The Two Hopes of Christmas
Luke 23:43: And Jesus replied, “I assure you. Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Christmas is about the impossible becoming possible: a virgin becoming pregnant; God becoming man; light coming into a dark world full of pain; and redemption and eternal life overcoming the thought of death that looms over us all.
To quote Jesus in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
In the course of my wellness coaching, I’ve worked with individuals from all over the globe; many in these great United States, and many more in countries that include: Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, Estonia, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Nigeria.
Many of my clients reach out to me because they are on the brink giving up hope. Many have nearly become convinced that a solution for their situation is “impossible.”
Unfortunately, the modern practice of prescribing pharmaceutical “quick fixes” for our mental and emotional stresses has created a lot of issues for people; it has left a lot of people wondering how they got into a situation that somehow became more complicated and dark than they ever thought life could get.
Prescription medications such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants can cause all sorts of health problems for people, and then trying to quit those medications can take individuals to the very lowest depths of depression and despair and to the very highest and rockiest peaks of anxiety and restlessness.
I know this not just because I speak with people going through such turmoil, but because I lived the turmoil myself years back while quitting Xanax and Paxil after about fourteen years of use. A casual prescription from a doctor I only saw once created a spider’s web of complicated issues in my life that lasted nearly two decades.
And at times—no matter how healthy or upbeat I am now—I felt nearly trapped and hopeless back then. But there was a way forward, and the clouds did part as I regained strength, clarity, and joy.
We are never really trapped. There are always solutions. There is always hope.
This holiday week, I’d like to briefly talk about the two types of hope that Christmas brings us specifically.
First, the hope that our most difficult earthly situations—which might involve physical pain but often involve emotional hurt—have a remedy. The hope that we can feel better and be happier on this earth.
And secondly, the hope that death isn’t the end for any of us or for any of our loved ones. And maybe this is stating the obvious, but that is ultimately the type of hope we need the most.
That first type of hope—the type that addresses our earthly pain—is exactly what Jesus specialized in bringing people during his years walking among us. He was a famous (at times infamous) healer, and word quickly spread about his powers to the point where people flocked to him so that he could make the blind see and the crippled walk.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ healing miracles are perhaps some of the most powerful reading that someone suffering through illness can undertakes, and I urge anyone who is dealing with illness right now to read my previous blog post about some of these accounts here (LINK).
But ultimately Jesus was about much more than healing diseases and physical pains. The “peace” that he offered (that peace that can’t be found anywhere else) involved giving people forgiveness and unconditional love so that they could overcome things like: emotional numbness, self-hatred, low self-esteem, anger, bitterness, ego worship, loneliness, money worship, lack of fulfillment, and a general sense of “emptiness.”
There is no physical healing without spiritual healing, and in the acts and words of Jesus we find both.
And we also find a solution for the thing that truly causes our worst anxiety and depression: the “D” word, death.
I know that perhaps death isn’t what you wanted to be reading about on the week of Christmas, but I promise that it will be uplifting rather than depressing.
In 2020, I think we’ve seen more than ever before just how afraid of illness and death we human beings are. In the age of Covid-19, it has gotten to the point where people will do anything—or avoid doing anything—in the name of trying to outmaneuver illness and death. And while being smart, staying healthy, and taking precautions is fine, thinking that we can play God and control life and death on a daily basis isn’t. In fact, we’ve seen that isn’t possible anyway (despite out best, furious efforts) and that line of thinking not only encourages us to put our hopes and fate into the very fallible hands of man, but it takes our attention off of what I will call “Eternity Preparation,” which is ultimately the more dangerous side-effect.
In my mind, a spiritual life is important because it allows us to find inner peace and become better people. But it is absolutely Crucial with a capital C because it gives us a remedy for the one problem that mankind, it all its wisdom, will never solve—the problem of death.
Even if our planet survives another million years and we’re all talking to each other on an iPhone 5,000 Pro Max Super, death will still be the elephant in the room. It will still be the thing that people are trying to avoid. It will still be the thing that people are trying to forget about, the thing that makes no sense and makes us feel hopeless.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Because God became man via the miracle of Christmas, epic events were set into motion that ultimately conquered death. And while our human deaths might still involve pain and a sense of loss, they can also be married to hope because they are simply a transition to something better which will never end.
All of the things that haunt and pester and plague us right now—money worries, stomach fat, divorces, illness, politics, insults, isolation, despair, anger, restlessness, boredom—these things will no longer exist in the world to come. It will be, in a word, paradise, a paradise where we will be completely satisfied and without pain or worry. A paradise that’s glory cannot even be conceived of by the world’s greatest authors or movie producers.
I don’t know about you, but to be honest death still makes me sad. Even with faith it is sad. In the past half year or so I’ve seen several people pass away (from cancer and accident), and I’ve seen those who are left behind. These people had no idea at the beginning of 2020 that this year would be their last on the earth.
The people who passed were loving husbands and fathers and mothers, and they left behind lonely spouses and grieving children.
But as sad as these passings were and are, for the believer they aren’t marked by hopelessness. Rather, they are able to be put into the context of hope, and they are able to be seen as the soul’s journey out of this earthly confusion and into paradise.
And because of the divine forever that a Christmas birth ushered into our reality, our goodbyes aren’t forever. As much as I don’t like to think about the goodbyes I will have to experience in my own life someday, even now I begin to reflect on how they are not permanent. Even now I begin to look into the sky and picture how I will be reunited with loved ones, and ultimately with my Lord, when the final time is set.
That is a part of my Eternity Preparation. If 2020 and all of its 24/7 focus on illness and death does anything for us, hopefully it compels us all to get our spiritual affairs in order and begin in earnest our Eternity Preparation.
We must ask ourselves, What spiritual path provides us with an answer for death? We must ask ourselves, How can we make sure we are walking that path and bringing our loved ones along with us?
I hope that this Christmas season, as much as we are all focused on presents and earthly joy (and maybe earthly challenges such as Covid-19 or other illnesses), we can also focus on the hope that the spiritual concept of eternity brings.
The birth of Jesus, and everything that says about God’s love for us and His power over “the impossible,” surely ought to bring us hope for a good 2021 here on earth. And ultimately our New Year and all the years that follow can be even better because we know they are leading us somewhere that is much more than a dead end. They are leading us to greater life. Our years—our lives—are not an accident, and they are carrying us to the fulfillment of a promise that extends our existence into the forevermore.
Please cling tightly to this hope as you get ready to celebrate this holiday season.
Have a very blessed Christmas and a very joyful New Year’s celebration.
Until next time,
1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.
“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”
“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”
Jon - British Columbia, Canada
“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.
"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”
Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt
“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”
Andi, North Carolina
“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”
“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”
“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”
Erikka, South Dakota
“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”
“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”
Leanne – Ontario, Canada
"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."
Miguel, Atlanta, GA
"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
Emma, United Kingdom
“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”
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If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.