As we approach Christmas, I’m wondering today if you are feeling lonely or troubled or disappointed.
The week after Halloween this year I was in a retail store which was playing a Christmas song … too soon already … about the holidays being the best time of the year. It wasn’t a familiar tune so I wasn’t paying close attention, but when I heard the words, “… when everyone is so happy” I thought immediately, “It is NOT true that everyone is happy during the holidays!”
For a few seconds I felt mildly angry. We have hard stuff going on in our lives right now and in that moment it seemed an affront that the song assumed everyone was and should be universally happy all this month.
Have you felt this way, too, some years?
Our culture relentlessly promotes the magical fantasy Christmas of our dreams. Industries literally bank on us funding our holiday fantasies. But this year, perhaps more than ever, the sparkles may only magnify your loneliness. The world has changed a lot since pre-Covid days and life isn’t the same. Everyone senses it even though much of life goes on as it always has.
This year, you may be facing issues that leaven your holiday happiness:
- Your children are not getting along.
- Recent family gatherings have devolved into arguments about culture wars and politics. Your attempts to help or bring your faith into the situation fall short, and all you can think about is how you could have handled the situation differently.
- One of your children is battling a serious illness or disease or is wandering from the faith.
- Someone in your extended family is failing in health and you don’t know how many days they have left. Or you’ve lost someone dear this year and it’ll be the first Christmas without him or her.
- Perhaps this year for the first time you are facing a Christmas alone and you don’t know if you can bear it.
- The economy and the squeeze on small businesses make you wonder if you’ll have any extra cash for gifts this year.
More than ever this year we need the truth of Christmas, that God came to dwell with us as our Emmanuel, even if we fear our holiday experience will be very different this year.
A letter was written ages ago to a group of people who were living in circumstances that were radically different than what they’d always known. These families and individuals were forced to flee their homes because of persecution and find places to live that were safer. While I imagine they were relieved to have found refuge, there were undoubtedly friends, foods, and familiar places they missed profoundly.
Writing to this community, Peter sympathized with their trials and sufferings but then challenged them to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
As painful as your circumstances might be this Christmas, is it possible that God is calling you to look honestly at where you place your hope? I know He is telling me that my hope is too often in people, things or circumstances I value as good rather than in Him alone.
In times of hardship, nothing is more life and hope giving than “the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). So here are some living abiding words of truth for you to read that can bring life to your sorrows:
“And He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6)
“knowing you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers … with the precious blood of Christ …” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession …” (1 Peter 2:9).
No matter what is happening in your life … no matter the current national or world crisis … and no matter how often our eyes constantly look for the outward to satisfy, to fill us, to bring us joy, it is only found in One Person.
David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He knew the source was in God alone.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who I am honored to know as a friend, gives me the perspective I need. For 55 years she has been confined to a wheelchair and to the constant need of others caring for her physical needs. She said in an interview, “In the morning when I wake up, I know they’ll be coming into my bedroom to give me a bed bath, to do my toileting routines, pull up my pants, put me in the wheelchair, feed me my breakfast and push me out the front door. I lie there thinking, ‘Oh God, I cannot face this. I’m so tired of this routine. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. But I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. Can I please borrow your smile? I need it.’”
Do you shake your head incredulously at her impossible-to-comprehend circumstances? I do. And I marvel.
She went on to say, “I make myself be happy. I make myself sing because I have to. I choose the Holy Spirit’s help because I don’t want to go down that grim, dark path to depression anymore. Cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weaknesses because that is what He promises.”
Her faith stuns me because mine feels so shallow in comparison. But God eagerly waits to meet us when we come with our losses of any size and our broken hearts to His welcoming embrace. That is where joy is found in the holiday season, and in our everyday lives—in a real, vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
Come to Him. Give Him your broken heart. Adore Him always as Christ the Lord. Then sing for joy this season, not because your circumstances are the best ever, but because Jesus “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
He has not abandoned us! Not for a moment will He forsake you or me! And that is worth singing every Christmas hymn or carol you know.
One of my many favorite Scripture passages is worth remembering every day. This is a paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-19a, from the ESV and NASB translations:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, and no fruit be on the vines.
Though the olive tree should not yield, and the fields produce no food.
Though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength …
Amen. No matter what you are facing this holiday season, I pray that you will call on the name of Jesus Christ!
P.S. I’m working on a book, and a Bible study eventually, on the topic of disappointment with God. I spoke on this topic and how to find hope in our disappointments at a women’s conference at our church last spring. We videotaped it and it will be available in January for you to go through on your own or with a group of friends. I hope you’ll watch for it and join us. Our world is filled with people who are facing disappointments of all kinds. And Jesus wants to meet us right there in the hard places.
Hope to see you in January!