Have you ever been given something for Christmas you didn’t like? It’s even worse when you can’t return it.
About 9 years ago, my father was given something neither he nor my family members wanted. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD is a degenerative disease that shrinks the frontal lobe of the brain, affecting his memories, his personality and ability to say basic things. He was in his 50s and this would forever alter his life…and mine.
I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas being so tumultuous for my family as we went through a season of testing to understand what was wrong. No one wanted to talk about it; no one wanted to cry about it. We just wanted answers. But there weren’t any. So we gathered around puzzles and board games in those days, finding solace in some classic family pastimes.
Often when we’re in distress or despair, all we want are answers. We want to know why hard times have happened and what to do with the broken pieces we have in our tired hands. But answers often don’t come when we most want them. You may be in that place this Christmas.
What God offered us instead in those moments was pretty simple. He offered Himself. He knew our grief and He knew who we were. He stayed close and filled the silence with His presence. Scripture says He loves us so much He knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). I suppose God knows every memory we hold in our hearts, too…even when we forget them.
Psalm 34 says:
“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (vv.15, 18)
Did you see in those verses how God is close? His eyes are on you and His ears are listening. He’s not far away.
How would you save something that was crushed? You’d pick it up with tender hands, wouldn’t you? Perhaps devote careful time to restore it, piece by piece? God does that for you.
At the beginning, I said my father was “given” something, likening his disease to a gift. It didn’t seem like a gift in the moment, and I’m not saying God gave him the disease. But what I can say is that 9 years later, we know God’s presence in a way that surely is a gift. And, what God redeemed and did behind the scenes as we waited for Him as a family, was truly a gift as well.