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Christmas Letters in July

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     I know it is strange to ponder Christmas letters in July, but that is exactly what I have been doing today. These unseasonal thoughts were prompted by the recent death of someone that I had always taken to be a faithful Christian. What I have since learned is that over the course of the last few years his faith wavered and finally waned to the point of non-existence. The cause of this abandonment seems to be the fact that he suffered a number of setbacks including a terminal illness, and allowed his subsequent bitterness to fester to the point that he decided to ignore God. “Why not ignore God,” he said, “God turned his back on me.” So, now he is gone; passed away; dead.

     When I think of this I feel sick and sad. This isn't the first time that I have run across this situation. I used to spend time volunteering in nursing homes and the same story played out a number of times. No matter how much pleading I did, I could never change anyone's mind. Admittedly, I was young and not so full of wisdom so I probably spent more time pleading and less time praying than I should have.

     But, here I am again, and this time it is too late to change or inspire. I wonder though if this is a good time to remind ourselves of how honesty in our own life can lead to testimony that might just pull someone who is wavering back from the brink.

     I have never been one to write the annual Christmas letter that is a ritual for so many, mainly because I'm too lazy, but I have always enjoyed reading the letters received from distant family and friends. But you know how these letters are—they are only filled with the happy, good and great events in the life of a family. Rarely are struggles, weaknesses and failures brought up. Now, I know some people just don't want anyone to feel sorry for them, so they intentionally conceal the unfortunate events of their life, but the truth is, that most of the time we just want to brag and let people know how wonderful we are and Christians are usually no different in this respect than non-Christians.

     I wonder, though, what might happen if we, as Christians, were brutally honest about ourselves in those letters. What would happen if we shared our failures and disappointments and talked about how we dealt with them? I wonder what would happen if we frankly and honestly talked about God in the midst of trouble. I wonder why Christians seem to think that because they are Christian that somehow they should be, and must give, the appearance of perfection on earth.

     When others see us suffer, yet continue on with our faith, it provides a powerful testimony that may carry others through difficulty, or provide encouragement to those that are feeling less than confident with their own walk with God. God knows this and that is why the biblical record is filled with both the triumphs of the saints and the sins, shortcomings and mistakes made by those very same saints.

    As Christians, we live, we learn, we grow and the process by which we do this will often provide the example and the testimony to shore up, or even create a new and vibrant faith in others.