Christmas is my most anticipated season of the year. After all, who doesn’t look forward to gifts, gaiety, and celebrations? Yet this past Christmas was unlike any other – my family was quarantined for Christmas. The January blues came early when my son tested positive for Covid-19 shortly before Christmas. In an instant, our carefully made Christmas plans came crashing down and we were forced into isolation. Our Christmas plans were instantly cancelled. Through the initial disappointment of broken plans, the Lord ultimately taught me and my family three important lessons from a quarantined Christmas.
1. Hold plans loosely.
The best made plans are merely plans at best. Our plans often fail, but God’s never do. Never once have God’s plans failed to transpire. Never once has God’s promise of steadfast goodness from Romans 8:28 ever failed. When our plans collapse, the question isn’t whether God has failed or neglected us; the question is whether we trust him. When we were quarantined for Christmas, I chose to believe God’s plan for quarantine was better than my plans of time with family and friends. Though we don’t have to enjoy the process of God’s providence, we must joyfully trust in a good God. The plans of God that might initially hurt are ultimately greater than our failed intended plans. Do we truly trust what God gives is better than what he withholds? James puts it pointedly – don’t speak definitively of the future, but rather say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15).
2. Be others focused.
This lesson is strikingly simple yet remarkably difficult in practice. Christians are called to out-serve one another. Christianity encompasses the twin commands of loving God and loving neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). Since Christmas always meant celebration, I had struggled to empathize with those who struggle at Christmas. As a result, I had never intentionally focused on other’s Christmas sorrows. God used quarantine to show me what I had missed and to love those who hurt. A personal quarantine highlight was calling elderly widows on Christmas Eve so they knew they weren’t alone. The more we focused on others, the more God gave me perspective. By focusing on others, the Lord melted my initial frustration into joy, eventually producing thankfulness.
3. Be thankful in all things.
When plans are frustrated, thankfulness rarely follows. Yet if God has providentially provided in every way, how can we not give thanks in all things? I’m struck with the blunt simplicity of Scripture – in everything give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18a). God doesn’t offer a qualifier of when it’s acceptable to not give thanks. He simply calls his people to ceaseless thankfulness. Why? Because a good God has done good in your life, especially in the moment of thwarting your plans. My quarantined Christmas wasn’t an accident or a failure – it was a sweet gift from the Lord to teach me thankfulness in every season. God’s kindness to me was purposefully showing me the joy of Christmas is Jesus, not the excitement of the holiday season. If we’ve been given life through Jesus, then we must be thankful. However your plans have been frustrated, take comfort in knowing God’s plans are right on track, perfectly on time, and perfectly completed. No matter the season or circumstance, friend, remember to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2,4).