The Holidays Clarify Our Pain

I first posted this last holiday season. But since the readership of this blog has almost doubled since then (and I had sinus surgery this week, so writing something new is out of the question), I thought this would be a good post to highlight again.

I have spent my fair share of Christmases crying under the Christmas tree in the dark, staring at the lights on the tree dreaming of the Christmas I want, rather than the Christmas I have. This Christmas, I am joyfully anticipating family time, and I thank God that I don’t foresee crying under the tree this year. But I’ve had enough lonely Christmases in the past, longing for something different, to respect the fact that many of you who follow this blog are entering a season that puts a harsh spotlight on the losses in your life. Perhaps you lost something you had — a child, a spouse, a parent, a relationship. Perhaps you feel the loss of something you long to have but have not yet gotten to hold – a child, a husband.

The holiday season clarifies our pain. It makes it very clear exactly what we are longing for and exactly what we are mourning. It is especially hard to distract ourselves from our losses during this season. If you find yourself in this place, with the spotlight shining on your losses so that you can not escape the pain whether sitting under the tree, singing a carol, buying a gift, or opening a present, here are some thoughts from someone who has been there before.

1) Your loss is real, and it is OK to feel it deeply. But know also that you are not alone in your loneliness. Despite what you likely sense, most others are not enjoying the holidays unconditionally. There is not something wrong with you. Or actually, there is something wrong, but there is something wrong with all of us. So don’t let the feelings of loss, loneliness, and isolation go unanswered in your own head. You may feel that you are alone and no one else understands the weight of the loss you carry through the holidays, but the truth is that MANY of your brothers and sisters in Christ are carrying such burdens, and you are not alone in your loss. Feel your loss, for it is real. But fight Satan when he tempts you to isolate yourself or distance yourself from others because of it.

2) Holiday pain can also clarify what you do have. Screw turkeys and cranberry sauce. Forget gifts given and received. Stocking stuffers are over rated. Instead, understand that your circumstances also shine a spotlight on Christ. When you aren’t distracted by Christmas frivolities (or enamored by, as many of us are), you can recognize the void that can only be filled by one thing — Christ Himself. It was during lonely Christmases that I discovered Colossians 1 and sat under a tree reading it to myself. It sustained me, not just for a season, but I’ve gone back to that passage for a lifetime.

I’ll leave you with Colossians 1, this passage that tells us exactly Who arrived in the manger that night. As the holidays spotlight the pain of your losses, I encourage you to let God’s description of His Son shine an alternate spotlight on all you have in Him this season.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Wherever you are this season, daughter of God and bride of Christ, I hope this vision of the eternal One you have in Christ will sustain you during lonely times. You are loved and wanted by Christ. You do have a family, in every idealistic sense of the term. It is in Him and with Him. That truth won’t erase the pain of your very real loss this holiday season, but may it be the balm that soothes and comforts you, for by His wounds, you are healed.

7 Responses to The Holidays Clarify Our Pain

  1. LivewithFlair December 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Might I add something? I wanted to offer this: Your particular pain is important and real, even if, by comparison, another person's pain seems more significant. I used to feel guilty for experiencing suffering over what seemed “trivial” compared to the suffering of the world. But God is showing me that suffering, no matter how small, is still real and important to Him.

  2. Wendy December 5, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Thank you. That is important!

  3. Wenatchee the Hatchet December 6, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Wendy, your reposting this entry and LiveWithFlair's comment about feelings about having no suffering compared to the suffering of others has prompted me to post what I feel are related links from my blog last year. Especially since today's sermon was about heaven and about how heaven is a promise to be fulfilled that is given to us in part now through Christ I wanted to link to my old Good Friday reflections, since the first Advent eventually led to the Cross and the second Advent will complete what was accomplished at the Cross.

  4. Jen December 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Wendy, I really appreciate this. I have had many lonely Christmases as a single woman growing older with no husband in sight. Holidays really seem to amplify that loneliness. But I can honestly say the times I've had the most intimate fellowship with Jesus were the times I felt the pain most acutely.

    And I am proof of the fact that God does bring change and hope–in five weeks I'm getting married, at age 33. Praise Him!

  5. Wendy December 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Jen, I praise God both for your upcoming marriage and for sustaining you during your loneliest times without a prospect on the horizon.

  6. Christa December 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Wendy, I read this right when I needed it most this year…thanks for the good reminders to get my thinking back on track! Love you,

  7. Wendy December 15, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks, Christa. Love you too.