1Luke 2:25-32 (NKJV)
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Though appearing jubilant, sometimes our worship pours from an empty place. In my decades as a minister, I have experienced countless instances in which my praises unto God have been faked. I am especially plagued with the stench of hypocrisy while leading worship or preaching a sermon, whispering to myself, “is this faith or performance?”
There is a shared space between devotion and unbelief. In other words, a certain portion of our Christian lives are destined for Spiritual warfare: daily battling laziness, apathy, and sloth; this is a good thing. However, like how similar diseases share similar symptoms, I am convinced that some of the manifestations of Spiritual skirmishes are identical to the symptoms of unbelief.
At its heart, unbelief manifests in unrepentance: a chronic and unwavering indulgence in fear, prayerlessness, or pleasure. As a Christian who has backslidden often, navigating the space between Spiritual war and unbelief is like untangling a sticky, inexorable web; I find myself trapped in this web again and am grieved this Christmas season. How do I tell the difference between unbelief and Spiritual malaise? How am I so sure that I am saved? What if my offerings to the Lord are pungent, not perfume? What if I exorcise demons yet am unknown to Him? My most debilitating fear is the fear that my faith is not saving. As an individual bound to obsession and compulsion, my mind is no stranger to running itself ragged without resolution.
In times like these, I wonder what Simeon felt when he held Christ in His arms, when the Trinity intersected in that one divine moment. Simeon’s heartfelt praise makes me yearn for authentic worship. But what was Simeon like? In Luke 2, Simeon is scantly described as “just” and “devout.” But what tickles my curiosity is why did the Spirit reveal to Simeon that he was not to die until after he had seen Christ? I imagine one possibility. Perhaps Simeon was desperate and pestered God to see the Messiah; the fact that Simeon is now “at peace” after seeing the Son suggests that Simeon was a troubled man. Meanwhile, God fulfills His inherent character by revealing Himself to the faithful (Matthew 13:58). Pure speculation, of course. But if my prediction is true, what fueled Simeon’s troubled desperation to pursue a life of justice and devotion? Was Simeon like me? Did Simeon struggle with the agony of his sin or ever question the legitimacy of his faith? Was his relentless praying the result of his restless overthinking?
I want a Simeon moment too. I wish I could hold the Hope of the world in my very arms. I wish Christ would physically embrace me, affirm His love for me, and calm my troubles when my soul is in the maelstrom; but I suppose it is arrogant to demand more of God when His grace is already far more than I deserve. Yet as we wait in our agony, uncertainty, and fear for whatever it is we wait eagerly for this Christmas season, let us hold fast to the Advent assurance that though His response may not be what we expect, He will surely respond, and His response will be good.
For those of us grieving, let us pray for God to sustain our faith when we are weak and that the Spirit ministers to our hearts. God, help our unbelief, for You are faithful.