Struggling to Hang On

1:54 PMHeather

I vividly remember the details of that night.  It was the longest night of my life.  A Friday night.  May 11, 1990.  The night before, my sister and I had rushed to Dallas to our father's bedside. While we had planned to come home that weekend, our mom had urgently told us to hurry as we called to say we were on our way. She indicated that we might not make it in time. 

The drive was a blur. 

Having pulled an all-nighter the night before at college, I was sent home to sleep on that Thursday night after we reached Baylor Hospital in downtown Dallas.  My sister and mom sat vigil that night.  I took my turn the following night.

And it was the longest night of my life.  

I can remember how hard the floor felt, as I lay on a bed made with blankets.  So uncomfortable, in fact, that I often sat up, back against the wall, for hours at a time.  My mom seemed to sleep. But not me.  Not a wink of sleep for me.  

The fluid was filling dad's lungs.  His body was shutting down.  I sat all night, listening to the loud and terrifying sounds of him struggling to breath.  Short, shallow breaths.  Followed by what seemed like long moments of nothing.  And I prayed.  All night long.  Praying for him to take a breath.  Come on, Dad.  Take a breath.  Keep going.  One more breath.  

The room was dark.  The whirl and beeps of the machines were the only noise besides my dad's breathing.  I don't even recall the nurses coming in.  I later found out that they were well aware of how short his time was. They left us to our vigil. To our desperate prayers and long good-byes.

All night long, I felt I willed my father to take one more breath, begging my Heavenly Father to help him.  Somehow, I just felt I needed to pray my dad through the night.  To get to morning, which seemed to stretch far out of reach.  I don't even think I gave thought to what morning might bring.  I was merely focused on survival through the night.  

The rhythm of that long night was marked by short breaths.  Exhale and inhale.  Labored.  Struggling.  Frightening silences in between breaths.  Desperate prayers.  One more.  One more.  One more.

It's such a picture of the long night so many face.  Just willing themselves to take one more breath.  Just to endure the darkness and despair that seems to envelop them in a suffocating blanket. The light of day feels out of reach.  The hope of a new dawn feels too far away.  Unattainable.  The possibilities for the new day hold no hope, really.  Just surviving the long night is the only goal in mind.  Living on a prayer...literally.

And I want to tell you something.  For every person leaning against a cold, hard wall, fiercely fighting for just one more breath. Willing yourself to simply exhale and inhale. Survival the only thought. Prayers being said repeatedly and feeling ineffective at best.

The night is long indeed.  And dark. And your world feels as though it is falling apart.  The thought that it could change for the better feels like too much to hope for.  Because life feels as though it will simply continue to unravel and unwind you.  Taking you under its waves of circumstances.

Could you just consider this. 

It just might be your night before Christmas.  

When the world continues to spin, just as it always has.  The hope and expectation for salvation remains unanswered.  Silence is all you hear from heaven.  The stars above make you feel insignificant and small. And while there may have been times of a tiny glimpse of change, the reality is that nothing has changed.  And nothing feels as though it will ever improve.

Your waiting and wishing and hoping and praying has gotten you no where.  

Breath in.  Breath out.  

That's the only sound you hear. 

Darkness and beeps and whirls of despair the background music.

There is no dawn.  Just the hours and hours of loneliness and pain of watching your world come apart.

But yet, you never know.

It just might be the night before Christmas.

It just could be that Jesus himself is about to show up.  In unexpected and marvelous and humble and glorious ways.  God himself intends to enter your dark night.  His plan is to actually intersect your dismal situation and prove his faithfulness. Because although his promises feel empty and out of reach, they are actually about to break through your dark night and bring the dawn.

This long dark night is not the end, bloggy friend.  It's merely the precursor.  It's the moment before God sends angels to pierce the dark night with loud proclamations of good news and great joy and peace for all people.

Because the hundreds of years of silence will come to an end.  The prophecies of old are as sure and reliable as any promise ever uttered.

And while you just hope for a new day, God is ushering in a whole new promise.  A new era.  A hope beyond tomorrow...but for eternity. Your prayer is for salvation in the next few hours.  God plans to actually offer you salvation forever and ever.  

Yes, life has long dark nights.  And our prayers may not be answered as we'd like.  We may ask for a quick salvation.  A change in circumstance.  But God intends to right all wrongs forever.  

I asked for my dad to be healed.  I longed to see him rise up out of that bed and be restored to who he was.

God intended something else.  He offered eternal healing.  He dried my dad's tears forever and ever.  Every trace of cancer was indeed removed for all of time.  

And if I fix my eyes on the seen, I see disappointment.  Because it doesn't look at all like I thought.

Just as the Israelites felt confusion about their Messiah.  Sent not as a conquering hero of war but as a humble tiny baby.  

This was not what they expected.  

This was strange and fell short of their hopes.

But the unseen was immeasurably more than they could ask or imagine.

Because that tiny baby's birth broke the silence and ended the long dark night.

And the hope of Christmas was born. 

The hope of a new day came.

In a God who dressed in flesh so that we might have a High Priest who can empathize with all our worldly struggles.

All they saw was a baby.  They lacked the vision to see that what they were looking at was actually their Savior.

He was a humble man who preached love and grace and dared to turn the religious rules of the day on their head.  

Who died.

On a cross.  

And the earth shook and the day became as night.

All hope was lost.  Any glimpse of daylight disappeared.  

Just as you might feel right now.

But the truth is that a remarkable and never ending victory was won.  Death and sin were conquered.

Forever and ever.

And the unseen that we can fix our eyes on is the presence of God. Face-to-face.  When all the struggles of this world will be far surpassed by the glory we will experience without end.

We may only see a baby.  Nothing special.

But God's plans are for a Savior.

Oh yes.  In this world, we have tribulation.  In this world, we have long nights that feel like a burden we cannot bear.

But Christ has overcome this world.  

And while the victory may not come as we think it should, it's a plan far more glorious than we can wrap our hearts around.

We sit and pray and wish and hope and feel overwhelmed.  All we see is night.  All we want is the dawn of a new day.

And we despair because we cannot even fathom that maybe God wishes to not just bring a new day.

But a Christmas morning.  With new mercies we've never experienced.  With faithfulness we may see only in hindsight. With a plan beyond anything we could dream.

A plan not just to fix our circumstance.

But to secure our eternity.

Indeed.  The light of a new day may bring a confusing turn of events.

But may I remind you that the world was baffled two thousand years ago.  And continues to be.

Yet we are promised that God's plans are immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

So breath in his goodness.  Breath out his grace.

And then take another breath of his sovereign faithfulness for a cure for all mankind. Not just a victory for today.  But a victory with no end.  No limits.  

Hang on till the morning.  

And not just any morning.

But Christmas morning.  When all that has been will fade into all that God intends.

It's coming.

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