When Christmas Hurts

 

I remember standing in the cemetery at Grandpa’s funeral on a cold December day. The wind was bitter and my soul hurt beyond words. How could I possibly be joyful days later? My grandpa, the one who took me fishing, bike riding, and introduced me to church, was gone from my world.

Sometimes Christmas hurts. It seems like the whole world is celebrating while we feel completely removed. Alone.

There are times when relationships in our lives have been strained, even cease to exist, and we are reminded of it at Christmas when we reflect on the year that’s gone by.

Loneliness can strike harder than usual. It seems families and friends are gathering, and you’re alone in the corner while the whole world is celebrating.

It seems this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Christmas is personal. It’s between you and Jesus Christ. If you want to bring others into it, to love and share with them, that’s fine.

But my friend, don’t let the struggles of failed or strained relationships, the loss of someone you love, or even the looming darkness of loneliness steal the joy that is yours.

Joy is waiting for you because Jesus Christ is waiting for you to spend time with Him.

Remember when Jesus was visiting Martha and her sister Mary? (Luke 10:38-42.) Martha was distracted, worried, and upset about so many things that she failed to see her sister was fulfilling a greater need and desire of her heart.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sitting at His feet. Listening to Him.

It’s no wonder the enemy tries to distract and discourage so many during the Christmas season (sometimes with all the preparations just like Martha) as we reflect on Jesus. Satan will distract you with past hurts, current struggles, pain and loss. He will magnify it like holding a magnifying glass in the sunlight to destroy a bunch of ants.

Let God be magnified in your heart. Let Him swell and fill those hurting places. Give Him the room to stretch through every part of your life. And allow yourself the time to sit at the feet of your Savior. Allow moments of stillness and prayer to draw you closer to Him.

Perhaps you could step outside after your corner of the world has gone to sleep. Gaze upon the stars. Remember the mighty One who knows each one of those stars by name knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows why you’re struggling, who hurt you, who you’re missing. Remember, He sees every tear you cry.

There are painful times in all of our lives—we live in a fallen world. But don’t let them become the focus during this miraculous season.

Don’t give the enemy control of your focus. Don’t give him the magnifying glass so he can destroy this moment in your life.

Turn away from the enemy’s lies. Rebuke Satan out loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Use your voice and take authority over the enemy.

And let Jesus Christ be your focus.

Think about the light piercing the dark night when the angel appeared, when the heavenly multitude showed up praising God (Read Luke 2:8-20). Imagine how the earth must have trembled with joy at the appearance of the One who came to save. Can you feel the shaking in your own spirit? Can you imagine rushing as a shepherd, your heart pounding, your legs feeling numb as if you’re flying, to find the baby just like the angels proclaimed? What joy your heart would feel! To be a part of this. To be included in this moment in history.

You can have a moment like this right now. Reflect and think about it. Focus and pray and put yourself in the Scripture. Let that night encompass your heart in the miracle that is Jesus Christ. Let the light of that night break through the darkness of your suffering.

It is very personal.

Jesus left all of His majestic glory behind for you. He suffered greatly for you. He is coming back for you.

If you’re hurting and the burden is too heavy, sit with Jesus in prayer and give it to Him. Listen for the sweet voice of our Lord. Wait for the Comforter to bring you peace that makes no sense to your human reasoning but is exactly what your fragile heart needs.

He will be there for you. Cry out to Him. Whisper His name.

Jesus Christ. Savior. The One we celebrate at Christmas.

You can celebrate. Deeply. In your heart. With Jesus. Just the two of you.

What a special Christmas this can be for you.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV.)

Isolation, Depression, and Hope

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For years I’ve been fascinated with tiny houses and how the kitchen table lowers from the ceiling or how the staircase can hide against the wall like a bookshelf. I’ve seen the shows, even visited small structures and imagined trying to live in one.

One day I hope to have one, not necessarily to live in one unless I want to live alone since my husband gets claustrophobic and doesn’t like the idea of climbing a ladder to go to bed, and frankly, I can’t say I blame him. But I would love to own a tiny house or “she shed” as my own little writer’s nook.

I could decorate it in all things Christmas, leaving a tree in the corner all year long. I would string white lights in the rafters and have a tiny fireplace in the corner. It would be my escape, my Christmas wonderland, inspiring Christmas tales I’d tap out on my laptop while the coffeepot gurgled in the corner.

