Advent Day 9

THE READINGS

1 Thess. 5:1-11· Luke 21:20-28

Psalm 25

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
    do not let me be put to shame;
    do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who are they that fear the Lord?
    He will teach them the way that they should choose.

13 They will abide in prosperity,
    and their children shall possess the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart,
    and bring me out of my distress.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.

19 Consider how many are my foes,
    and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 O guard my life, and deliver me;
    do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
    for I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
    out of all its troubles.

Isaiah 5:8-12; 18-23

8 Ah, you who join house to house,
    who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you,
    and you are left to live alone
    in the midst of the land!
9 The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
Surely many houses shall be desolate,
    large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
    and a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah.

11 Ah, you who rise early in the morning
    in pursuit of strong drink,
who linger in the evening
    to be inflamed by wine,
12 whose feasts consist of lyre and harp,
    tambourine and flute and wine,
but who do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
    or see the work of his hands!

18 Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood,
    who drag sin along as with cart ropes,
19 who say, “Let him make haste,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment,
    that we may know it!”
20 Ah, you who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21 Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes,
    and shrewd in your own sight!
22 Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine
    and valiant at mixing drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of their rights!

MEDITATION

It was around this time last year when I was walking to my next class with one of my dear friends when she asked, “Janelle, what does your necklace say?” I twirled around the newest addition to my ever-growing collection of jewelry, looked down at it, and said, “It says, ‘Choose joy.’ Just bought it yesterday!” This friend then posed a question: “Do you think everyone has the power to make that choice?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, curious to know her response. I remember feeling confused and even slightly annoyed at her for making such a big deal of the phrase on my necklace. She continued by sharing that her sister had been in and out of mental hospitals over the course of the past year due to a brutal battle with depression. From the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like she had the option of choosing joy. I nodded in silence before we parted ways to go about the rest of our days.

A few months later, I found myself in the thick of my own tumultuous battle with depression. Up until this point, I had accepted the reality that depression certainly affected aspects of my life, but it never prevented me from going on with my day-to-day. After going to therapy once a week for a year and a half, I thought I mastered all the tricks of the trade. I prided myself on being the bubbly, enthusiastic girl who could take anything that came her way, putting on a happy face while secretly struggling to even get out of bed some days. For months on end, I tried my best to “choose joy” and practice resilience the best I could, but the only person I was fooling was myself.

In April 2016, I was placed on antidepressants. The first thing I did after being handed the neon orange bottle of pills was do a quick Google search for “Should Christians take antidepressants?” Part of me felt silly about it, but another very real part of me feared that a dependence on this medication meant that I was no longer depending on God as the source of my joy.

David’s prayer in today’s passage, Psalm 25, reminds us of the honesty that God invites us into in prayer. I especially love verses 16 and 17:

“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
   and bring me out of my distress.”

In a lot of ways, this psalm sounds a lot like many of the prayers I’ve prayed lately, and perhaps they echo some of your own cries as well. David’s prayer isn’t sugarcoated and wrapped in a pretty bow out of a fear that maybe God won’t be able to handle all that he’s feeling. In fact, it’s quite opposite of that. These days, I’m learning to be okay with the fact that my prayers take on a different tone than usual. While these honest pleas often stand in stark contrast to the holiday cheer around me, it is not seen as any less holy in God’s eyes.

-Janelle Paule

PRAYER

God, thank You that You are able to handle my honesty. You are familiar with my loneliness and longing even in the midst of this season of joy and giftgiving. Thank You that in seasons of affliction, You promise to walk with me and bring me out of my distress. Prince of Peace, I ask you to bring hope to this weary soul of mine.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Jon Ziegler