Christmas is a magical time.
Most people are in a better mood and the sights, sounds, and smells of the season are delightful. I think December is the best month of the entire year…
…but what if you’re deep in grief?
…what if you’re experiencing disappointment?
…what if life currently isn’t being too kind?
You dream of all life has to offer…you plan and prepare for the best life possible…then something happens and wrecks your plan, attempting to rob you of your joy.
Life is truly a series of blessings and losses…and this circle goes on and on through multiple different circumstances all throughout life.
What if hope seems lost?
…What if all seems lost?
I get it. I’ve experienced those heart wrenching times in my life. Those horrible times where you’re not just trying to get through the day…you’re wondering how you’re going to get through the next moment – yet I have found good things can eventually happen…miracles can still become a reality…and tremendously valuable life lessons can be learned through the toughest grief experiences we each face.
The most important thing I have found during these heartbreaking times is a much richer, deeper relationship with God.
Are you battling a thief of Christmas today? Is something…a situation…a life event…or someone…sucking the joy and peace out of you this Christmas season?
Everybody at some point will go through a season during the holidays where life is a heartbreaking challenge. Below is a list of the most common thieves of Christmas. As you read this list, consider what “thieves” are attempting to steal your joy and peace.
1. Grief –
Losing a loved one can make the holidays absolutely unbearable. The teardrops are thick. There’s an unbelievable ache inside your chest that won’t go away. You miss your loved one so much that your heart genuinely aches…it feels as though your heart is literally breaking. Sometimes, it can feel difficult to simply breathe. If you are going through grief, be kind to your heart. If you are freshly in grief, there is no wrong or right way of celebrating the holidays. Do only whatever makes you comfortable. You may choose to do your usual traditions…you may choose to have a much more relaxed holiday…or you may choose to simply stay home – or maybe even go out of town. Communicate with your loved ones how you are feeling…and your potential plans (or your need for a more relaxed plan) for the holidays. The people who love you will understand and support however you need to spend the holidays. Extravagantly love your loved ones and surround yourself with love.
2. Disappointment –
There are many disappointments life can throw at you — and the holidays seem to magnify them. If you’re frustrated by an area of your life, the holidays tend to bring up intense feelings. If you’re single and wish to be married or you desperately desire to be a parent, you most likely will see more happy couples or babies/children than usual. If you wanted a promotion at work, this can be magnified as well. If you’re mourning your spouse or you’re married and your spouse doesn’t treat you according to your God-given value, you’ll most likely see a plethora of “happy couple” posts. If you’ve lost a child, or your children don’t seem to care about celebrating the traditions that are dear to your heart…or your kiddos are in the military or can’t come home for Christmas…be prepared that your pain will most likely be magnified during the holidays too. Disappointments come in many forms. It’s up to each person to figure out how to navigate through the times of deep heartache and disappointments in life. When these “signals” or “reminders” happen, I have found (for me) the best way to deal with deep grief and disappointment is to take a moment and mourn the loss of whatever a disappointment may bring, then give all of my heartache and my expectations to God. It also helps to write down a checklist of all of the good that remains in life. Reminders of grief and disappointments can be plentiful around the holidays…and we should mourn these things (because it obviously affects our heart)…but when you take the time to flip the script, we can purposely choose to see the good we do have in life, and it can bring a new perspective.
3. Relationship Conflicts –
The holidays for most people – sadly – wouldn’t be the holidays if there wasn’t some sort of relational conflict or drama. Parents get upset by how their married children divvy up the time they have to spend on Christmas Day…an adult child or their spouse may not treasure or treat parents/in-laws right and vice versa…spouses are stressed due to a multitude of reasons (especially undealt with past conflict)…kids are shuffled between homes and become tired, cranky, or frustrated…family members fail to value one another…difficult family members bring up problems during Christmas dinner or make catty, rude, or passive-aggressive remarks.
A variety of relationship conflicts happen to most everyone at some point during the holidays.
My advice? Make the most of EVERY Christmas event with loved ones. You never know who may pass away in the new year and you don’t want your previous holiday to hold painful memories or regrets. Choose to give grace to others when you can. Enjoy and love your family extravagantly. If you’re upset a family member isn’t doing what you’re expecting them to do, or if someone is upset with you, seek to find win/win situations where both people can be happy. If you know you’re being difficult, give the gift of harmony and flexibility to others. If someone is over 21 years-old, they need to learn and experience blessings and consequences on their own (the only exception is if they’re making life & death choices that could be detrimental). Be super good to your spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, siblings, and all other family members. Family is a most treasured gift – even if each person doesn’t always act like one. I talk to so many grievers who would absolutely give up everything in the world to have their loved one back with them on Christmas Day. Choose to call a moratorium and be the bigger person. It’s one day of the entire year – do your part to make it a great one! If someone is seriously rude or degrading to you or your family, sometimes the most polite thing you can do is create strong boundaries…especially if you have young children who you are trying to provide great Christmas memories for. If someone has majorly crossed over boundary lines, you may want to get the advice of a therapist or trusted pastor to see how to best handle the conflict. If it can be resolved or talked out, family harmony is very important. Sometimes, that sadly isn’t possible. There’s a big difference between an annoying or opinionated relative and an extremely toxic one who can truly create longterm damage. Pray and ask God for wisdom of how to handle situations, give grace when you can, and seek out healthy interactions and create great memories with family this year!
