With the holidays upon us, many of us will at one point be packing a suitcase for a trip to see family and friends. Some of us are anticipating these trips, while others are dreading them. Some of us are looking forward to how the time with our Christian family and friends will spur us on in our love for Christ, while others are praying (once again) that God will use them in just one small way to be a light to their unbelieving family members.
For some of us, these trips always seem to be a snare, and we find ourselves spiritually deflated and discouraged when we get home. I didn’t set a good example. I compromised because I was trying too hard to please everyone. My thoughts were far from the Lord.
Whatever situation you’ll be facing as you travel this season, here are five things to pack in your suitcase that will help you remain spiritually strong and steadfast during your time away.
1. Directions to Church
All too often, our “time off” for the holidays includes time off from church, especially when we are visiting relatives who don’t attend themselves. Apart from setting a good example to our families, making the effort to find and attend a biblical church is a way to honor the Lord’s Day and remind ourselves that, though we may be taking a vacation from school or work, we don’t take a vacation from keeping God’s commands and worshiping Him.
Furthermore, gathering with God’s people, whether we know them well or not, is not just an obligation, but a privilege. It ought to bring us joy to meet other brothers and sisters with whom we are united to Christ.
2. A Tamed Tongue
Many times our holiday visits are filled with high hopes for opportunities to speak of Christ to lost friends or family members. We want something we say to have an impact on them. And while loving boldness and intentional confrontation are certainly needed, let us be encouraged in remembering that we can also make an impact through what we don’t say—better yet, through what we don’t laugh at.
When we laugh along and nod our heads in agreement to stories, jokes, and sentiments that aren’t pleasing to the Lord, we tarnish our witness. Will our silence make for some awkward moments? Perhaps. But taming our tongue in this way will help us to be more spiritually alert, and a few moments of being uncomfortable won’t kill us. And let us be mindful of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:36: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
3. Your Bible
Don’t leave your Bible at home just because your favorite comfy chair and hazelnut coffee creamer won’t be waiting for you in the morning. Sure, your time with the Lord might look a little different when you’re staying at someone’s house and you’re on a different schedule, but that’s no reason to throw it out altogether.
Pack your Bible, and try your best to make some time to read it. The point here is not for people to notice what you’re doing (though that could be a good conversation starter); rather the point is to stay plugged-in spiritually and remind yourself that even on vacation, God, not downtime, is still your first priority and greatest refreshment.
The holidays are a time of extra social gatherings, and extra social gatherings mean extra food . . . lots of it. Surely there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a Thanksgiving feast or your favorite Christmas cookies. These are good gifts from God, and He has made them to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).
However, when our enjoyment crosses the line over to the sin of gluttony, not only does it displease the Lord, but it also leaves us less spiritually alert. Those who do not know Christ and have nothing eternal to hope for are simply living to enjoy earthly pleasures as much as possible. But you ought to live differently, if you have a higher delight and an eternal hope.
Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11–13, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Ask God to give you the grace to delight in Him and to stop when you’ve had enough.
5. A God Story
Psalm 71:15 says, “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day.” Friends and family will likely be asking you something along the lines of, “How’s life going?” Instead of stopping short with something general such as, “It’s been really busy” or “There’s good days and hard days,” think ahead of time about something specific God has recently done in your life, and be ready and willing to share it often.
It’s been very busy with the kids, but God has really been giving me fresh grace to be joyful and content at home.
It’s been hard, but God has shown His faithfulness. Just last week . . .
Do you have a story about God’s provision? His protection? His enabling grace? His comfort in time of sorrow? Talk about it!
No matter how resolved we are to please the Lord and bring glory to Him in the midst of our holiday travels, let us be quick to remember that it’s God (not our self-control, silence, or church attendance) who will work in the hearts of those around us. Our job is to walk faithfully before Him, acknowledging afresh each day our need for His grace, which enables us to live “upright, godly lives in the present age.” May He be glorified as we seek to do so!