Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When Celebrating Is Difficult

I learned yesterday that an acquaintance of mine lost his father suddenly this week. I really thought about some things I’ve been reminded several times over the past few weeks. Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people . . . for any number of reasons. Whether due to the loss of a spouse, parent, child, or other family member or a difficult financial situation or perhaps unrealized dreams for a child or whatever . . . the celebration and festive nature of Christmas tends to bring the hurt right to the surface.

I’ve been thinking about a few people in my own life who are celebrating Christmas this year amidst difficult personal circumstances. A woman who will celebrate Christmas without her husband after 60+ years of Christmases together. Parents missing their child. Children missing a father. Couples who long to have a baby and can't conceive. Families who are waiting to bring children home from Ethiopia, Uganda, and China. Parents who don't know where their child is or if he's safe. Couples struggling through the decision of whether or not to end their marriage. Families who trusted God to direct their steps and are now celebrating Christmas in a foreign country as they share the gospel with people who have never heard it before. Sometimes it's hard to get past our circumstances and find anything worth celebrating.

But here's the truth. Christmas is still worth celebrating. God is still God. And He is still worthy of our worship. Especially in the midst of our suffering.

If you’re having a difficult time celebrating Christmas this year, I’ve been reading through the transcripts of a message series (Why: The Gospel and Suffering by Pastor David Platt) for a project at work and have been so encouraged by it. It really has nothing to do with Christmas—but everything to do with God—and I can't get it out of my mind. I pray you will be encouraged by these truths of who God is as well.

Please, oh please, if you are having trouble celebrating, just grasp onto one thing—just one thing—that you know to be true about God and celebrate that.

And for those of you who have loved ones who are struggling, I received an email yesterday from Dayspring that offers some practical wisdom on this subject.

Encouragement - Show You CARE
Through my work as a writer and counselor, as well as personal experiences with grief, I've learned that the holiday season is hard for many people. Make a difference by showing you CARE.

Connect - When someone is hurting, we often don't know what to say or do. But even simply expressing, "I don't know what to say but I'm sorry and I care about you," in person or in writing can bring a lot of comfort.

Accept - When we try to help someone, it's easy to try to direct their emotions or give advice. By accepting others and allowing them to safely express sadness, anger, fear, frustration, and other emotions in our presence, we help them heal.

Respond - You can take action by bringing a meal, babysitting, or running an errand. Or you might do something more symbolic like donating to a charity in honor of a loved one, writing down a special memory in a card, or giving a thoughtful gift.

Extend - People are often flooded with attention when a loss occurs but support usually decreases over time. By remembering and continuing to reach out, especially during the holidays and on special occasions, you can help bring encouragement and hope.

-Encouraging words from Holley Gerth. For more from Holley visit her blog, Heart to Heart with Holley.

If you or someone you know is having an especially difficult time during this Christmas season, I would consider it an honor to pray for you/them. Would you consider leaving their first name in a comment on this post? (Remember this is the internet. Please don’t leave specific, personal details about their situation unless you have permission from them.)

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