4. Addictions –
Addictions are a killer around the holidays. If you are someone who struggles with sobriety or you’ve chosen to make healthier life choices, temptations are EVERYWHERE. If you’re battling an addiction, be so very careful to maintain your sobriety, boundaries, and health. Perhaps your family still has alcohol around because they “have always done things this way,” you’ll need to ensure your healthful choices by pre-planning how you’ll address potential situations and temptations. Preparation and having a solid plan at all times goes a long way! Addictions demand that you give up so much for so little…it literally is like borrowing $5 but having to pay back $50,000. Don’t give up months or years of discipline and hard work for one day or one week of the year. It just isn’t worth it! If a loved one won’t respect your choice of sobriety or boundaries, you may need to limit your contact with them…or meet at a neutral place where no source of an addiction will be available. Do whatever you need to do to maintain your sobriety and avoid all addictions. Seeking out a trusted loved one to hold you accountable is also a good idea. I’ve heard some absolutely heartbreaking stories from grievers who wish they would’ve maintained strong boundaries when it comes to addiction.
5. Loneliness –
There are many reasons for loneliness. You may not have family or friends, or you may even be married with kiddos and have family and friends — yet feel extremely alone if your relationships are shallow or stressed. The holidays can be intensely lonely. Everybody dreams of having lots of family and friends around…receiving Christmas cards…being invited to holiday parties…having a special friend or romantic partner to do activities with…snuggling up with someone…doing fun Christmas activities with loved ones…desire to maintain holiday traditions with your adult kiddos…but sometimes life just doesn’t happen the way we wish. I remember one particular Christmas that was painful for me, it was actually the year before I met my husband. Due to some very tough situations, I felt alone. More alone than I had ever felt. I had just been through a major loss and I could have thrown the biggest pity party on planet earth – and everyone who knew me at the time would’ve completely understood and supported the pity party – I, instead, chose to do whatever I could to create a memorable Christmas. I invited my parents to go buy a live Christmas tree with me…I asked my sisters to bake treats with me…I watched every Christmas TV special I could…and I surrounded myself with loved ones. The very best thing I chose to do was choosing to spend many nights in front of the Christmas tree with all of the lights out in the room except for the beautiful lights on the Christmas tree, pouring my broken heart out to God. It sounds really crazy, but I will always treasure that particular Christmas. I found God’s heart through that tough and lonely season in my life. If you are feeling all alone this Christmas, please know that God loves you so very much! When people hurt or fail you…when your spouse or kiddos disappoint or hurt your heart…when friends fail you…God is always there. He’s beyond faithful and will comfort your lonely heart in a way no human possibly can. Invite God to spend your holiday with you. Jesus is the real treasure! You’ll be delightfully surprised how faithful – and what an amazing friend – He truly is!
6. Financial Difficulties –
I wish everybody had a money tree in their backyard, especially during the holidays. Unfortunately, not everyone is consistently blessed in the area of finances. Finances can bring upon tons of stress and be limiting. If people allow it to, finances can create conflict in marriages and families, wreck havoc on health, and cause tension. The only good thing about financial challenges is the creativity you can develop through hard times, the drive to create a better life, and realizing what truly matters in life is definitely not “things.” Don’t feel pressured into buying things you can’t afford or taking up slack you genuinely aren’t able to. Do your very best and ask God to meet your needs. It also helps to appreciate the simplicity of Christmas and the peacefulness of the season with your loved ones. I remember a specific Christmas season (about 25 years ago) when my husband and I were broke as smoke. We literally were so broke that we could only afford two Happy Meals from McDonald’s as a Christmas treat…one for our child and we split the other one between my hubby and me. Our Christmas tree only had 24 apple ornaments – because they were 12 for $1. Our gifts to each other came from the Dollar Store. We bought five $1 board games. Even though we were broke, I remember that year as a very treasured memory…we learned the only thing that truly matters is God and loved ones. Everything else is just a bonus.
