The lights were low, the room warm and full of people. I closed my eyes while music and voices swirled around me, my heart swelling with emotion. We were back—together at last—singing carols in anticipation of Christmas. We’d just begun one of my favourites. This year, after many months of restrictions and isolation, its words seemed especially poignant.
‘Long lay the world in sin and error pining . . .’
Didn’t that describe the journey we’d been on? Regardless of our viewpoints, we’d all suffered loss and heartache—so much waiting, disconnection and wondering.
‘ . . . Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’
This testing had brought for each of us a fresh awareness of our flaws and need of rescue.
‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices . . .’
Goose bumps tingled over my skin as I lifted a silent prayer. Oh, yes, Lord! Our world is weary. We desperately need Your hope.
On through the verses we caroled, our voices rising in measure with our passion, till we neared the crescendo. ‘Fall on your knees . . .’
And there it was again – that tug on my spirit. Every time we sang, ‘Fall on your knees,’ I sensed God’s whisper, Don’t just sing the words. Do what they say. Kneel.
I opened my eyes, scanning the room. People in our church didn’t often kneel. Everyone was caught up in the joy of worshipping together—did I really want to distract them? Wouldn’t they think I was weird?
The pull grew stronger. I breathed deep. Okay, God. I will.
As the words came around again, I lowered myself to the carpet. Closing my eyes once more, I rested my hands on the back of the chair in front of me and continued singing, ‘O night divine, O night when Christ was born.’
My surroundings seemed to fade and I saw myself in a starlit stable, kneeling on a bed of straw. The scene reminded me of a Christmas card I’d seen many years earlier, where Santa knelt at the foot of a manger, his hat in his hands, head bowed before the sleeping baby. That card made such an impression on me, the image was still vivid in my mind.
This time, though, it wasn’t Santa lowered in reverence. It was me. If I opened my eyes, I knew everything around me would look the same as before. So, I didn’t. God was showing me something and I didn’t want to miss a moment.
From my position on the stable floor, I leaned forward and peered into the manger. There He was—Jesus—tightly wrapped, his head covered with dark hair, his tan face glowing with the sheen of new birth. This object of our worship, Who came to offer hope to a world in crisis, was the Son of God—co-creator of the universe, more powerful than any earthly or spiritual ruler. Yet here He was—a baby?
I knew the story. We all knew the Christmas story. Jesus came as a baby. But on this day, I felt it. It became real to me. And I wept.
Jesus looked exactly like any other newborn. So tiny. So fragile.
This mighty one had given up all His splendour, all His elevation above earthly concerns, to become the most vulnerable of humans. Easily crushed. Completely dependent on others to sustain Him.
How could that be? What love must have compelled Him to be reduced to such a state?
In that moment, something shifted inside me. All the hardships of my year—all the challenges I’d been wrestling with—suddenly looked very small. If Jesus could humble Himself in this way, and later lay down His life to rescue me, how could I offer Him anything less?
I wiped my eyes as the song came to an end and stood once more, my heart at peace.
Lord, I’m yours. Whatever you want, I’m willing. You are worthy. Help me to follow you.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I don’t feel any stronger than I did before. But I am comforted. Because I know that whatever comes, Jesus gets it. He’s already walked the hardest of roads—and He knows the way through.
‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’
My plan was to pray over the long list of verses and thoughts in my diary ready to create an author post. But I found my eyes drawn to the last topic in my short list of blog ideas, ‘Overcoming in Defeat’. I stared at the words, acutely aware of their relevance for the season we’re in. Pulling out my journal from July— where the original ideas were recorded—I read and was stirred once again.
I had been mulling over Paul’s instruction in Romans 12:21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.’ The idea sounded inspiring—but how did it work?
As I mused, I had written, ‘Lord, doing good when we’re treated badly doesn’t feel like overcoming. It feels like defeat, like bowing to the evildoer.‘ I was thinking of some painful conflicts I’d faced in the preceding week.
Almost immediately, I sensed God’s response. ‘So it was with the cross. My son’s death had every appearance of defeat and injustice. He was condemned via an unfair trial, placed in the hands of prideful, demon-driven zealots, treated with utmost brutality, betrayed and abandoned by most of His dearest friends. He even felt forsaken by Me—His Father, who sent Him.‘
It was true. I could see Jesus in my mind—accused, betrayed, dragged away like a criminal, ridiculed and beaten by supposedly God-fearing people, then enduring a slow, agonizing death in front of a jeering crowd. He had the power to crush those who attacked Him, yet He forgave them, yielding to His Father’s will. To any onlooker—even Jesus’ closest friends—it appeared the enemy had soundly defeated Him.
