This photograph taken by Dr. Stanley reminds me of the nostalgic Christmas movies that play every year on television. As a child growing up in South Georgia, I usually enjoyed weather warm enough for shorts and sandals and rarely saw snow. Fascinated by the cinematic magic that accompanied such a weather event, I dreamed of donning bulky sweaters, scarves, boots, and fur-lined coats to enjoy all the pleasures of the season: jingle bell sleigh rides, snowball fights, snow angels, ice skating, snowmen, sledding, caroling, and s’mores and hot chocolate by a roaring fire in a massive stone fireplace. Of course, the house I imagined myself living in would have two or three stories and a wraparound porch. Parties full of laughter, fine food, and elegantly dressed family and friends would fill my winter calendar. And, if a prince showed up with a proposal, that would be just fine too!
Dreams planted in childhood often become our metric for a successful life. We can feel as if we’ve failed when they don’t materialize, but often those dreams weren’t part of God’s plan. The passionate pursuit of our vision can cause us to miss the good and perfect gifts our heavenly Father wants to give (James 1:17). In fact, the time and effort required to achieve our future goals can at times rob us of today’s blessings and cause us to miss God’s best. I’ve checked off a lot of items from my snowy holiday bucket list, but others the Lord has gently led me to release.
When I first allowed God to pry my fingers from my tightly gripped plans, I felt strong disappointment. But His perfect love gives “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20 NIV). As I grew and learned more about people, the world, and myself, I realized that He had spared me the regret of wasted years pursuing gifts that, while shiny and pretty on the outside, would ultimately have seemed to me like opening empty boxes on Christmas day. Our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows what will bring fulfillment and joy.
Our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows what will bring fulfillment and joy.
This Christmas, if dissatisfaction and loneliness creep into your thoughts, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 16:25: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Instead of dwelling on your unrealized dreams, you may find it helpful to honor Him by loving well those He has put into your life. Where is a need you can meet? Is there a person you can serve today? Speak words of hope and encouragement to those who cross your path. Slow down and spend time really listening to the people who are willing to share even one moment of their life with you. Offer today’s choices as an act of worship to our glorious Savior.
When we are looking at what others have, or appear to have, we can feel as if we got a raw deal in life. But God loves every single one of His children and gives good gifts to each of them. Ask Him to show you the beauty and richness of the life He has given you.