7. Medical Diagnosis –
A poor medical diagnosis or serious health issues can be alarming. If you or a loved one received bad medical news this year, you most likely feel deep concern. Concern for how your loved ones are going to handle the diagnosis, concern for the future, concern for you or your loved one’s wellbeing. You also are probably going through a roller coaster of emotions…fear, worry, heartache, panic, frustration. You may even feel angry or cheated. Illness is difficult and can leave you feeling helpless and even depressed. I truly get it…one year, I had multiple family members battling cancer at the exact same time. Take the time to talk to God about all you or your loved ones are going through and feeling. He wants to encourage and comfort you. With your loved ones, share how you each are feeling and also share what each of your needs are. Whether you (or a loved one) have a lifelong debilitating illness or the illness is at hospice level, I pray God comforts your heart and gives you and your loved ones a Christmas that is special and memorable.
8. Spiritual Warfare –
I’ve never seen a time in my life where there was so much spiritual warfare in families and marriages. Not a week goes by I don’t receive a phone call to meet with those who are experiencing the pain of a spouse who has committed adultery, the heartache of an adult child who has abandoned their faith, or a sad situation of family estrangement, family conflict, or marital heartache. It’s just so very, very sad. And this time of year is the worst time to experience such heartache because it is so much more deeply felt. It is very painful to experience a family member not living close to God or their family. When you are at your wit’s end, remember that God is never not working in a situation. He truly is working on your behalf and your loved ones behalf. He never quits, and He can bring beauty out of ashes. Commit your loved ones and your tough situations to the Lord and ask Him to work everything out in His way and in His time. He loves you and your loved ones – and can do – more than you can ask, think, or imagine. Trust His heart! He, better than anyone, knows exactly how you feel. God’s heart is for you and your loved one!
9. Guilt & Regrets –
Past guilt and regrets can do a real number on people. “Could’ve,” “Should’ve,” “Would’ve,” and “If Only,” wreck havoc on many people during the holiday season. “If only I had tried harder in my marriage”…”I should’ve spent more time with my kids while they were growing up”…”If only I could’ve gone back in time to prevent_____”…”If only I would’ve done_____or not done_____”…the list of guilt and regrets can go on and on. It is so incredibly important to realize that had you known better, you would’ve chosen or done better. By all means, if your conscience is hurting you and you have it in your power to do something about your guilt and regrets, then definitely do so. Make amends wherever and whenever possible. But if you can’t do anything about whatever past situation you are hurting or feeling guilt or regrets from, then you may want to talk to God about the situation and ask Him to help you to heal your heart. Every situation we go through in life is an opportunity to learn to be better, do better, and change things for the better. The lesson is always love…how to love God and others better. Be kind to others and yourself, always seek to have a clean conscience, and give grace to yourself and others. You may not be able to do anything about the past, but with each new day, you have the opportunity – with God’s help – to create a brand new future. Always remember: your best days may not have even happened yet.
10. Stress –
There are three types of people during the holidays: those who are completely refreshed and relaxed…those who are completely stressed out…and those who are a combination of the two. Try not to stress too much during the holidays. Take on only what you feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sin to say no to a request if you genuinely don’t have the time or energy to do something. Take time to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of the season. Stop to reflect on all of the blessings you’ve received from God and others this year. Take a deep breath and realize that it’s truly okay to rest and relax!
There are so many thieves that can invade the Christmas season and obliterate joy…
…but there are also choices that can be made to create a special, meaningful Christmas season.
With just a few weeks until Christmas, make the decision to:
- Be kind to your heart…
- Extravagantly love and enjoy God and loved ones
- Celebrate these remaining weeks and days of the holiday in the most stress-free, enjoyable, and relaxed way possible…
- Enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa as you reflect on good memories of Christmases past…
- Do something meaningful for others: buy someone a surprise treat or gift…help a family in need…donate to a charity that is dear to your heart…go to dinner with a family member or friend…encourage someone who is going through grief…bake cookies for loved ones…etc…
- Attend a special Christmas church service, program, or concert…
- Watch Christmas specials or movies that will warm your heart…
- Look at Christmas lights and decorations – every year, I do this with loved ones…and I also look at Christmas lights with just God. I cherish both of these times every year.
- Most importantly, seek God’s heart and friendship and spend the holidays delighting in Him. https://griefbites.com/2016/12/30/making-2017-your-best-year-yet-43-ways-to-delight-in-god/ He is truly the best part of the season! Whether you are feeling sadness, or you are feeling cheer, thank Him for the absolute miracle of Christmas.
When it all comes down to it, the holiday is about Jesus…the true Reason for the season. Never allow anyone or anything to steal your joy in Him!
I truly wish each of you a very blessed Christmas season! May God richly bless each of you in the days to come and throughout the New Year!
Gratitude and many blessings,
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2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5
6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv
7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus
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