That morning God reminded me of an important truth—what we perceive isn’t always reality.
The gruelling process Jesus endured had a purpose far beyond what anyone could see at that time. What looked like defeat was, in reality, stupendous victory. Through His suffering and death, Jesus disarmed the very powers that were trying to destroy Him, making a public spectacle of them. And He opened up the way for us to be forgiven, set free and welcomed into the family of God. Victory indeed! None of those breakthroughs could have come without Jesus’ humble willingness to walk in obedience.
My notes from God’s revelation continued,
‘Every time you choose good, there is a victory in your spirit and your character. Each time you submit to Me and lay down your desire to do things your own way, I build muscle into your character and grow you in authority for greater victories.
Eating the best of the land (as promised in Isaiah 1:19) isn’t just about material, tangible experiences. It’s about the heart, the spirit and the spiritual realm. So be willing and obedient. Follow the way of the cross. It will be worth it.‘
This concept is foreign to our success-oriented world. Our bibles are laden with living examples. Think of Joseph—a slave and a prisoner—made second in charge under Pharaoh; of Gideon—the least of the least—who led God’s people into conquest; of David—the shepherd boy with a sling and a stone—who defeated a terrifying giant; of Rahab—a prostitute—who had her pagan family rescued from certain destruction and was welcomed into the lineage of Jesus.* Then there was Jesus—the Son of God—who made Himself nothing, taking on the role of servant to His subjects and surrendering His life in the most gruesome of deaths. His humble obedience led to ultimate exaltation, higher than any other—forever .
There’s always more to the story than what we see. Always.
If we’re seeking to walk with God and doing good as He directs, His victory will come. We may not always see the full result of our obedience, but we can be confident of this—God will fulfil His purpose, in our hearts and in our world. So, let’s press on, choosing willing, trusting obedience. Jesus is with us—and He knows the way.
Triumph comes via the low road.
‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
*You can read more about these overcomers in the following passages.
For a moment, I teetered on the edge, wondering what would happen if I let depression take hold. I was justified, wasn’t I? Wouldn’t anyone be low in my position?
Three years ago, our family uprooted and left our home state of twenty-five years to move north. While we relished being closer to my family and living near the coast, the process of establishing our career paths and forming new friendships was slow, hampered further by the 2020 lockdown.
Once COVID restrictions eased, we dusted ourselves off and ventured forward again, keen to build on the small foundations we’d already laid. Doors of opportunity began to open and our sense of belonging was growing when, wham! Our second lockdown hit. This one lasted much longer and its impact reverberated all the way to the laws of our nation. This time, along with rules and restrictions a clear message was proclaimed, challenging our ideas about what matters most and dictating the way we should view and treat people. Like the ripples of an earthquake, we felt its effects as key aspects of who we were as Australians began to shake.
Normally, I’m an upbeat girl, ready to believe the best of people and hold hope of better days beyond a trial. It’s rare for me to find myself in a place so deep and dark, I can’t see any way out. Lately, though . . . well, it’s been tough. I won’t go into detail beyond saying there are significant changes happening in my sphere and I’m facing heartbreaking loss in several areas, particularly relationships. When I see the people around me also struggling, my grief is multiplied.
We didn’t see this upheaval coming, nor can we see where it will take us. Almost every day the information seems to change. If ever there was a time to be confronted with our powerlessness, it’s now. We cry out to God and use the strength He gives to make the best of our situation and support others. Sometimes, though, the constancy of the battle wears us down and its length stretches us far beyond what we think we can bear. Hope fades and the gloom becomes so heavy, it immobilizes us. That’s where I found myself on the couch that day—staring into a darkness so thick, it seemed as if it could swallow me whole. Oh, God.
Then, softly, like a light shining through the fog, I sensed an echo of my own words from a couple of months back:
‘The hardest of times became the high points in my life because of what God did through them.’
