Christmas can be a very difficult time for so many people. Losses and changes that have occurred throughout the previous year now impact greatly upon what we imagine should be a perfect, glistening holiday season full of family, friends, food and perfect gift-giving. For some, the death of a spouse, child or parent is rocking their world in a most painful way as they remember that just one year ago, the loved one was helping them decorate and shop, or even just being a special name on the Christmas shopping list.
For me, the most painful Christmas I had was my first one as a single mother. The pain of the separation was so fresh, the concern over how I was going to provide any gifts for my children was overwhelming, and most excruciating of all was the loss of the family unit. The holiday seemed to throw kerosene on the fire of my grief. And to make matters worse, I was severely concerned for my children. My heart was breaking for them as they had to go through Christmas without their family together on Christmas morning. The thought that they would never have those memories again affected me physically. I couldn’t sleep or eat. And even though my friends were amazing, providing money for me to shop for my four children, and leaving a Christmas tree on my front doorstep, no one could give my children what they really wanted and that killed me.
Now more than 18 years later, I can remember those feelings as if it were last year. But I can also look back and see how the Lord’s hand was upon me and my children throughout that painful season of adjustment, change and loss. He couldn’t rescue us out, but He soothed us and carried us through We have gone on to have wonderful Christmases full of a different kind of family togetherness because God is a miracle working Restorer!
So what is it about Christmas that makes loss and change feel so much worse? I think it’s the beauty of the lights and decorations in comparison to the internal gloom that wants to swallow us up; the commercials on TV that show families together enjoying one another while we struggle with loss and pressure; and our memories that have become misty with age fading out all of the stress of past holidays leaving only the sweet remembrances. As we look around our world during the Christmas season, we yearn for the perfect family, the perfect setting, the perfect financial situation and for everyone in our lives to be perfectly happy and present with us. We look at the lights in people’s homes and imagine that their holiday is perfect. Christmas can certainly bring an enticement to compare our situation with that of those who have what we lost.
This year, no matter what you have lost, no one and nothing can steal the One thing that is ‘un-stealable’ and ‘un-losable’ (made-up words!) – and that’s the love of God for you and for your family. His love is deeper and wider than your love for your family. His care for you is so complete that no detail of your life has escaped His notice. He is such a miraculous restorer that you have can’t imagine what wonderful things will be coming into your life in the future.
Nonetheless, this season of loss is one you must walk through. I encourage you not to walk through it alone. Open your heart to a community of faith by hooking up with a good church. Open your heart to your friends and family. And most importantly, open your heart to the Lord. He understands grief and loss as no one does, and He is the ultimate Comfort. You will find a sweetness of His presence in this season like you have never experienced before. I can promise you that!
Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV) I like how it reads in the Messsage translation: “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” I can attest that this is true. His comfort is as close as your next breath. Just call out to Him and be aware of His comfort coming towards you in many ways throughout this Christmas season.
Now understand this: He probably won’t send an angelic host to bring His message of comfort to you. He’ll probably bring you comfort in more subtle ways, so make sure not to overlook them or allow them to go unappreciated. I have found that as I magnify the little things that I see God doing in my life, my heart becomes more sensitive to His presence and my joy level jumps up 50 notches. Our gratitude is like priming an old pump – we work it and work it and then suddenly the water of joy starts flowing like crazy!
So if you are one of the ones who is feeling lonely, sad, or ripped off by life this Christmas, I get it. But more importantly, God gets it. And He is longing to comfort you. Turn to Him.
And if you’re one of the ones whose beautiful Christmas lights reflect the blessings of God in your life, give thanks! And maybe your blessings can be shared with someone who is hurting. Maybe the joy and laughter in your home is the distraction that someone else needs to escape their pain for a few hours. Maybe your Christmas dinner is just what someone needs who can’t make one themselves. Maybe your financial blessing can help someone who is struggling this Christmas. (I am challenging myself here!) Let’s pray and ask God to show us where the needs are and then step out in boldness to make a difference.
- If you have ever reached out to people at Christmas, please comment on what you did and how it impacted you.
- Do you have any suggestions for those of us who are looking for ways to get involved with good causes or reach out to hurting people?
Local New Hampshire charities that help the homeless and hurting:
Seeds of Faith, Somersorth, NH: Seeds of Faith
Crossroads House, Portsmouth, NH: Crossroads House
Haven NH, Portsmouth, NH: Haven NH