Christmas should be the most joyous season of the year for Christians. After all, we celebrate and honor the birth of our Savior. Think about it! God’s only Son, His perfect, sinless Son, came to our earthly world as one of us. He took on the form of a man in order to eventually take on the sins of mankind. What a gift!
So, yes, we should celebrate the Christ of Christmas, but sadly, we don’t always do so.
Most of the time, we let everything else become the focus of our celebrations – family, friends, everything but Jesus Christ. And don’t get me wrong, those things are often good things. Family is an important part of Christmas, as are our friends and the people we encounter on a daily basis. In all of our merriment and revelry, we just need to shift our focus and make Christ the center of our holiday festivities with those we love. We must celebrate Christ, and He must be the reason for the season.
But what about people, even in the church, who simply cannot find the strength to celebrate? What about those who have experienced such trauma this year that they can only mourn what has been lost? Maybe sickness, disease, death, divorce, job loss, or trying times can become overwhelming anytime, but Christmas only seems to emphasize that loss.
Or maybe it is more than loss that people mourn at Christmastime. Maybe the season is a yearly reminder of what someone never had to begin with. Loneliness is often compounded at Christmas when families and friends gather, and sadly, church can seem the loneliest spot of all during this time of year.
So, what happens to those feelings of loneliness and grief? How do people cope at Christmas – or any time of the year, for that matter? How do folks get past those empty, hurtful feelings? Do they simply ignore their losses, shove them down, and pretend all is well? Or do they harbor anger and resentment for all they have been through? But what if that anger and resentment are pointed toward God? Is there any way to get past that resentment” Is there a way to heal all that hurt?
John I. Snyder answers those questions and more in his new book, Resenting God.
Hold on! Don’t let the title shock you into bypassing this timely book. Instead, note its entire title first, Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame, and then read on as Snyder bravely confronts our society’s pervasive problems of blame and resentment. But get ready for some truthful, hard-hitting answers.
Through the accountability and wisdom found only in Scripture, Dr. Snyder takes a gut-wrenching look at some experiences from his own life and those of others he has encountered in his work as a pastor, blogger, and well-known conference speaker. Snyder does not back down from the topic of resentment. Instead, he breaks down the causes and consequences of resenting God, and then he offers some sound advice on curing our cultural (and Christian) tendency to blame others, even God, for our circumstances.
I loved the real-life candor with which Snyder discusses the tendency for blame and the lack of personal accountability in modern America. But even more, I appreciated the anecdotal stories Snyder used to highlight how that blame can accumulate and grow into seemingly justified resentment. Those stories also help readers examine the many ways we unknowingly let resentment cloud our relationship with God and with those we love. Snyder leads readers down a path of recognition of that resentment, on to accountability and responsibility for our sins, and on to complete repentance and redemption.
Perhaps that is why I found “Living in a Redemption Story” to be one of the most poignant and revealing chapters of Resenting God. Snyder brought his lesson full circle as he reminded readers that God is indeed sovereign. And it is His implicitly sovereign nature that assures us that all is well, no matter the circumstances.
In this chapter, Snyder recounted the story of a preacher in a large church who, instead of an anticipated promotion, was unexpectedly fired. He ended up washing garbage bins in the parking lot of a large grocery chain. When God questioned the preacher and asked if he could give his best to serve him for a lifetime in that garbage-filled position, the man wrestled with an answer.
After the preacher finally vowed to serve God faithfully, no matter where or what, a new preaching position immediately opened. Eventually, that new church grew so quickly that the preacher and his congregation had to buy an abandoned grocery store from that same chain in order to house their growth. The preacher had forgotten that he was part of a living story of redemption. His precious trials were only a part (a season, if you will) in that living story of redemption.
So, in this season of celebration, remember that we are each a part of that living story as well.
And even if this current season of life is a hard one, filled with loss and pain, do not let it be the end of your story. Do not let anger and resentment toward God keep you from living out His merciful story of redemption even in this dark, uncertain point on your journey.
Take advantage of resources such as Dr. Snyder’s book. Read it, share it, and make sure to find and walk the “healing road” that Snyder illuminates in the last chapter of Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame.