Getting Through a Difficult Christmas Season
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I know the Christmas season isn’t particularly merry for many people. When December rolls around, you’re not thinking of Christmas carols, holiday gatherings, and Christmas Eve worship services. Instead, your mind is on family members who are gone and on holiday disappointments.
I don’t know what the source of your holiday pain is, but I know it’s real and it hurts.
I also know God can turn your pain this holiday season into benefits. Reread that last sentence. Your pain hurts—badly, but it doesn’t need to have the last word.
Paul writes about the benefits of our struggles in 2 Corinthians 1:3–11. No, he wasn’t facing a difficult Christmas season. Paul was facing persecution for his commitment to preach the Good News about Jesus regardless of the consequences. Here are three benefits of our struggles, according to Paul in that passage.
God will use your pain to teach you to trust him. You’ll never know God is all you need until he is all you have. The holiday season may be painful for you. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a relationship, a loved one, your health, or even your hope and joy. Now all you have is God.
I want you to know—and more importantly God wants you to know—he’s enough for you. He is all you need. Paul discovered this firsthand and wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 1:9: “In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”
God will use your pain to give you a ministry to others. Your pain often reveals God’s purpose for your life. God never wastes a hurt. He doesn’t want you to hold on to the pain you’re feeling this Christmas; he wants you to use it to help others. What does that look like? I don’t know. Maybe it means that you minister to people who are struggling this season—ministry that may help stop the pain from being repeated in the lives of others.
Paul reminds us of God’s promise: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Paul says that as God comforted him, he could comfort others.
We can do the same. Take a look at what causes you pain this Christmas. Ask yourself how God can use that pain to help comfort others. If you’re struggling through this pain, I guarantee that others are, too. … That principle … is true for whatever you’re struggling with this Christmas. Let God heal you, so he can use you to heal others. …
God will use your pain to draw you closer to other believers. God wired humans for community. You weren’t meant to go through a painful Christmas season all alone. … In fact, one of the reasons we tend to go through particularly tough holiday seasons is because we get so busy that we neglect our relationships. …
Pain reveals how much we need each other. … I don’t know what you’re going through this Christmas season, but I do know that God wants to use your pain—to teach you to trust him, to show you how to help others, and to draw you closer to other believers.
I pray this Christmas, as you face whatever pain is in your path, that you will have the greatest Christmas of your life and learn to worship the God who came to earth to make a way for you to be right with him.—Rick Warren1
The current world situation may bring about a different Christmas for many, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good one. Adversity has a way of bringing out the best in people, and so does Christmas. Put the two together, and we have a special opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to sort things out—to separate what really counts from the lesser things that usurp their place in the business-as-usual world, especially at times like Christmas. It’s an opportunity to change our focus from the commercialism that has taken over Christmas to the true, enduring reason for the season. It’s an opportunity to find new ways to express our love to those dearest to us and to show compassion to others even less fortunate, of which there are always many. We may not be able to give materially in the same measure as we have in past years, but one thing is almost certain—whatever we give will be appreciated like never before.—Keith Phillips
I sat on the couch on Christmas Eve, trying to hold back my tears as my three children stood in front of me, presents in their arms, concerned and worried expressions on their faces.
They were headed to their paternal grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner, just as we had done for the past 25 years. But this year was different. My husband and I had separated just a few months earlier, so for the first time in their entire lives, they were going to the family holiday gathering without me.
I knew this was hard on them, too, so I put on a fake smile, assured them I would be fine and encouraged them to have a nice visit. But inside, my heart was aching. Not only did my family and Christmas feel broken, but I felt broken as well.
After they left, a deep sense of loneliness hung heavy in the air, drowning out the fresh pine scent of the tree. As I stared at the twinkling lights, the tears I had been holding back dripped down my cheeks.
Eventually, I breathed in a deep breath, exhaled a heavy sigh, wiped my tears and sat up straight. The only solace I could find was reminding myself of God’s promises in Scripture to always be with me—and even though my husband had left, my heavenly Father never would. I knew I needed to refocus on the fact that, though my life had changed, God was still the same sovereign God. I could have confidence that one day things would be OK, and so would I.
In Psalm 16, we read about a time when David, too, felt especially left behind, forgotten and afraid. Not only had his life changed, but he also may have been facing great danger in the wilderness when this psalm was written. Yet instead of letting his emotions shake him up, David shifted his attitude, intentionally choosing to capture his thoughts and refocus on God’s presence, which is exactly what I had to do that difficult Christmas.
We see evidence of this in Psalm 16:8 when David says, “I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”
We can choose to make the same choice as David when we are enduring hard times. There are countless situations we all experience that can make us feel alone and abandoned—maybe you’re experiencing one right now. Your husband says he’s leaving. Your boss says you’re no longer needed. A family member leaves this world too soon. A friend betrays you. Circumstances turn your world upside down as you pick up the pieces of your broken heart and wonder if you’ll ever feel whole again.
Although the Christmas season should be a time of joy and celebration, our emotions can shake us up then, too. And just like David’s, our emotions maybe even shake our faith, especially if life has changed and the holidays don’t feel the same. Yet by reminding ourselves that God will never leave us or forsake us, and by keeping our focus on His presence, our hearts will be better equipped to handle anything we’re facing—at the holidays and all year long.
Lord, this season is hard, and I long to feel Your presence beside me and see You at work in my life. Help me to have confidence that You are always with me, and infuse me with hope, peace and joy I can’t find on my own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.—Tracie Miles2
You are King of kings and Lord of lords; You dwell in unapproachable Light! I’m grateful that You are also my Shepherd, Companion, and Friend—the One who never lets go of my hand. I worship You in Your holy Majesty. And I draw near You to rest in Your loving Presence. I need you both as God and as Man. Only Your birth on that first, long-ago Christmas could meet all my needs.
Instead of trying to comprehend Your incarnation intellectually, I want to learn from the example of the wise men. They followed the leading of a spectacular star, then fell down in humble worship in Your Presence. Inspired by the magi, I long to respond to the wonder of Your holy birth with ardent adoration.
Please help me grow in my capacity to worship You as my Savior, Lord, and King. You held back nothing in Your amazing provision for me, and I rejoice in all that You are—all You have done!
You are the light from on high that dawns upon us, to direct and guide our feet into the way of Peace.
In Your majestic Name, Amen.—Sarah Young3
Published on Anchor December 2022. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music from the Christmas Moments album, used by permission.
3 Sarah Young, Jesus Listens (Thomas Nelson, 2021).