Surviving the Holidays

Memories linger in holiday rituals--picking out the Christmas tree, the ornaments you bought on vacation, the cookies she baked and wrapped for neighbors--and now the first Christmas without your wife or your mother or your husband or perhaps a child. You can barely discern the light of the season but you know it's there because the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't overcome the light, even the darkness of grief and loss. Diane Neptune shares perspectives from GriefShare.

If you have recently lost a loved one, you are likely experiencing a jumble of emotions that you have  yet to sort out. Facing a holiday after the death of a loved one can be more difficult than your friends and family members may realize. GriefShare has provided a video which outlines some basic principles to follow to find strength, healing and tools to move forward in your daily walk through the deep pain of grief. For example:

  • Being prepared for surprising emotions that may hit over the holidays
  • What to do about traditions and other coming changes
  •  How to handle Christmas parties and invitations
  • How to survive potentially awkward moments with other people
  • Where to find comfort, strength and hope in a seemingly hopeless time

A few years ago, you probably found yourself complaining about the hectic nature of the Christmas season. There were numerous programs to sit through, countless gifts to buy and way too many parties to attend. If you even had time to think about what you wanted for Christmas, your list would have been short: fewer places to be and more money to spend.

But now that you might be wrestling with grief this season, you’d gladly take those busy times over what you’re going through now. That’s because no matter whom you have lost, the holidays are a constant reminder that he or she isn’t with you anymore. And with the holiday season lasting over a month, the pain seems to last forever.  So what’s the best advice for making it through the holidays?

Focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

While that may sound like a cliché, focusing on the true meaning of Christmas can actually be a surprising source of comfort.  It leads directly to hope and pervasive healing. Let’s look at three reasons why.

Reason 1: At Christmas, Jesus came to end all suffering.

God sees all the problems in the world, including yours. And he has promised ultimately to fix them. To do this, he sent Jesus to carry out a plan to end all suffering. At Christmas, we celebrate Christ’s entrance into the world to do that, Because of what Jesus came to do, the Bible tells us that one day there will be no more tears.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying. . . 'There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5b)

We can be absolutely certain that one day, there will be no more disease, no more tragedy, no more suffering, no more death. That’s a reason for hope and celebration!

Reason 2: At Christmas, Jesus came to deal with the source of our suffering.

As part of God’s plan to fix what is wrong with the world, he’s going to do more than stop disease, famines and natural disasters; he is also going to renew people. And yes, we all need to be renewed. Why? Because the same thing that causes all the world’s problems is the same thing that causes us to be selfish, bitter, unforgiving, unfaithful and unreasonable. The Bible calls it sin. The Bible also teaches us that sin affects everything: our thinking, our relationships, our environment and our health.

In addition to creating problems in your life, your own sin is a barrier to having a relationship with God. It also prevents you from experiencing the comfort and healing that he offers you. This comfort and healing is especially important to you as you grieve. The good news is that, at Christmas, Jesus came to offer a way to remove that barrier. Here’s how he did it.

God says sin is such a serious offense that it must be punished by eternal separation from Him. But since God loved us so much, he sent Jesus to earth to live a sinless life and to take the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. Three days later, he rose from the dead. This was the only righteous way to defeat sin and death and to pave the way for the tear-free world God has promised in the future. But knowing what Jesus came to do is not enough to experience the benefits.

Reason 3: This Christmas the gift is available to you.

Just as a Christmas present only becomes yours as you receive it, the gifts of forgiveness and a new life in Christ Jesus only become yours as you receive him by faith. God offers you this gift of a relationship with him, a relationship that allows you to experience the healing and comfort that you desperately need, and a relationship that guarantees an eternity spent with Him in the perfect, tear-free reality that He’s designing for you.

You may have worries that you do not deserve to be forgiven by God, that your sin is too “bad.”  No matter what you’ve done, you can be forgiven! His love goes beyond anything you have ever experienced. He loves you without conditions. And if you enter into a relationship with Him, He accepts you because of what Christ did for you, not because of anything you have done or ever will do.  As God's Word reminds us:

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5a)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast”. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I hope by now you can see why focusing on the true meaning of Christmas can be so comforting. At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Jesus. His birth marks a new chapter in God’s plan to end our suffering and save us from our sin. So, if you’re discouraged during the holidays, remind yourself that the baby Jesus came to heal your heart, and this world. Because of him, one day there will be no more suffering. And even right now, in the middle of your hurt and suffering, Jesus wants to be a part of your life, comfort you and help you heal.

If this is your first Christmas without your loved one or the second, third or more, the pain of the holidays may still be very fresh for you. Our GriefShare group meets every Monday night at College Church, and we come together to share experiences of grief and turn mourning into joy. Please join us, you are always welcome.