Encouragement for Painful Holidays

I remember how, before I understood how I was seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, before I understood how “all seats provide equal viewing of the universe,” and before I realized God has perfect good works prepared in advance for me and my whole family, I lived in jealousy, comparison, and loneliness—especially around the holidays.

It’s the return of the ache you cannot name. It’s lonely. It’s despairing. It’s the feeling that everyone else has found their happy lives but you. You read Christmas card stories of all the joys and success and rich communities of other people, and the jealousy takes over your whole heart. And if you’ve lost loved ones or cannot see them this holiday, everything just feels sad. It’s terrible.

The feelings wash over me like they wash over you. It’s the shadow narrative that a better life awaits you somewhere else. How do you heal? How do you escape the despair? The greatest intervention of the Holy Spirit in my life (apart from leading me initially to know Jesus) involved rescuing me from the certain despair of comparing my life to others and not embracing the life right before me. God used Ephesians 2:6, but He’s most recently led me to discover in fresh ways the truths proclaimed in Psalms 61-63. I thought these would encourage a hurting heart today:

David talks about his overwhelmed heart that feels covered in darkness. He cries to the Lord, “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” It’s a prayer I pray to rise above any circumstance, any pain, any despair. I then note this profound and life-changing truth as David says, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

In the margin of my Bible, I note the things I want that I believe will bring me true rest, true contentment, true joy. Is it more friends? More experiences? More presents? What are yours? What if the true joy came from “God alone” and no change apart from Him would actually increase your peace and joy?

In Psalm 63, we read “My soul thirsts for you.” For God! The sadness I’ve felt in life was always a soul-thirst for God. David explains that God’s love is “better than life” (3) and that His love will make our souls “be satisfied as with the riches of foods.” I circled that verse when I was 18 years old because I wanted so desperately to believe this and know God like this. And nearly two decades later, I did. 

I pray we know this in a deeper way than ever before. Christmas has always been about rescue, and today, we might understand how Jesus rescues us from the pain the holiday season often awakens in so many of us.

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