Not What You Wanted?


Open GiftWhat will you find under the Christmas tree this year? According to several consumer websites, the hot items of 2014 will be dolls from Disney’s Frozen, Lego sets, Xbox and Playstation 4 game consoles, and, believe it or not, Apple’s discontinued iPod Classic.

Some people will discover some “gifts” they never wanted and certainly didn’t ask for:





There’s a dark side to Christmas that many of us don’t want to admit. I knew a man who dreaded the coming of Christmas because of the painful childhood memories it dredged up. Some of you stood by a fresh grave this year, and you are facing your first Christmas without your precious loved one. Many divorced parents will spend their childless holidays in tears and emptiness. Some of you have taken a financial hit, and Christmas turns the screws on an already-suffering checkbook. 

There is no magic wand that will make these challenges disappear.  Twenty years ago, sitting around the tree at the first Christmas without my dad, I thought my heart would burst with sadness.  While there are no “easy fixes,”  there are some things we can do to take a step down the road to hope and healing.


Trying times can turn us inward. It’s tempting to frown at the package of adversity with its ugly wrapping and obsess over the question, “Why me?” While grieving is important — and worry and anger sometimes sneak in when we’re going through the fire — we can easily sink into a pity party or chronic state of depression.

In times like this, it’s important to look up and gaze out to get the “bigger picture.” You might just find your problem shrinking in the presence of the God who is infinite, everlasting and all-loving. I remember reading a story about a psychologist who gave a prescription to a patient, which involved staring at Niagara Falls for five hours a day for an entire week. The woman was irritated that she was paying $150-an-hour for sessions, only to receive such simplistic advice. The therapist calmly explained, “All you’ve talked about in our time together is yourself: your worries, your fears, your nightmares. We’ve gone over your background in minute detail and you’ve chatted endlessly about your ‘issues.’ The only thing you need to get well is see something bigger than you are.”

Christmas is not about presents, music or even family gatherings. It is the season to mark the grandest event of all time: the inbreaking of God into human history. And even though God is vast and marvelous beyond description, He has not forgotten you. Recall the words of Jesus when He said that God’s eye for detail goes down to the tiniest sparrow. “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt 10:31).


I know some of you don’t want to go to church when you’re hurting. You feel you might break down and embarrass yourself, or you speculate the preacher has nothing to say that will be truly helpful. Consider going, anyway. Many churches hold “Blue Christmas” services during the holidays, specifically designed to reach out to those who are struggling. Find one. Take a hanky, sit on the back row if you want and have a good cry while the Holy Spirit wraps a blanket of comfort around you and reminds you of the hope of the Incarnation.


Man and his beachThis may sound silly in the midst of staggering grief, but taking a simple walk can do wonders for your mood. Recent studies are proving that all kinds of walks–from group nature walks to brisk solitary strolls–bring an array of benefits for mind, body and soul. Sara Warber, a family medicine professor at the University of Michigan, reports, “Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster.”


None of these things will “fix” or “cure” your holiday struggles. Some of you might not want to get out in public. For a couple of weeks after my father died, I just wasn’t up for much socializing. Others of you crave that interaction, so serve in a soup kitchen, attend festive events, hang out with friends or family. We’re all different and we handle grief in different ways. However, all believers can “grieve with hope,” remembering that God holds everything in the gentle palm of His hand.

Gift photo courtesy of CWMGary via stockxchng

Man and his beach photo courtesy of JMB via morguefile


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