I’d play songs by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and tuck Christmas books on the shelves, leaving a special place for “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern which became one of my all-time favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d throw a furry rug on the floor and fill the space with the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, of course, and the scent of spiced apple.

I get so excited daydreaming about it (as you can tell!). And I hope one day that daydream will become a tiny, lovely reality in our backyard.

Having hope is so important in the world we are living in today, especially when we’re all homebound for the duration of the coronavirus.

We may have to stay put in our houses or in our yards, but our minds are free to soar and fixate on whatever we choose.

Me? I choose God. I choose to have hope in Him when everything else is screaming at me that I need to be anxious and afraid. I’m choosing to believe the promise that Jesus is preparing a place for me in heaven, and He will come back for me. And I’m looking forward to it.

Having hope in the promises of God brings my mind peace at a time when depression, like a venomous spider hiding in a dark corner, threatens to bite.

Not many people know this about me, but when I was in college, I was treated by a counselor for clinical depression.

Depression was like that awful spider and its web covered my thoughts, keeping me from having hope. I felt alone. Isolated. I had no joy. I felt numb and yet deep pain all at the same time. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. And when I was awake, all I wanted to do was cry.

It was an awful place.

Years later when I quit my job to stay at home with our daughter, depression tried to attack me again. I was more isolated than what I was used to and I would sob at the back corner of our yard where my husband and daughter couldn’t see me.

But God saw me.

And He sees you too. If you’re struggling during this period of isolation, with the “culture shock” of staying at home for days and weeks at a time, please call out to God, reach out to family and friends. Seriously, reach out! You do not have to suffer, and you do not need to go through it alone.

When you’re feeling alone, that’s when the enemy will lie and tell you all sorts of nonsense.

Here’s the truth: God will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). You don’t need to be afraid or discouraged because God is with you (Joshua 1:9). You were created for a purpose and God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).

You are not alone, my friend, and your mind is free to soar even if you feel stuck in your living room. So go ahead and let your mind visit Christmas songs and tiny houses, far away dream vacations, and future plans.

You can, and should, think about lovely things (Philippians 4:8).

And let your mind stay fixed on God and His promises. He has given you His Holy Spirit, so you are NEVER alone. You have eternal hope in Jesus Christ, and He is preparing a place for you. And your place is going to be so much better than anything this world has to offer.

It’s going to be even better than a Christmas tiny house. 😉

“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5 NIV.)

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5 NIV.)

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:1-6 NIV.)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

When You’re Standing All Alone

narrow path

Life can get lonely. Friends move on, family members move away, and some relationships you once treasured lose their luster and become like driftwood a rip current has pulled out to sea.  Before you know it you’re standing all alone, the water no longer kissing your toes and everyone you know has gone.

You can sit on the beach and blame yourself, go over and over in your mind all you did wrong or you can blame everyone else; point out their flaws and shortcomings. You can sit there and cry, sulk, beat your fists into the sand, and refuse to get up even though the sun is toasting your skin into a nice shade of lobster red.

Why bother. I mean, there has to be a reason you’re alone, right?  Like this is some sort of punishment for bad behavior or something.

But what if that’s not the case at all. What if there is a reason God has placed you on this beach all alone.  Not as punishment but as a blessing.

Maybe you’re wondering how this deep-within-your-bones loneliness could possibly be a blessing.

Why don’t you stand up, brush that sand from your backside, and stop pining for and gazing at what type of life you think you should have right now. Turn around.  Do you see that forest behind you, that gap in between the trees?  Go check it out.

The break in the trees is the beginning of a narrow path leading into the forest. You realize there is enough light to see, but you can’t see everything.  And as you move into it, the tree limbs brushing your arms and weeds tickling your legs, you quickly learn the path tapers with each step you take.

Yes, it’s a very narrow path. Just enough room for you.

And God.

You see, God has more for you than all the vast sea, that broad path, has to offer. You may think you’re missing out on some grand adventure, but God has better things here on this narrow path for you if you’ll trust Him.

Sure it’s tempting to follow everyone else because you’re lonely. But isn’t God enough for you?

Of course He knows you’re lonely; He sees your tears even though you try to hide them, when you put on your “I’m fine” face. Remember, He can look right into your heart.

There are others on this path up ahead some distance and even some who will begin after you. Some of your family and friends will find their way here.  They’ll also have to walk “alone” for a little while.

