Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. I highly recommend it—you’ll get to know our Savior Jesus anew and get to celebrate that our Father is the perfect planner. Well, this year, some of us who participated in the study got together and recorded 5 Burst of Hope podcasts discussing our favorite passages and how they impacted us (I highly recommend it also). The chapter entitled “Watching for Him Who is Enough” deals with struggling:
…rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now. Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other. As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy…The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears.[emphasis mine]. (p. 189)
Struggle and pain can sometimes be results of sin in our lives. But, sometimes they are not. Sometimes the Lord, in His sovereignty and plan, will cause or use circumstances in our lives to get our focus back on Himself. There’s a song by Cody Carnes that I’m really loving right now. It’s entitled “Run to the Father”, and I highly recommend it. My favorite line is, “So I’ll run to the Father again and again and again and again.” Feel free to add many, many more “again”s to that line—I always do. There is no limit to the number of times we can approach our Father. He longs for us to bring our struggles to Him. He invites us to “… come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb.4:16 KJV). And each time we approach Him, we are focused on Him and have the opportunity to grow closer. But we have to choose to take Him up on His offer.
In Ann’s passage, she states, “The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father…” It’s commanding our focus to remain on our Father even when we’d rather not. It’s willing ourselves to look to Him when we’d rather look away and at the difficulty that demands resolution right now. It’s resolving way before the struggle arrives to maintain our gaze on our Savior and not what would try to steal our focus. And when we do, our focus, along with our praise, can result in joy. Joy. Joy, not when our struggles are over. Joy, “concurrent” with our struggles!
I have learned a lot about the importance of praise since attending Touching Hearts, but I always wondered in the back of my mind why praise was so important. I attend a church gathering that also emphasizes the importance of praise. When the pastor said, “God inhabits the praises of His people” (see Psalm 22:3) it all clicked for me. What greater testimony of our faith in God than when we praise Him before the struggle ends? It’s our testament and expectation that Jesus is coming, and we’re relying on Him even in this struggle. And we can praise Him because we know He will come, and we are resolutely gazing at Him as we await His resolution. Even if His resolution is not what we expect, we can resolve to praise Him.
Oh Lord, may I consistently live this way!
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet [resolve] I will rejoice [praise] in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. [emphasis mine] (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
I pray you have a joy-filled Christmas as you resolve to praise Him. He’s worthy.
Priscilla Carr was born in NYC, but has lived in metro Atlanta since 1979. She is a Navy veteran trained in electronics which God used for a 30-year career at the FAA. She uses her training to provide audio support to Touching Hearts Ministries, and is the Editor and Producer of “A Burst of Hope” podcast. She began her adult new life in Jesus in 1990 right before leaving the Navy, and today she exudes her love for Jesus. She is the proud mama to two rambunctious fur kids, Gracie (Lab) and Faith (Pit-mix). Priscilla was encouraged by elementary teachers to write. She took creative writing courses in High School and college, but in the mid-eighties, she stopped writing. The desire to write has been recently reawakened, and she is thriving in her new writing adventure.