Can we all agree that most years Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year?” But for some people this Christmas could prove to be one of the most trying times of the year.
- If you’ve lost a loved one, the empty space just deepens during Christmas.
- If you’re struggling financially, the dollars stretch even thinner during Christmas.
- If your body is sick or hurting, the activity and demands of the holidays just intensify the pain and weariness.
- If a significant relationship has become troubled, the tension seems to overshadow the merriment.
- If you’re out of work, the added financial demands of Christmas serve as reminders of your loss and self-doubts.
- If depression has already thrown its heavy cloak over you, Christmas draws that dark blanket tighter.
- If you’ve been trying to lose weight and even experienced a modest degree of success, the parties and gifts of food compound the battle.
- And if the year behind you was one of carrying a heavy burden, Christmas just reminds you that there’s yet another year ahead and it doesn’t look any brighter.
Let’s understand that every single one of us will experience a difficult Christmas at some point. Your blue Christmas is not an anomaly and you are not a loser for hurting more than you’re rejoicing. It’s important to grasp this simple fact so that you will give yourself a little grace. You may expect that Christmas will magically lift your spirits–maybe it always has before. But if you’re walking toward Christmas day with an extra burden on your shoulders or ache in your heart, more than likely the “magic” of Christmas will do little to lift either. You need to know that…and that it’s normal.
But there are a few things I’d like to suggest that I think may help you enjoy the true meaning of this sacred season amidst your pain. While you still may be glad when the tree is down and everyone has returned to work-as-usual, I believe you can find a quiet peace and tender sweetness for your soul during these days.
So here are my humble suggestions…some that have helped me greatly in the past:
- Fix your focus. Stress and anxiety of any sort, whether it’s caused by physical illness, loss or burden, can draw my attention to myself. But self-absorption will only intensify my pain and cause me to miss out on the true meaning of the season. So I encourage you to focus first on Jesus, then on others. Draw your attention to Christ first thing each morning with a purposeful quiet time in His presence. Then ask Him to direct your attention to others in your life who may need a little extra encouragement, love or assistance at this time of year.
- Humble your heart. If you’re wallowing in self-pity, confess that to God as a sin. If your pride has kept you from asking for help, confess that to God as a sin. If bitterness is robbing you of joy, confess that as a sin. If fear and anxiety are draining you of your faith in a God who has always been faithful, confess that as a sin. Simply agree with God that your attitude of self-pity, pride, bitterness or anxiety is keeping you from walking in obedience to Him, and allow Him to change your heart from the inside out.
- Practice gratitude. It’s tempting to focus on what we’ve lost or given up or missed out on at this time of year. Or we might find ourselves dwelling on what has been taken from us or what we have yet to be given. Recognize that you’re choosing to go down a destructive path when you allow your mind to “wander” in those directions. Instead, I suggest you intentionally practice gratitude. That may even mean you need to set several daily alarms on your cell phone that remind you to acknowledge something for which you are grateful, and that you then take a moment to express that appreciation to the God from whom all blessings flow. Practice this. Really.
- Adjust your expectations. Maybe your deepest struggle this Christmas is simply that it promises to be different from most. Your kids won’t be coming home and it will just be the two of you. Or you won’t be going home and they’ll all be celebrating without you. Or money is tight and there won’t be as many gifts under the tree. Or the person who used to make this season so sweet is no longer here on earth. I understand. I’ve experienced disappointing Christmases. Keep in mind that December 25th is really just a date on the calendar. You can celebrate Emmanuel, Christ with us, any day. Also remember that no tradition is forever. If a missed tradition is a huge stumbling block that prevents you from worshiping the Christ child, then maybe you’ve made an idol of that tradition. Could that be? I encourage you to hold your Christmas celebration in open hands, just as we should every sweet blessing, and allow God to freely make adjustments as He sees fit.
Now, I have a little confession. I’ve spent Christmases worrying over tight finances, missing my faraway family, aching from a broken relationship, bemoaning the fact that things wouldn’t be what they were “supposed to be.” And so I write this post from experience. But this Christmas I’m finally, after 12 years of doing otherwise, spending Christmas with my entire family in my hometown. Bliss.
But you know, even those of us who are counting on a picture perfect holiday need to be careful to follow my four little suggestions above. Otherwise we’re wrapping the holiday up in faulty expectations and a misdirected focus. I could, in fact, completely miss the true significance of Christmas if I begin to think it’s all about flying home to Georgia and being with my family and carrying out our favorite traditions. Just a thought.
I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas. But if you already know that this Christmas will be at best a little different or maybe even difficult, then I pray for you to have a better experience than you anticipate. I pray for Christ to overshadow your hurts with the joy of Emmanuel. I pray for Him to give you His soothing presence where anxiety or grief has robbed you of peace. And I pray for you to know that you are so, so loved by the One who sent that precious child in the manger. I hope you’ll give Him the opportunity to answer my prayers for you. I hope you’ll choose to magnify Christ.
Do you have additional suggestions for how to make a blue Christmas brighter? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments section below.
If your heart is hurting this Christmas may I suggest you check out my latest Bible study Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place. Many have told me that this verse-by-verse study of Joseph’s life and hurts has helped them find healing for their broken or wounded hearts. You’ll find more information here.