Christmas time: Living with the past

Published 9:31 am Monday, December 5, 2016


Contributing writer

     Are you familiar with Murphy’s Law? The original “Murphy” was an engineer who conducted an experiment to test human acceleration tolerances. Unfortunately for him, he installed 16 motion sensors the wrong way, leading to the now famous quotation, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” I guess the corollary is also true: “If anything can’t go wrong, it will anyway.”  

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     Here are some other laws blamed on poor Mr. Murphy.  Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse. Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value. You will never find a lost article until you replace it. Everything goes wrong all at once. If everything seems to be going well, you’ve obviously overlooked something. 

     Life is hard, and it is not always fair either. Most people have something in their past to prove it. The list of painful experiences of the past that can be experienced right in our own families is long and scary. I have counseled people through these, some with success, some not: adult children of alcoholics, co-dependency, dysfunctional families, addictions of every sort, divorce, abortion, physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse, absent fathers, absent mothers, and absent parents, and financial crisis.  

     Each one leaves a scar. The scars run deep. I come in years later when the family is struggling and help them understand this is not God’s plan.Then we ask God for the healing power to help them face the past, forgive the past, then learn to live with the past.

     Sometimes something miraculous happens. James 1:2-4 tells us what God wants to do with all the pain of our past when he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

     God wants to turn our greatest challenges in life into our greatest victories. The greatest things we will do with our lives will often grow out of those greatest challenges and most intense pain. Every person here today can think of a trial which he or she has gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.” 

But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”

     That is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is through hard times. 

     Mary and Joseph experienced many trials and hard times bringing the baby Jesus into the world.  We are told in Luke 2:19 and 51 that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” We can trust God to heal our wounds of the past, and bring joy into our lives as we treasure what God does in us as He heals those wounds, and brings transformation in our lives.  

     Are there wounds, regrets, shattered dreams, death and loss, or ongoing struggles that make celebrating Christmas difficult? What is God doing to bring healing? What is God doing to bring growth and maturity? What is God doing to bring joy out of those painful experiences and memories? Are you being obedient in doing what God wants you to do to find healing? 

(To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see,