I will never forget Christmas Day, 2014. It was the day my wife had a panic attack*.
We were getting ready to leave for church that day. Feeling overwhelmed, my wife began to bang her head on the wall, throw kitchenware all over the place and scream at the top of her lungs. She even tried to wrestle me to the ground. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
Our neighbors were ready to break down the door to take my wife away from me. My church elders also came down immediately after hearing about it and prayed over us as my wife was rushed to the emergency room. We were in the hospital from morning till night. My wife was then taken to a mental health facility for several days.
I remember making the difficult phone call to my in-laws. My knees were jerking, chest pumping, and my thoughts rushed in different directions. Hearing the response of my in-laws, my chest caved in and immense guilt overwhelmed me as I realized I had failed my husband duties to love and protect her daughter.
It was no peace-on-earth kind of Christmas, it was a hell-on-earth nightmare Christmas. Everything was falling apart. I was ready to leave the pastorate and the fear of divorce ran through my mind. Long story short, my wife was eventually discharged but she had to start taking medication, see a psychiatrist and a counsellor. The both of us also attended marriage counselling for a period.
Three years after that traumatic incident, I wish I could tell you God took away all the anxiety and depression my wife faced and we lived happily-ever-after. That’s not what happened. She still faces anxiety issues today but it has gotten better by God’s grace. Instead, God used the incident to impress on me three important lessons why Jesus needed to come for us.
1. I am NOT my wife’s Rescuer
As much as I longed to be my wife’s knight in shining armor, I wasn’t able to rescue her from her anxiety.
All the books I had read on counseling, the conflict management courses I attended and the lessons I had been taught reconciliation were meaningless at the end of the day. This was bigger than me and I had no control over it. I couldn’t fix her anxiety attacks with eloquence of speech, the right human reasoning, or the degrees I had received through my academic training.
When we realized that I couldn’t be the superman my wife wanted me to be, and humbly admitted our need for Jesus, the only one who could rescue us from this tragic event, that’s when God began to do the restoring work in our marriage. I saw the Spirit of God do an inner work in her to help her through her anxiety. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
Jesus is our only Hope on this earth.
2. Marriage is NOT my Messiah
When I first stepped into marriage, I thought that it would be happily-ever-after. So I remember thinking to myself as I watched my wife fall apart, “I didn’t sign up for this. I can’t do this!” It was then I realized that marriage will never make me happy. On the contrary, it revealed how broken and desperately needy we both were of a Messiah.
I should not be looking to my wife or my marriage for what can only be given by Christ. Jesus is the true Messiah and my true peace. British theologian and author C. S. Lewis said it well, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We were created for more than anything in this Earth can provide or satisfy.
I love my wife and thank God for marriage, but marriage is never going to grant me eternal satisfaction. True eternal peace is only found in Christ Jesus alone. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
Jesus is our only Prince of Peace.
3. Happiness is NOT the Savior
I love the Christmas season—the lights, hot chocolate, gift-giving, family and other social gatherings that characterize the season. But the portrayal of Christmas in popular culture may have created a subconscious expectation—even among believers—that Christmas must necessarily be merry and bright. It almost seems bad to be miserable and unhappy, and as a result, we unwittingly make happiness itself an idol. We want happiness more than we want Jesus; happiness is the God that we worship.
However, that is not reality. Happiness in and of itself is not our Savior. Without God, there is no happiness. True happiness comes with knowing God Himself.
Suffering served as an eye-opener in my case. This tragedy helped me recognize my need for Jesus the Messiah to save me from the mess I was in.
In the quiet and loneliness of that Christmas night, with my wife locked up in the mental health facility, God reminded me that though things looked hopeless, happiness had not completely eluded me. Despite all that was happening in my life, I had reason for joy because of a baby in a manger. Like the angel said, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ (Luke 2:10)
Jesus is our only one true Joy.
Jesus Is the Reason for the Season
Though I never wish to walk through that tragic experience again, I learned precious lessons that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. As the Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon said it well, “There is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial.”
My wife today serves as the Children’s Director in my church and is a wonderful godly mother of two. I am often humbled by her presence and it has been our greatest joy to serve alongside as a pastor and staff. She still struggles with anxiety occasionally, but nothing like what had happened, thanks to Jesus.
If Christmas is a time that brings sorrow and painful memories of the past, take heart that Christmas is also about the Creator of the universe, King Jesus, humbling Himself and coming into the world to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) Jesus is the only one who offers joy, provides peace, and extends hope to this broken world—and that’s why Christmas is always worth celebrating no matter our situation.
*I wouldn’t share this experience if I did not have the permission from my wife. We have both come a long way through His grace alone that we are here to testify of His grace and for His glory.