Emmanuel -- God With Us
By Colleen Donahue
Foreboding Every Week
Early in my sales career, I had gone to the state of Maine to open new accounts for our jewelry company along the touristy coastline. I had been selling for almost a year but still felt a sense of foreboding each week that I went out. I didn't know how to sell and I was learning more by my blunders and failures than anything that could be called even vaguely successful.
Each week I crawled over a mountain of fear only to start over on Monday. I was fast going into debt living on commission. The "game" was to sell more than you spent but how do you do that without customers? Every week was a new city, a new state and I would start all over knocking on doors. I consoled myself that I had only to support myself. Children would have been starving by now.
Anxiety and Panic
On this particular trip to Maine, fear and apprehension had grown to full-blown anxiety and panic. I had taken it personally every time my product had been rejected so that my mind was like a record with a scratch. Over and over it played in my head -- failure, failure, failure.
One night in early May I checked into one of the charming "cabin" motels that dot the coastline of Maine. Although it was cool, it was a nice evening. I unpacked and settled down to work. But on this evening something new was happening on the inside of me. My mind and heart were racing like a wild, caged animal. I remember being very scared. I paced back and forth as to the beating of native drums. I didn't know what a nervous breakdown was, but I wondered if I might be having one.
Suddenly I felt I had to get out of the cabin. It was suffocating me. Grabbing my coat I ran out into the night that had become very black and cold. I crossed the highway and found myself on a dark back road. My body shook from sobbing while my mind raced out of control.
The Darkness Pierced
In the middle of what I call "my nervous breakdown" an arrow pierced through my darkness. It went right through my anguished soul and into my spirit. A calm, gentle, clear, but inaudible voice said, "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). I can still remember how clearly I heard these words. They had shattered the darkness and chaos inside me so that I stopped on the road and became very still. God was WITH me and I knew it. The back road I walked on was holy ground.
With Christ In God
My mind stopped racing as I considered God's Word to me. Many years before this episode I had committed my life to God and reckoned the "old Colleen Donahue" crucified with Christ. I was a "new creation" in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But now this new verse I heard wrapped around me like a warm, comforting blanket. I was "hid WITH Christ IN God." That's like being in a double cocoon. God was WITH me and surrounding me. I was not on my own to face the daily strains and failures that threatened to engulf me. He was walking WITH me on the dark road I was on. He was waiting for me to reach the end of my own strength and pride so that I would look out and see HIM.
And that's the practical difference that Christmas is to each one of us. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel --which means God with us" (Matthew 1:23). To be "with" us means to be side by side. God is WITH us -- side by side in the daily events of our lives. He has given us His Son who in turn has left us His Holy Spirit to abide in our hearts forever. Whatever road you might be on at this moment, God is waiting for you to "be still and know that He is God" (Psalm 46:10).
Christmas is not all the foolishness that we have made it to be. It is the holy relationship of God being WITH us and made possible for any of us that are ready to walk this life as a partnership with the Lord Jesus -- our Emmanuel.