Lean In and Hold On

Despite the fullness in my stomach from a huge Christmas dinner, the aroma of buttered popcorn enticed me the second I opened the door to the theater. Deciding on drinks only, my family and I navigated the congested lobby in search of a place to wait for the movie we selected.

We arrived an hour early hoping to secure our favorite seats for an exhilarating 3D experience, so I searched for a place to sit until time for tickets to be collected.

To my surprise, I spotted a cushioned bench with just one occupant near the ticket receiving area. I smiled and sat down beside a woman with a walker – the kind my dad uses, with sturdy wheels and a built-in seat. Having already exchanged a friendly greeting outside as we sought to escape the penetrating cold, I leaned toward her and asked, “Have you had a great Christmas?”

She turned my way and said, “I believe this has been the best Christmas I have ever had.” I knew she meant it.
 “That’s awesome,” I said, noticing the covering on her head as she continued.

 “I’ve been really sick, but have been so blessed to have my sister living with me.”

 Leaning toward her again, I asked, “Chemo?”

 She nodded. “And radiation.” Sitting a bit taller, she proclaimed the completion of her tenth round of treatment.

 “I’m sorry you’ve had to endure so much,” I said. She nodded.

Then a boy about twelve years old approached, leaned over and wrapped his arms around the woman’s neck. He hugged her tight, rested his head on her
“My nephew. Such a good boy,” she said tilting her head toward him and patting his arms. My heart melted watching the warm exchange.

We introduced ourselves.

I sensed peace in Darlene as she openly shared her struggle. At first it was lung cancer, stage four, discovered when she couldn’t shake flu-like symptoms. Then, sometime after her treatments began, Darlene’s sister discovered her in the kitchen late one night, confused and saying things that made no sense. This time it was brain cancer.

I concluded her illness, not age, created the need for the walker. She was mature, but not elderly.

I listened, and marveled at the sweet spirit radiating from Darlene. Not an ounce of anger or bitterness. Not an ounce of self-pity. Not an ounce of fear. I sensed only wisdom, joy and contentment. And peace.

I leaned closer this time, shoulder to shoulder as if we were old friends, and said, “I’m sure you’ve had lots of people praying for you.” 

 “Oh, yes. The prayers of so many are the only reason I’ve been able to get through this. I am so blessed. God placed my sister in my house for a reason. To be there for me.”

I asked if she had a church family to surround her, but I knew before she answered.

Then I said, “May I ask where you go?”

Receiving her answer, I smiled. Not only do I know the location of her church, we have a mutual acquaintance who also attends. The idea of keeping up with Darlene’s progress filled my heart and settled well within my soul.

When the time came for Darlene to submit her movie ticket, I assured her my church and I would be praying for her. She thanked me, and switched her attention to the family surrounding her.

 As I watched Darlene part the crowd with her walker, I considered so many things.

 She blessed me by sharing her story, because her focus was not on her struggles but on her Savior. Peace. Confidence. Trust. Faith. She wins the fight no matter what the outcome because she knows where she is going. “It’s in God’s hands,” she said, “and it is His decision.”

 Complete surrender.

 Wow. I mean, WOW.

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)

Maybe you are fighting for your life, or walking this road with a loved one. Maybe anger consumes you because your diagnosis feels unfair. Maybe you don’t understand why you’re not responding to treatments, unlike others. Maybe the opposite is true. Maybe you wonder if God even hears your pleas. Perhaps your struggle is with something completely different, but you desire the peace Darlene carries.

Whatever your situation, I encourage you to allow your weakest moments to be a showcase of God’s incredible strength. Lean into Him. Lean in and hold on.

As God’s strength emanated from Darlene that day, I witnessed the “peace that transcends all understanding.” No wonder I kept leaning toward her.

His very presence, through her, drew me there.


(UPDATE: Please pray for Darlene. I understand she entered the hospital with pneumonia earlier this week. Thank you.)
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Why Jesus is the Reason

Discussing Christmas traditions with an excited group of children, a young boy’s smile faded as he told me he couldn’t spend Christmas with his daddy. I inquired further, expecting the boy to cite divorce or death as a reason. My mind began forming words to encourage the boy.

“He’s in jail,” he said.

I stammered slightly, unsure how to respond to this revelation.

Quietly, I replied, “You know, no matter what circumstance caused your daddy to be in jail, there is nothing God won’t forgive unless a person doesn’t ever accept Jesus.”

As we created Christmas decorations together, I reminded those gathered around the table “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Then I explained what the phrase means and why.

When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the depth of God’s love for humanity. God loves us so much “… He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16 NIV]

Jesus. His name is not just the “name above all names.” He is the King of Kings. The Lord of Lords. The Prince of Peace. The Messiah. The Savior of the World. His birth is Christmas. The first step on earth toward salvation for man.

Joy to the World!

Like this young boy, the blows of life threaten to chase away our joy. We know for many holidays magnify an endless list of struggles: the loss of loved ones; broken relationships; failing marriages; addiction; mental illness or physical health issues; financial worries; bitterness and anger; depression; unconfessed sin, and more. Even the volume of possible struggles is heartbreaking.

Christian joy is not a happiness based on how well things are going in our life. Perhaps the best description is an inner peace planted deep within the soul based on our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The more we know Jesus, the more joy we experience – even in the heat of suffering.

Notice I did not say the more we know about Jesus. We may learn all there is to know about Jesus and still not have a relationship with him.

Since God desires a close and personal relationship with us, the trials and sufferings we face in this world should cause us to long for our Heavenly home. There is only one way to Heaven.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” [John 14:6 NIV]

THE way.

THE truth.

THE life.

THE Father.

Singular. There is no other way to the One and Only Father except through His One and Only Son.

Jesus was born to die on the cross as the atonement for all our sins – past, present and future. Yours and mine. Not one of us is sinless.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23 NIV]

Our punishment for that sin is eternal separation from God – much worse than jail – but God gave us a precious gift to restore us to Him.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 6:23 NIV]

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8 NIV]

Therefore, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate God’s love and the gift of salvation. It is free to us, but not without cost. Jesus paid the price for us on the cross, and it is available to all who will accept it, just as we are. His blood washes us clean. We cannot do that on our own.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” [Romans 10:9-10 NIV]

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Romans 10:13 NIV]

Without this birth, there would be no Jesus. No cross. No resurrection. No salvation. No hope. No peace. No joy. No reason for Christmas.

“Jesus is the reason for the season.” It is not just a catchy phrase, or some singsong slogan.

It is truth.

Maybe you already have a deep, personal relationship with Jesus, but the hustle and bustle of holiday activities threatens to steal your joy. Maybe someone you love, like this young boy’s father, is in prison. Maybe you feel shackled and weighted by something you are trying to carry alone. Maybe your soul has been crying for hope, peace and joy.

I pray whatever your circumstance, you have accepted or will accept the best gift to all humanity: Jesus

I pray you will surrender your heart, your burdens, and your will to Him. Among all gifts, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is the best gift we will ever receive, and the best gift we will ever share with others.

Share Him freely, and often.

After all, He is the reason we celebrate this season.

Merry Christmas.  
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.