Welcome back to our series about preparing for the holidays. In the first three posts, we talked about practical ways to prepare by making a plan and then working to accomplish it. As we continue this series, I would like to share some thoughts about preparing our hearts, which is the most important preparation of all!
A heart that is prepared for the holidays, is a heart that is experiencing peace. Yet, peace is rarely the first word that comes to mind when we think of this time of year, is it? Stress is probably a better word. I surveyed a group of women and asked them what caused them stress during the holidays. Here were some of their answers:
Feeling overwhelmed trying to do it all
Expectations not being met because they are unrealistic
Dealing with difficult family members
Can you relate? So can I. Is peace even possible in the face of stress? You better believe it is, that’s exactly why Jesus came!
Look at Luke 2:13-14, from the Message: At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
Did you know that the natural bi-product of pleasing God is peace? Remember peace is not necessarily the absence of trouble, but the assurance of God’s presence, comfort and provision no matter what we are walking through.
Since peace comes when you please God, the way to experience His peace is to please Him in every area of your life (especially the areas that cause you stress).
Let’s look at how to please God in the four most common stressors: finances, schedules, relationships and expectations.
#1) Pleasing God with Your Finances
- Be content with the finances you have. The secret to being content is not having a certain amount of money, it’s being thankful & grateful for whatever amount you have.
- Keep God first, don’t rob God to get a gift for someone else. We please God when we keep Him first and when we keep Him first, He will provide for us.
- Be listening for His voice and be obedient to it. Often times God provides for and blesses others through you and me. If He tells you to bless someone financially, be generously obedient and do it.
#2) Pleasing God with Your Schedule
- Give Him time in your schedule daily, weekly and then one special time during the season.
- Daily – Despite your schedule, can you give Jesus some of our time each day? When you wake up can you commit the day to Him and meditate on His truth?
- Weekly – Your week will go much better when you start it out right by worshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ. For those in ministry, anticipate and fully engage in the services yourself. Show up with the expectation that God is going to speak and minister to you, even as you minister to others.
- Once during the Christmas season – can you set aside an extended quiet time with just you and Jesus, 30 minutes on a Saturday morning, or a quiet evening when you are by yourself (if that ever happens)… In this time try any of the following: listen to some traditional Christmas carols and meditate on the words and what they really mean; light a candle and slowly read the story of His birth from Luke 2; or get a cup of tea or coffee and journal about the difference Jesus has made in your life.
#3) Pleasing God with Your Relationships (especially the challenging ones!)
- Psalm 19:14 is the answer for pleasing God in your relationships. “Lord, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your eyes. You are my Rock and my Redeemer.”
- To please God in all our relationships, let’s make sure that the words we speak about people and even more difficult, the thoughts we think about people are pleasing in the Lord’s eyes.
- If your words and thoughts aren’t pleasing, don’t speak them. If you’re thinking it, ask the LORD to change your thoughts, trying finding something positive to think about that person instead.
- God loves all of us and when we think or say bad things about people, we are insulting His creation. The very people He came to save.
#4) Pleasing God with Your Expectations
- We as women are notorious for having unrealistic expectations. We want the picture-perfect holiday where everything turns out exactly the way we envisioned – our meals are delicious, our dollar stretches further than it should, there’s no fussing or fighting in our families, everyone is happy, happy, happy!
- What would happen if you changed your expectations? Now, I’m not talking about being a Debbie-downer, I’m just talking about being realistic. There is no way things are going to be picture-perfect. So, why get worked up when things are less than perfect?
- What if you changed your expectations a bit?? Expect a few arguments. Expect to have some disappointments. Expect to gain a few pounds. Expect a few things to go wrong. Because then when they do, you are not surprised, you can handle it, process it and move on.
- When you get disappointed, look to the Lord because He will never disappoint you – Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5
- When you have down days, ask Jesus to be your Prince of Peace – For to us a child is born, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
- When you argue with loved ones, forgive them and move on – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
- When you gain 5 pounds, thank the Lord for His provision and all the wonderfully good tasting food He has given you and know that He loves you no matter what the scale says – God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17
- When things don’t go right, realize that imperfection is part of life, try to laugh at it and move on. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Give yourself and others grace this year!
Wow, this was a lot longer than what I had planned! As we wrap it up, do any of these stressors resonate with you? Remember, the result of pleasing God is peace. I encourage you to make a concerted effort to please God in the area of your greatest stress (using the suggestions listed above) and see what happens this year. You have my guarantee that God sees every effort you make to please Him and He rewards those efforts with His peace.
In my next blog post I am going to share another practical suggestion to prepare your heart. “The Candle of Peace” is something I have used the past two years and I can’t wait to share it with you. Until then, God’s peace to you!
Your Friend in Ministry,