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Placing our Hope in God

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Christmas is supposed to be the season of joy. As believers, we celebrate our hope through Christ, our Savior. For many, however, this time of year can be the hardest. Whether you lost a loved one recently or long ago, the memories triggered by the holidays can bring lingering feelings of loss— that particular ornament, colorful Christmas lights, or even a seasonal family dessert.

Fortunately, the Lord provides guidance through our grief in his Word. Psalm 42, written by temple servants who experienced the glorious presence of the Lord, reveals a depressed heart; "My tears have been my food day and night while they say to me all the day long, 'Where is your God?'" Tragedy strikes the Psalmist; "These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival." The irony of the good memories is the sharp pain they cause the soul. The Psalmist is expressing profound loss.

Grief manifests in many ways: anger, sadness, frustration, fear, loneliness, or other feelings. The Psalmist exemplifies how we might handle this experience:

1. He allows himself to mourn. Rather than seeking to numb or stifle his feelings, he embraces them internally and externally. He cries out to the Lord and others. Sharing our tears provides healing to the heart.

2. He practices self-reflection. Rather than letting his feelings dictate his direction. He takes prayerful action over his thoughts: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Gospel-centered self-talk helps focus our minds on the Lord.

3. He intentionally centers his heart on the presence and character of the Lord: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him my salvation and my God." As the feelings of loss overwhelm him, he seeks to remember the Lord is his hope, salvation, and present God. Christ is our ultimate hope.

There are many dynamics at work when the soul of a man or woman is grieving. Grief affects us physically and mentally. The Word of God encourages us to seek out wise counsel. Counsel may include fellow church members, pastors, or medical professionals. Psalm 42 provides a spiritual guide for the heart: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."