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November 20, 2020

Pain Amid the Joy


Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”

Matthew 2:16-18 NLT



The brutality of Herod is a part of the Christmas story that only Matthew includes in his narrative. Rarely is it mentioned in most Christmas messages—it is way too dark and sad to include in a season of joy, bright lights, and beautiful presents. Yet, there it is—innocent children dying.

What can we learn from this part of the Christmas story? Perhaps, it should cause us to pause and remember that there was incredible sorrow and weeping even in the joy of Jesus’ birth. While Mary and Joseph rejoiced as they escaped to the safety of Egypt, other parents wept at the inhumanity of an evil, insecure ruler.

Bad people do bad things—and God allows it to happen. This whole idea of giving a man like Herod a free-will seems unfair and wrong. Since God saved Mary and Joseph this pain, why not stop Herod and save all the other parents the pain of losing a child?

We always want God to stop others from exercising their free will when it will hurt us, but we don’t want God to stop us from exercising our free will, even though others may get hurt by our choices.

History tells us Herod was an evil man. He killed some of his own sons when he was afraid they might try to take over his throne. He did a lot of things that caused a lot of pain to people. Yet, God allowed him to live as a ruler appointed by Rome over this part of Israel.

There is pain that comes into our lives that we will never fully understand this side of eternity. Our finite brains can’t understand the fullness of God’s plan. We have such a small perspective that even when we think we know it all, we don’t. Sometimes, we have to admit we don’t know the why.

Why does God allow babies to be aborted in their mother’s womb? Why did God allow my child to die so young? Why did God allow my loved one to suffer through a horrible sickness? Why did God allow my marriage to fail? Why did God allow my business to fail?

When I was 21 and starting out in ministry, I thought I had all the answers. I had a college degree and a quick mind. The longer I live, the more I realize I didn’t even know the questions—much less the answers. I have also learned that I’m not God—and I’m okay with that. I’m okay not knowing all the answers because if I did, I’d be God—and I’m definitely not God.

Some people think God owes them an answer, and when they get to heaven, they will demand an explanation. I think when we get to heaven, those questions won’t matter that much. In light of eternity, things will have a different look.

Pain is real. Bad people do bad things. But I’ll trust God to be God even in my pain, confusion, frustration, and even in my moments of anger at the unfairness of life.



Holy Spirit, help me to keep my heart free of anger or frustration. Help me to trust You even when I don’t understand.

Scroll down to share what you feel God is saying to you based on today’s reading.

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