Those were words of hindsight, reflections on the darkest seasons in my journey. Through trauma, anorexia, relationship strains, burnout, life-threatening illness and tragic loss I’d felt God’s loving presence so close, known the wisdom of His counsel and seen His goodness poured out, even in the littlest details.
The hardest of times can become the best of times? Could that really be true in this situation?
Surely not this time, God. This is too big, too hard.
His response? You have a choice.
I paused, breathing deep. I did, didn’t I? I could let myself be pulled into the vortex of despair, or I could choose to put my hope in God and believe He would turn all of this—somehow—for good. Sitting up, I rubbed my hands against my legs and released a slow breath. I knew my emotions were shaky, far too weak to leap all the way from hopelessness to instant joy. I had a journey ahead—and from my former times of struggle I knew the steps I needed to take:
I asked for help
I picked up my phone and sent messages to my connect group leader, my church prayer team and a bunch of close friends, telling them how low I was and asking them to pray.
God puts us in community for our good. When we feel like we’re drowning, He urges us to confide in others, allowing them to lift us with their encouragement and prayers.
‘Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.’ James 5:16 TLB
2. I switched off the noise
Some words I’d been listening to offered hope. Others gave interesting information but stirred up anxiety and despair. I chose to switch off the second set.
When our emotions are too frail to deal objectively with negativity, we need to be vigilant, setting limits to protect our mind and heart.
‘Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ Philippians 4:8 NLT
3. I simplified
I took a step back and chose to simplify what I could—clearing out clutter, putting aside big projects, giving myself time and space to rest.
Weary hearts and minds are easily overloaded. Sometimes we need to slow the pace for a while and just do the basics.
‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1
4. I fixed my eyes
Once some of the mental and physical clutter had been cleared out, it was easier for me to define my focus. Again and again, I felt God urging me, ‘Fix your eyes on Me.’ So, again and again, I did. And every time I looked to Him, He brought new perspective to everything else.
No circumstance, person, disease or government determines the course of our lives. Above all, God is in control—and He is a good, loving Father.
‘Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’ Psalm 46:10
5. I nourished my spirit
I spent extra time in God’s presence each morning, journaling and sitting quietly, chewing over portions of scripture and writing down verses He seemed to highlight. Like a starving child desperate for good food, I devoured every word that brought truth and perspective. Through the day I fed on the wisdom of others, listening to sermons and reading articles that built my faith.
God’s word is our food, His Spirit our life-giving water. To gain the strength we need for the path He’s marked out for us, we need to eat and drink daily from His provision.
‘When your words came, I ate them;
They were my joy and my heart’s delight . . .’ Jeremiah 15:16
6. I remembered God’s faithfulness
One day I listed in my journal the many trials of my past, each one so difficult I’d wondered if they would ever end. I remembered what God did, the profound truths He taught me and the way He led me all the way through—making me richer and wiser through the process.
The trials we face don’t last forever. They have a beginning and an endpoint. How we come out of them depends on how we go through them. If we’re willing to yield to God’s refining and receive His guidance on the way, He’ll work it all for good in our lives.
‘Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.’ James 1:3
7. I let go
Finally, after dealing with all the other issues, I realised how entangled I’d become in all my imaginings of what might or might not happen. My attempts to figure and plan had woven a tight web around my soul, pinching me with disappointment and despair whenever circumstances didn’t work out as I’d hoped.
God alone could see the future.
Just as He was with me now, He would be with me in the days to come, supplying all I needed at every point along the way. To try to do His job was a waste of time and energy.
So, I surrendered.
I laid down my need to know how God was going to work everything out.
I chose to trust Him, believing He would bring me through and take care of me on the way.
I chose to take one day at a time, fixing my eyes on His face, following His nudges and giving my best to the people around me.
Scrawling that prayer of surrender in my journal brought great release, lightening the burden I’d been carrying and giving me freedom to focus on each day as a gift. It didn’t fix everything—our world is still in turmoil. But I find I’m more able to manage the fluctuations between anxiety and confidence, sadness and thankfulness by choosing to stay anchored in the truth that is stronger than my feelings:
This season won’t last forever.
God’s promises are true.
He is with us and, if we keep our eyes on Him, He’ll show us the way through—choice by choice—for however long it takes to come out the other side.
And when we emerge from this battle,
we’ll be closer to God,
stronger in His truth and
more confident in His sufficiency
than we were at the beginning.
‘And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ Romans 8:28