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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.

A Hard Christmas

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

It was a Christmas to remember, all right. It is my first thought when Christmas is mentioned. My memories are so near that it seems like only yesterday. My husband’s precious mother died just before Christmas ten years ago after a four-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. It was a brutal journey for all of us. We lived at the hospice facility for five weeks, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, not wanting to surrender one lucid moment with this treasured woman. Our children were so young: a toddler and a preschooler, and our efforts to “drum up” Christmas in the midst of our grief and her suffering were exhausting.

But God showed up with gifts! Most precious to me was the gift of his strength, spoken to me through the prophet Isaiah: I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:10, 13).

I needed help. I needed strength. I needed Someone to hold my hand. I held on to these verses through funeral planning and family gatherings. I relied on his promise to help me know how to comfort my grieving husband. I pleaded for his strength to accomplish the necessary errands of the season. I asked for him to extend these same graces to my children….to help them, to hold them, to strengthen them as life seemed chaotic and unfamiliar.

And, I received the gift of his do what he promised. It was not until months after the funeral that I could see God’s sustaining hand throughout our journey. The perspective of time showed me his hand at work on my behalf.

Yes, it was a hard Christmas! But coupled with the painful memories are the wonder of God’s gifts to me in that season.

The Lord is the strength of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).

Jill Hardin

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