CHRISTMAS: No need to grieve alone

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NASHVILLE (BP) -- I just wanted to make her smile once. That was all I wanted that Christmas. I wanted my wife to smile again.

Christmastime has taken a quantum leap toward the better in my family over the past few years. Our 2012 Christmas was mired in grief with few glimmers of glee. Today, it is conversely defined mostly by joy with sparse speckles of pain.

The climb out took time and a work of God's Spirit through His Word in our hearts. God's Word can do the same for you and I will share with you how. Just know first that you are not alone in your grief, friend. The Lord is near to you. He is close because of your pain, and He is trying to teach you something through it. He is pointing you to His saving Gospel.

"The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit." This exquisite passage from Psalm 34, verse 18, has been a salve to my heart many times. Now, I extend it to you. May you know that He is near. May He save you whose spirits are crushed. These incredible words of hope appear in the middle of the Bible and they extend a hand from God to those who are drowning in heartache. However, they do much more than that.

Psalm 34 was first written by David more than 1,000 years before Christ's birth, but its full purpose was not realized until the first century when it was quoted by John as he wrote the New Testament Gospel that bears his name. In Psalm 34 as a whole, we see a picture of Jesus on the cross. This is especially remarkable when we consider that it was written centuries before the Romans developed crucifixion. Psalm 34 was a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus.

Now, I can hear the accusations of circular reasoning in showing how a prophecy made in the Bible is fulfilled in the Bible. However, these accusations fall flat when we understand that the Bible has not always existed as we know it today, bound in a single volume with both the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of John sharing one book spine. The Psalms existed in printed form on their own for over a millennium before John's Gospel was written and the two did not appear together in a collection until well after Jesus' ascension. There is a clear historical line between Psalm 34:20 and John 19:36. Thus, the reasoning here is linear and not circular.

In fact, that line has a purpose. The line begins at Psalm 34:16, connects to John 19:36, and now points squarely at you as you now read.

We have the Christmas story and the life of Jesus preserved in the Gospels for a purpose. John shared that purpose outright by writing directly to us in John 20:31: "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and gave his firsthand account of what he saw as he stood by the cross.

He wrote straight to you when he penned John 19:33–36: "When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken.'"

You see, the words of Psalm 34 are more than healing for your heart in this mere moment. They were part of God's plan to heal your soul for eternity. They were words of prophecy foretelling what would happen centuries later to the Messiah as He took upon Himself the punishment for sin laid out by His own law.

I did eventually get my bride to smile that Christmas day after we buried our son Aiden. She smiled when I showed her a message I received from an old friend. He wrote, "I was watching the video of your son's funeral. You quoted Psalm 34, so I looked it up. I read it and gave my life to God."

The soul-piercing and life-giving words of Psalm 34 are alive and active today. That is why you are not alone this Christmas. God is near you, brokenhearted one. He is calling to you through His Word. Would you join Him there and listen?

Jesse Campbell is the brand manager of the Explore the Bible curriculum published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; teaching pastor at LiveBible.TV and member of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Nashville; and author of "I'm A Christian - Now What?" "365 Life Devotions for Teen Guys" and "What It Means to Be a Christian." Find more at jessethecampbell.com.
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