The God of Progress

For a lot of people, the holidays are a really great time. For us in college, the holidays essentially last from the beginning of Thanksgiving break all the way through New Years. It’s a lengthy period of time that can be filled with joy and laughter and rest and rejuvenation. However, for a lot of people, it’s the exact opposite. The holidays are an incredibly lonely time, where our community is broken up for what seems like a lifetime. It’s a time where we go back home to unsupportive (even sometimes abusive) households where each day begins and ends with a metaphorical gasp for air. Regardless of our home situation, history with the holidays, or extenuating circumstances, the holiday season is rife with opportunities for disappointment.

When I say disappointment I mean a lot of things: disappointment that you don’t get what you wanted for Christmas; disappointment that your family still is rejecting Christ; disappointment in that you go over a month without loving community; disappointment that no one seems to recognize the change within you; disappointment that things have stayed the same at home; and the list goes on.
 
I’ll be honest, this time of year is always kind of disappointing for me. Yes—for some of the things I just listed, but also for many other reasons. I think one of the most disappointing things—probably the one that gets me the most often—is to go from a place where you’re thriving back into a place where you could never gain momentum.

The holidays for me haven’t reflected the excitement of the holiday season or traditions; they don’t even really remind me of Jesus’ birth. Instead, the holidays point me back to a time when I was hopeless when I could never seem to get out of the muck. Truthfully, the holidays oftentimes bring me back into a place where I become the self I thought I had grown out of. In other words, the greatest disappointment of the holiday season is returning to a version of myself that isn’t as hopeful, isn’t as happy, and isn’t as Christlike as I am when I’m in my element. The holidays can often seem like I’m deleting Google Chrome in favor of Internet Explorer; or going from Windows 10 back to Windows ’03. And it’s devastatingly disappointing. Throughout November, December, and the beginning of January I’m filled with this overwhelming sense of disappointment, of anger, and, truthfully, hopelessness.

But the truth is, God’s heart is never for us to feel that way.

As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Christ during the holiday season. Christ’s birth is the epitome of hope—He is literally the hope of nations (Isaiah 42: 1-9/Matthew 12:21). His birth is the purity of newness, and His promise is one of rebirth. And while we designate the month of December for the celebration of these things, these are promises that are eternal and are not bound by a holiday season. I wish I could list “Seven Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues” and give you hard-and-fast instructions on how to make this season wholly satisfactory—but I can’t.

Because the truth is this: if we look to anything other than God for our satisfaction, we will be disappointed. If we measure the success of our holiday season by the quality of gifts we received, the number of salvations in our family, or the measurable change we’ve seen in people who aren’t ourselves, then we will be disappointed. Even if we try to focus on internal measures we can still end up disappointed with the outcome. Christ is the answer.

That doesn’t mean we’ll be without disappointment, nor does it mean our holidays will be perfect. But our God is the God of progress. He is the God of Peace in all circumstances. He is the only God who fulfills our souls and His promises. If during this holiday season, we look to Him rather than to the world (or our families or our successes) for our satisfaction, then we will not be disappointed. God’s love is perfect every day. He is always refreshing, and He is always taking us from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18).
 
There is no seven-step plan for happiness during the holidays. But there is a one-step plan to satisfaction throughout all circumstances—and it’s Jesus. Regardless of how your holidays have gone or are going, I am confident that with Christ as your focus this year will be the best one yet.

Author | Alex Hinton

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