We have entered a season of hope. It's in full swing. THE season of hope! Jesus is our Hope! Even though the world might try to deny it, ignore it and pretend this season is about something else all together, this season is still all about Him!
"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." Psalms 16:8
I've been thinking over the past few weeks about all the families affected by the wildfires in California, and those who have no home for the holidays. The Camp fire alone is responsible for the loss of more than 6000 homes as well as several fatalities. For these families this Christmas holiday will be much different than they expected.
While others are baking Christmas cookies and hang lights from the eaves of their homes, these families are experiencing a loss they didn't see coming. Last Christmas they could not have imagined what this Christmas would look like. For many it has been nothing short of pure devastation. They've lost everything! They have no home for the holidays. For some, the devastation even includes the loss of a loved one. For these, there will be an empty seat at the table when Christmas dinner is served.
All of the Merry Christmases and joyous cheer can be difficult at best when you are facing the devastating loss of a home, loved one, or even a part-of-the-family beloved pet. Or maybe your year just didn’t go as planned. Possibly a relationship ended, you lost a job or had a serious financial setback. You or someone you love could be facing a personal health challenge or some other type of challenge that leaves you with a loss of joy this Christmas holiday. You would rather hide away under the covers until January 1 and forget Christmas ever happened.
It’s tough going through a difficult time in life when everyone and everything around you is celebrating the season, I know. Your world seems to have come to a complete standstill while those around you are scurrying about their merry ways. I remember the Christmas we lost my sister to a drunk driver, just twelve days before Christmas. I can't tell you how we made it through that holiday. Certainly we would not have without God's help. He held our hands. He reached down and assured us in tangible ways that this was His plan all along. He ushered us into a season of rejoicing through a season of mourning.
If any of the above describes your current situation, please know that you WILL get through this. You will! You will get through with God's help and you will emerge stronger in faith because of His faithfulness. In the meantime, here are a few things that helped me during that very difficult Christmas.
Invest in your relationships. I don't know about you, but my relationship with Jesus tends to grow stronger when I am going through tough times. When obstacles arise, it is my relationship with Him that matters most. It's where I find my identity. It's where I find my stability. That's what's going to get me through, the steadfast love and faithfulness of my Savior. Invest in that relationship! I'll say more about this in a bit.
We can also lean on family and friends, especially those who are going to lift us up in prayer. Reach out to them. Talk to them. Ask for help. Ask for prayer! Don’t try to do this alone. Let others lift you up and stay connected to those around you.
The names of God, in so many cases, are also beautiful promises. Checkout the blog post 16 Names of God and What They Mean to learn more. Names like The Lord Will Provide, The Lord Is There, The Lord That Heals, The Lord My Shepherd are promises for us to remember and meditate on.
Pay it forward. Focus on others and give back during this season of giving. It may be just what YOU need! Paying it forward will refocus your attention and help ease your own pain and sorrow. It is not only a kind thing to do, it’s a great way to make you feel better about your own situation. We've all heard the saying, "It's better to give than to receive." Quite often the giver receives the bigger blessing. Stepping outside your comfort zone to care for someone else is a wonderful way to show Christlikeness as well. I'm a firm believer that the circumstances God allows in our lives prepare us to help others when those same, or similar, circumstances arise in their life. Look around and see who you can help this Christmas holiday.
Be open to a new normal. This Christmas may not look like last Christmas, and you probably didn't see this coming. The same people might not be present around the table at Christmas dinner this year. Possibly there's be an empty place. Circumstances in your life may have changed to where you cannot have the same holiday that you've enjoyed in the past. This may be the new normal. In your mind you're thinking it's not ideal. It's not something you were prepared for. However, it's the way things are and quite possibly the way things may be going forward. Change is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. Be open to the new normal and realize that this Christmas may not look like Christmases of the past. It's a new chapter in your story, and God will be there in this chapter also. He is faithful! I know.
Be prepared. We ALL need to be prepared.
First, maybe this post is all about you. Possibly the holidays are the worst time of the year for you. You dread it every year. There will be no family gathering on Christmas day, no presents, no home cooked meal. It won't be festive at your house. If that's the case, think ahead of time about the difficult situations you might face this Christmas holiday. Make a game plan. Don't face these situations alone. Reach out and ask for help.
Second, maybe this post is not about you at all. Possibly you're having a great holiday and you anticipate a wonderful Christmas day filled with the love of family and friends, good food, presents and all the festivities we enjoy as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. If that's where you find yourselves this year, you are truly blessed! You too need to be prepared. We all need to be prepared for someday when this post may be about us. We should cultivate a relationship with Jesus NOW so that when our time comes we're not trying to establish a relationship with a God we hardly know.
For most people, the Christmas holiday is one of the happiest times of the year. For others it can be the most difficult, filled with depression and anxiety. If you're one of those who finds it difficult, I hope this post is an encouragement to you. If that's not you though, look around. Do you see someone who is struggling this holiday? If so, please share this post with them and let them know you noticed and you care. We hope it will be an encouragement to them also.
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