ISSUES OF FAITH: Let the mask go and let God

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD— how long? Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? 6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (Psalm 6:2-6 ESV)

THIS PAST WEEK, my porch was adorned by menacing scowls carved into pumpkins.

To make matters worse, on Monday night, my door was darkened by some of the most gruesome faces.

From an ax murder to a drooling zombie, my wife and I fended off the monstrous hordes throughout the night with candy.

Of course it was Halloween. This Halloween was different however. As I sat, trying to read, only to be interrupted every few minutes by the doorbell, I began to think of how this holiday, as it ushers in our “holiday season,” brings with it a sobering poetic image.

As men, women and children alike painted their faces, put on their masks and hid behind their disguises, they were outwardly portraying what so many of us do this time of the year: We cover up our true self with masks, camouflaging our distraught emotions with jubilant facades, all out of fear of exposing our weaknesses and pain.

‘Grin and bear it’

With the pressures of Thanksgiving, the holiday parties, the stress that accompanies family arriving or for some the sorrow of not having family or friends to gather around, we still try to put on a mask — not the mask of a ghoul or goblin, but one much more troubling: a smile as we try to “grin and bear it.”

This time of the year is supposed to be filled with joy, the sound of laughter and warm feelings. Too often, though, instead of joy, we feel exhaustion; instead of love, we feel frustration; instead of peace, we feel rushed; and instead of hope, a lingering feeling of loneliness weighs us down.

A person wouldn’t know by looking at us. From the outside looking via Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, everything appears fine. We have learned how to fool the closest of friends and most sincere family members.

It is with this pretending that comes the crushing weight of being alone in our pain, and our souls echo the words of King David as we fill our bed with tears. If we were to be truthful and address the pain we harbor in our soul, we would confess our need for help, for rescue and for relief.

This year as you await the celebration of Christmas, do so with the confidence that with the birth of Jesus came the birth of that help, that rescue and that relief. With Jesus came the invitation of God, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden” (Matt 11:28 ESV).

With Jesus came the promise of God, “I am with you always, until the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

With the birth of Jesus, with his death, with his resurrection extended the promise of God to you: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17 KJV).

With Jesus came the balm that soothes the most terrified and troubled hearts. With Jesus came your peace.

Therefore do not hide your pain or sorrow behind a façade but let your tears fall at the feet of the cross of the one who was born to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

He will restore your soul (Psalm 23:3) and give you the strength to not grow weary or faint (Isaiah 40:31) but endure all things with an eternal hope in his grace and second coming (Romans 5:4).

Don’t hide

As we enter the holiday season, many people find themselves trying to hide their real self and real pain from the world. Do not fall into that temptation but remember that your real self and your real pain are the very reason the Christ child broke the silence of that first Christmas morning with his cries and why his entire life was dedicate to his final cry, “It is finished!”

Celebrate this year your redemption in Christ, your eternal life in Jesus, your salvation in the manger and cross as you have been rescued from your pain and sorrow.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected].

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