If you’ve ever experienced sadness in the holidays, you know how hard it is to jump into cheer and celebration when your heart is hurting. Sometimes sadness is because life is hard all year, filled with losses, bad news, declining health, broken relationships. At times you can’t even pinpoint why you feel sad. Melancholy lingers even when you are grateful for many blessings. But Christmas is still going to come. So if you are sad, how do you get through the holiday sadness?
There’s a reason we celebrate Christmas – and Thanksgiving – each year. It’s because God cares. The person who chooses to believe this even when their heart is breaking, receives from God. Ps. 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
God makes it His business – His priority – to love and tenderly care for those who are in this sad state – brokenhearted, crushed in spirit.” He is a professional when it comes to triage. And “you” are His priority! Why? Because He loves you deeply and wants to help. God cares about holiday sadness, too. He can teach you a lot about managing sadness.
Think of it this way. Jesus has two names that are linked, but almost like opposites. “Man of Joy” and “Man of Sorrow.” You can imagine how joyful He was as He spoke everything into existence at creation. From the clear blue ocean to flowering green meadows to towering majestic mountains to powerful, bounding animals to delicate, transparent blossoms and even a flavor-packed, juicy strawberry. But then consider how filled with sorrow He must have been as He saw the devastating effects on His once perfect world and His own dear children when they fell into sin. Jesus knew how to live with the tension of both joy and sorrow.
When Jesus lived on this earth, He was ever-present in the celebration of life while simultaneously participating in human sorrow. He joined the human condition by becoming one of us. Jesus was born into the human race and experienced the full spectrum of our joys and sorrows. He was even tempted in every way we are – but without sin. (Heb. 4:15)
Yes, Jesus became a baby! And that’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas . . . because God cares!
What To Do With Losses
I’m going to pull from Scripture to provide practical examples of people who also experienced losses – even despair.
The Apostle Paul had many terrible things happen to him. I’m guessing he didn’t like most of them. In fact, he tipped his cards when he said he was under such great pressure inside – beyond his ability to bear – that he despaired of life, itself. (2 Cor. 1:8) That’s serious, and it’s coming from the great Apostle Paul! It doesn’t sound like the guy who talked so much about “rejoice! I will say it again – rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
Paul was practicing authenticity by talking about his sadness and discouragement. He was being honest, counting the severe cost of living in a broken world while living for Jesus.
Truly, however, Paul was doing both. He was in the habit of rejoicing in all circumstances. And he was in the habit of being transparent about how hard life can be. This is a healthy balanced person who has come to terms with life, and still has a good dose of hope. This kind of individual knows that joy and sorrow run alongside each other for much of life’s journey. They join the Man of Joy who is also the Man of Sorrow. This helps them live in God’s reality even in a broken world. Accepting this is a huge leap into strength.
After much thought, sorrow, and prayer, Paul decided God would make up his losses in some miraculous way.
This is the point where Paul’s suffering and grieving began to shift. This is where he applied positive steps that kept him healthy. He accepted he would not see those restorations right away, necessarily. Yet, he also identified something else that was incredibly important . . . even more important than his sufferings. He realized knowing Jesus Christ, and sharing life with Him, is more critical than anything else. Whether or not he felt it, he chose to have Christ! Paul figured out – nothing else is more valuable in life – ever! So, he went after that with all his might by faith.
This same principle is for you as you walk through sadness in the holiday season. Be courageous and accept that you might not see restorations of some things now. Remember in your sufferings, Jesus Christ is sharing your life with you. That means He’s sharing your sufferings with you. You have a Companion. He lives in you if you believe on Him. And you can live your life in His reality much more deeply and fully than by your doubts and feelings. Draw close to Jesus and receive His life and healing.
A Redemption of Sufferings
One redemption of his sufferings and losses is the millions of people Paul has encouraged over the centuries. You may have a small circle, but you can encourage others in their losses by how you choose to trust Jesus in your own losses. It’s like setting the pace for those you care about. A good runner endures the pain of training, makes the sacrifices, and chooses healthy options so they can run a strong, solid race. You can run a strong race. You can inspire others.
In Phil. 3:8, Paul says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Then in Phil. 3:12 he says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” And finally, Heb. 12:1 urges all of us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . .”
Paul knew Jesus would make up to him everything he’d lost in this broken life. So, he trusted God with abandon and resolve. He believed God “super-cared” about him with deep, eternal love. This man accepted the Man of Joy / Man of Sorrow as his best Friend, his dearest Companion, his Savior and God. And he trusted every word that came out of God’s mouth as he simultaneously suffered to the point that he despaired of life, itself.
There is another writer of Scripture who figured some things out through the hardships of life. His words also help with sadness in the holiday season. He had sorrow, struggled with depression, and even had some weird things happen to him. Yet, he began to see how God interfaces with people as they experience sorrow, loss, and suffering. It was David, the shepherd, king, and psalmist who said what we quoted earlier in this article, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18)
That principle David penned in his sufferings is for you as you work to manage your sadness. Jesus is close to your broken heart. He promises to save you (and heal you) as you experience the crushing of your spirit. Please – believe this. Hold onto it. Draw close to God and let Him comfort your heart during the holidays. To receive His comfort, you need to open up and receive it by faith. This doesn’t make everything go away. It enables you to receive His comfort.
A Promise For Holiday Sadness
Later in history, the prophet Isaiah said Jesus (the Christmas baby) would come “to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Is. 61:1-3)
Jesus, the Man of Joy / Man of Sorrow, wants to comfort you, to provide for you. He wants to give you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, to anoint you with His oil of joy this Christmas and bless you with His garment of praise. Will you let Him do these things for you even as you walk through holiday sadness? You can find the miracle of amazing grace, satisfying joy, and abiding peace that co-exists alongside your sadness. There is still reason to rejoice!
Jesus really cares about your losses, your depression, your heart, and your sadness in the holidays. He wants to help you through in healthy ways. He also wants you to make good choices to be a healthy person. If you will trust Him and wait on Him, He will heal your hurting heart and give you hope again.
You can have an Alive and Active Life even with holiday sadness. Hold tightly to the Lord this Christmas.