What about those tired, hard places during which one has little or no sense of God's presence? We encounter this on certain days, and during certain times on most days. We find life has hit us with some hard knocks, big and little, and it doesn't seem like it's getting easier.
When one studies Israel during the time of Jesus, you find the sense of being in a hard place. They were under Rome's heel, so to speak, and not all was good and pleasant. Taxes was one obvious weight, as was the sense that in spite of a good number of them being back in the land with the temple rebuilt (albeit Herod's temple) this just couldn't be even close to the fulfillment promised by the prophets in Scripture, as in Isaiah. The LORD was not ruling, and what was going on, even amongst themselves, was not all right or kosher.
Then comes Jesus. Yes, God-with-us, Emmanuel. This brought joy at its inception for the few insiders who did share the news with others. But this coming turned into another way which in itself was hard, the way of the cross. This was to a large extent at the heart of Jesus' first coming. It was not an easy road, this Calvary road. Jesus was fulfilling the promises of God in ways unexpected.
Of course the place of Jesus' birth in its circumstances and setting, was not pleasant or comfortable. After a long trip, especially for a woman near delivering her child, they end up perhaps in a cave, but using a feeding trough (manger) as a bed for the newborn with animals possibly nearby.
Jesus made a new way for us, and in this life we in him share in that way. We must therefore take up our cross and follow, not adding to, but in proclaiming and seeking to live in and live out this salvation which has been accomplished for us in Jesus. But the way we do that is to learn to accept and to live well in our hard places.
Not easy, and though I've come a long way in my life, God is not finished with me yet in this. I see that God's necessary work continues, when I really am not dealing with the difficulty in a way which sees it as God's way for me, or when I'm off track in being taken up with my own way, not the way of the cross, the way of Jesus. This includes all that comes to me. Something I'm working on. Something Jesus lived out and by his salvation, gives to us to live out here and now, in our witness to the world of him.
Any thoughts or sharing from your own life, here?