Reviving an Empty Heart at Christmas (and Throughout the New Year)

By Fern Horst

I hope I never forget the Christmas I sat in a beautiful candlelight service, feeling quite alone and depressed by all the displays of romantic love in the couples around me. Somehow I just couldn’t grasp the joy of the season that Christmas, and I struggled to hold back the tears.

But our merciful Lord knew just what I needed that night, and the focus of the service was not just about Christ’s birth, but about the purpose for which He came: to die on the cross so that we might have eternal life. Suddenly it struck me like never before – Someone loved me so much He died for me, Someone who stretched out His arms in the most vulnerable position possible in order to be crucified, because He loved me.

I left that service with a renewed joy in my heart, and with a deep sense of being loved like I never had before. In the days that followed I was able to enter into the spirit of giving, not just of gifts but of myself, because I was also filled with the knowledge that I had been given so much.

Christmas isn’t the only time of the year we need to know that we are loved and significant. In order to truly minister and give of ourselves to those around us, we need to first be secure in the fact that we are loved deeply by God, and significant to Him.

This is true of both singles and married people alike. One of the biggest tragedies of our time is the fantasy that another person, particularly a romantic relationship, can give us the sense of security and significance we need. People move from one relationship to another, from one marriage to another, trying to find that “Right One” who will make them feel all the things they want to feel about themselves. In all reality, no person or even group of people can ever give us all that we need, though human relationships truly are a blessing given to us by the Lord, and He often shows us His love through His people.

In his book, The Marriage Builder, Larry Crabb defines Security and Significance:

SECURITY: A convinced awareness of being unconditionally and totally loved without needing to change in order to win love, loved by a love that is freely given, that cannot be earned and therefore cannot be lost.SIGNIFICANCE: A realization that I am engaged in a responsibility or job that is truly important, whose results will not evaporate with time but will last through eternity, that fundamentally involves having a meaningful impact on another person, a job for which I am completely adequate.

Crabb goes on to say that there are four courses of action that people take in seeking to meet these personal needs:

  1. Ignore the needs.
  2. Find satisfaction in achievement.
  3. Look to others to meet their needs.
  4. Depend on the Lord for these needs (Crabb p. 29, 30)

It is obvious that the first three are not real answers, although it is amazing how many of us attempt to approach these problems through one or more of them. The fourth option is really the only one that is truly rational. However it is a truth that is hard to make real in everyday life because it is not always easy to acknowledge the love God has for us, while the rejection from people or our own failures is often very obvious. The problem lies in depending on a feeling of being loved and having purpose, rather than believing by faith that in Christ I have security and significance. The Bible is full of these truths and should form our belief systems regarding our identity. Here is a small sampling:

Security and Love:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3)

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (I John 3:1)

Significance and Purpose:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:8)

We read these truths from the Bible and have warm fuzzy feelings during our devotions, but what about in real life when circumstances tempt us to feel that we are not loved or that we are not important? Crabb points out two errors we often make:

  1. Taking rejection and failure to mean that I am less worthwhile as a person.
  2. Thinking that because Christ is all I need I can avoid intimate relationships with others. (Crabb p. 36).

It is true that our relationships with others affect us deeply. We do experience hurt and pain in rejection from others and in our own failings. However, nothing can ever change the fact that we are secure and significant in Christ. Nothing. Even though we experience these feelings, we can still know that nothing will ever change who we are in Christ Jesus. Crabb suggests three steps to take when facing rejection or failure:

Fully acknowledge all your feelings to God. Don’t deny them or pretend that those feelings don’t exist. God understands. Jesus Himself experienced the ultimate rejection when he was crucified. And yet He was doing the most significant and loving thing that anyone will ever do for someone else.

Reaffirm the truth of your security and significance in Christ. Remember that no matter how someone else treats you, you are still totally and wonderfully loved by Christ. And because of this, you are a secure and significant person.

Commit yourself to ministering to others’ needs, knowing that however they may respond can never change your worth as a person. You can make yourself vulnerable to others because you know that nothing will ever take away your security and significance in Christ. (Crabb p.38, 39)

Relying on such Scriptures as, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27) and, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psa. 73:26), can help during times of rejection and failure to remind us of God’s truth.

A person who is unsure of who he is, lives in fear. He fears that others will reject him, that no one will need him, that he will not be recognized, that there is nothing to live for. The more unsure he is of being loved and being significant the higher his expectations are for his close friends or spouse to meet his needs. When they do not meet up to his unrealistic expectations for meeting his needs, he tries to manipulate. He places blame on them for not meeting his needs. In “ministry” he depends on being needed in order to feel important, rather than truly giving of himself without needing to have a need met by the person he is ministering to.

A person who knows he is loved and significant has no reason to fear rejection, purposelessness, or anything else because he knows that nothing can change God’s love for him. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love”. I John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us”. When a person knows that God loves him unconditionally and that God has a unique purpose for his life, he can then reach out to others in unconditional love. He can truly minister because his focus will not be on his needs being met or needing to be needed but on helping others to know that Christ loves him and that Christ has a unique purpose for his life.

Walter Trobisch wrote, “The longing for a place where he belongs, where he feels at home, is in the heart of every human being. Those who have not found a place, the uprooted, the eternal Gypsies will find a place nowhere, not even in marriage. On the other hand, those who have found a place, married or unmarried, will be able to become a place where others feel at home, thus filling one of the deepest needs of our time” (Trobisch, p. 638).

A single person can have a unique ministry in being a place where others feel at home. I have found great fulfillment in being a “home for the homeless” so to speak. To have others come and unload, to struggle with them and help them to their feet, and then be able to let them go on their way (sometimes without a backward glance or even a thank-you from them) is only possible when I know my own security and significance is in Christ, not in their response back to me. There are times when I claim my right to have my needs met by those to whom I minister, and that is when my misery returns, and my ability to minister is greatly hindered.

A married person can truly minister to his or her spouse only when he is secure and significant in Christ. His identity in Christ enables him to be vulnerable. He can develop an intimate relationship with his spouse knowing that no matter what his spouse does, his identity is still intact. Children from this type of a home grow up feeling secure and significant because their parents are ministering to them and teaching them of God’s love and that He has a purpose for their lives. Their home becomes a haven for others and as a family they can reach out to the hurting people around them. When someone expects that a spouse will fulfill them, dissatisfaction can easily set in. Many divorces occur because people expected that marriage in and of itself would make them happy and fulfilled.

We live in a society where we are given messages every day that to be “somebody” we must wear certain things, look a certain way, do certain things, go certain places. Everyone is striving to become someone that is accepted by everyone else and they are failing. It never happens. Single people look for someone to make them feel loved and important and couples divorce because their spouses are not meeting their expectations for security and significance. But as Christians, whether single or married, we have a foundation in Christ that makes a difference, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us and to whom we are able to give of ourselves freely, without demanding something in return.

NOTES:

Crabb, Larry. The Marriage Builder. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982.

Trobisch, Walter. The Complete Works of Walter Trobisch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987.

 

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