This is the time when you break apart from what everyone else is doing to follow God. Sure it’s hard.  No, there are no shortcuts.  Yes, you will make it because you have the best Guide possible.  No, you’re really NOT missing out on those adventures at sea.  Many of them will be lost out there.  Don’t be fooled by the soothing sounds you heard while you were sitting on the sand, those smiles as you watched everyone leave.  It’s really not some great party out there.  Not at all.

Actually you are the one heading to the real celebration on this path. You see, this narrow path will allow you to focus on God, to draw closer to Him, to hunger for Him like never before and to feed on those words He gives you, filling you fully.  He’s jealous for you and wants your full attention, your deep devotion, and He wants to spoil you madly with His love.

The path will be bumpy of course but you’ve got God’s hand to steady you. If you’ll just keep going, He will bring you all the way through into a glorious clearing where there will be others who chose to follow Him too, just waiting to welcome you home.  Again, some family and friends will be there.

And Jesus Christ. He will be there too.

And you’ll never be lonely again.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.)

 

 

 

Brick by Brick

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We all build walls.

Someone hurts you and you quickly learn how to stop that from happening again by building a nice big wall between you and that person.

Only sometimes you go a little too far and you build it all around just in case someone else would come along to hurt you.

So you build this wall, brick by brick, to protect yourself from pain.  But when you stop stacking because you can’t reach any higher, you realize that without any windows and bricks all around, you’ve built yourself a prison cell.

And since the bricks reach so high and are so thick, no one can see you or hear when you cry for help, when the dark shadow of loneliness fills your cell.

Only God can reach you in that dark and painful place.

But maybe you’re afraid to ask because the world is too cruel and you don’t know if your heart can handle another blow.  So you stay there for a long time.

Finally, the walls close in too tightly and the darkness grows too thick, so you decide you must try again.  You whisper a plea to God, but as He lifts you up to the top of your wall and sets you there, you totter.  You look down at the safety of the prison cell, the darkness looming below, and then you look out at the contrasting sunlight and the people all around and the drop-off to get to them.

You freeze.  You’re afraid either way will bring you unbearable pain; pain that will wound you so deeply you’ll never recover.  And suddenly you don’t sense God’s hand anymore.  You wonder why, in this worst predicament, would He leave you now.  So you cry out to Him, begging Him to remember you.

You don’t hear His voice or see Him, but you notice your wall is different; a brick here and there has been removed to build a set of brick stairs leading from the top down and into the sunlight.

Who built the staircase? you wonder.  God?  Someone else?

You don’t know.  Perhaps God did it Himself or maybe He led someone else to do it.  Either way, the stairs are waiting.

Life is waiting.  And God is waiting to help you escape your prison cell and the cold that climbs the wall and reaches out to you like an icy hand, reaching from that place with all the pain from your past.

All you need to do is take God’s hand and take it brick by brick down those stairs and into the sunlight.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  (Isaiah 41:13 NIV.)

Comfort

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Comfort. That’s the word God keeps whispering to me.  There must be someone who needs to be comforted right now.  I’m praying you “hear” Him through this.

The holidays are not always easy and God knows that. Maybe you feel alone, abandoned.

Maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one and you’re not sure how to get through this holiday.

Or maybe this is a painful time because you have vivid, cherished memories of those you lost long ago, those you miss so deeply and the holidays only remind you of their empty chairs at the table.

God sees you.

He wants to comfort you today, tomorrow, and anytime you need Him. Look for His gentle touch.  It’s all around you.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”  (Isaiah 66:13a NIV.)

Nothing is Wasted

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God can use whatever you’re going through right now.

If you’re in the midst of a financial disaster, drowning in a severe bout of loneliness or depression, or even wading through a difficult time where someone has let you down and you don’t know how to get through it, not one moment of that will go to waste if you take it all to God.

It’s like the autumn leaves.  After they change and fall to the ground and their beautiful colors fade, all we see are clumps of brown leaves sticking to our boots.  But underneath the surface, decomposition is taking place and preparing the soil for a new spring.  Those leaves are not wasted.  They’re being used over time and in a new way.

How is God going to use this difficult season you’re going through?  What new way is He going to use you?

Maybe you’ll be able to help someone who is going through the exact same thing you are.  Or perhaps because of today’s pain in the freezing rain, you’ll be able to avoid an even bigger storm so you can dance in the sunlight of tomorrow.

Whatever the reason, be excited, my friend!  Nothing is impossible with God, nothing is too hard for Him, and when the time is right, you’re going to see one awesome spring.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NIV.)