Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
We are a society that banks on feelings. Be it a happy event or a sad one, the reporter with the microphone is apt to ask, “How are you feeling?” The question is asked often because readers and viewers feel that’s important.
It’s as if feelings define us. “How does the quarterback feel after this loss?” “How does your family feel about the upcoming transfer?” “How does the squad feel after the counterattack?”
The impact of feelings reverberates to the far corners of our lives. They are difficult to ignore—even when we know that we should.
There’s the saying, “If it feels good, do it!” That puts feelings into the command position of life. When faced with judgment calls, we sometimes go with our instincts.
That’s not necessarily bad. Instinct is often formed by lessons learned from the past. It grows from our understanding of situations. But our understanding is limited and sometimes dead wrong. Our understanding of life is not good enough to build a life upon.
Wise and inspired King Solomon clues us in. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
Solomon was right, of course. But sometimes, it is hard to do that.
There is an American who grew up in Africa. When his family returned to the U.S., he faced a cultural shock. So many differences!
Some of them he liked immediately. Some took a while to get used to. But one difference was very hard to accept.
He puts it this way: “The trees are wrong!”
As he traveled around, this continued to bother him. He could feel it in his bones. He could not shake the feeling. “The trees are wrong!”
Those tall pine trees, those majestic oaks—that’s not what trees are supposed to look like! Not one tree in the upper Midwest looked right. It was all wrong—and it continued to bother him.
Then, things changed. He writes, “Recently, on a trip to Texas, I felt at home. My eyes and mind saw that the trees grew right!”
He explains that the woodland where he grew up in Zambia consists of low, isolated trees surrounded by shrubs and grasses. The area is dry most of the year. “Thus,” he says, “it has many similarities to dry Texas shrub.”
What a good feeling for him!
But that doesn’t make the rest of America’s trees wrong.
“And lean not on your own understanding,” Scripture reminds us.
We are entering the portion of the year that might be labeled “The Season of Feelings.” We have been reminded to feel thankful. Now, we are encouraged to feel joyful. But what if we don’t feel like it?
What if this season doesn’t look like the Christmas we grew up with? What if the scenery is wrong? What if people vital to our picture of Christmas are missing?
What if we begin to wonder if our understanding of Christmas has been shaped by the spirit of make-believe?
Wasn’t our early excitement over Christmas influenced by stories of reindeer and a magic sleigh? If we have outgrown Santa Claus, have we also outgrown the story of a virgin birth and a baby that is both human and divine?
What sense does that make to our grownup mind? Is that why we cannot recapture the old feelings? Have we just lost the Christmas spirit? Or have we wandered away from the Spirit of Christmas?
Maybe it’s time we take our own “trip to Texas.” We will not be carried by car or plane. This trip is courtesy of the Holy Spirit, who brings back the familiar sights of wonder and grace before our eyes.
On the pages of Holy Writ, we see the things that refresh our souls. Once again, we catch sight of angels announcing the glad tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. Once more, in spirit, we walk with the shepherds to see the newborn King.
We come again to the realization: “This is real!” “This is my Savior!” “I can rejoice with the angels.” “One day, I shall live with them.”
This is too marvelous to comprehend and too amazing to understand, but I trust my Creator and Redeemer. I can now relax and feel good about what I see. Now I feel at home with this Christmas scene. I can be at peace once again.
And even if I am where the trees look wrong, Christ in Christmas makes them right.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, lift up my eyes to see again the reason why the angels sang for joy over the fields of Bethlehem. Show me the Savior who makes everything right. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why does much of our joy seem to be influenced by the trimmings of Christmas?
- What would we say to the person who feels he has outgrown Christmas?
- Why are we inclined to trust our own understanding instead of the Lord our God?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.