Advent: A Story of Pleasure and Grief
I love the pleasures of Christmas. I love how much of God’s glory is edible—the cookies, the chocolate, the cookies, the big dinner … oh, did I mention the cookies?
I want to conclude this series of four Advent devotionals by remembering that the birth of Christ is deeply connected to pleasure in the heart of God. But it’s not the pleasure you and I would typically associate with the joys of Christmas.
It’s the pleasure of grief.
Isaiah writes in Chapter 53, verse 10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (KJV). The ESV translates, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.”
How could it be that God the Father would ever find pleasure in the crushing of his Son? If you’re a parent, you know that it pains your heart to see your child experience a minor bruise. Can you imagine, as a parent, watching the grief and torment that Christ faced on the cross?
How could it be? Scripture answers Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
At any point in 2022, were you tempted to doubt the love of God? If not, you probably will in 2023, or you are certainly near to someone who is questioning. Maybe it will be during a moment of physical suffering, and you wonder why God has allowed this pain to be your experience. Perhaps it will be amid a very significant, relational disappointment when somebody you love has turned their back on you, and you wonder why God has brought this into your life.
Maybe this economy or inflation produced financial difficulty, and even though you’ve sought to obey God and strived to be a generous steward of the resources he’s given to you, you lost your job or are barely paying your bills. Or as you look around at the world you live in, all you see is evil is prospering, and you wonder, “Where is God? Where is his love?”
Whenever the enemy would whisper doubt into your ear, run to Isaiah 53:10 and John 3:16. God’s love is so magnificent and faithful, so powerful and willing, that he would be pleased to give his Son to cruel suffering and cruel death so that you would know life.
And, if he would do such a thing, would he abandon you in your moment of need? Romans 8:32 says no, he will not! “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to find evidence of the love of God when you’re experiencing pleasurable seasons of life. But neither God nor his love change when those physical pleasures are taken away.
During these moments of uncomfortable grace, your inner peace won’t be found in understanding. No, your spiritual rest is secure in the pleasure of the Father and the willingness of his Son.
There is no more clear-pointed, rest-giving demonstration of the love of God for you than the gift of his Son.
Paul David Tripp
1. What is the most pleasurable part of your annual Christmas celebration? Will you remember to stop and thank God for his generous gifts? How often do you take them for granted?
2. What is the most painful experience you have watched a child or loved one endure? Can you find comfort in knowing that your Heavenly Father knows your grief?
3. Has the Lord bruised you for your sanctification? Are you able to look back and, like David, proclaim, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (Psalm 51:8)? What good has come from this pain?
4. How have you suffered this year? If you have not, who do you know who has suffered? Are you (or they) tempted to doubt the goodness and love of God? In what way? Be specific.
5. What other verses can you memorize or remind yourself of that preach the unfathomable love of God in your life? How have you seen that love in action recently?