Dealing with the Christmas Blues
In my lifetime, I’ve experienced only a handful of what I would call “blue” Christmases. Each of these were marked by financial hardship, broken relationships, or impending loss. The funny thing about a blue Christmas is that sometimes it can be really hard to accept that you’re having one. During my bluest Christmases, I cycled through avoiding, ignoring, or even denying my pain. I just soldiered on, perhaps too immature or too preoccupied to acknowledge the hurt I was feeling. If you had known me then, you most likely wouldn’t have been able to tell just how badly I was struggling. Only more recently have I learned to admit to myself and to my loved ones when I’m going through something. And if you’re like me, admitting you’re in pain is that much harder during a season renowned for joy and celebration.
My most difficult Christmas occurred when my wife of seven years told me she planned to leave me and our two children (ages three and ten months) right after the holidays. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, she stockpiled housewares for the apartment she would move into at the beginning of January. For my children’s sake, I worked hard at making Christmas fun, but January loomed like a dark cloud over me. My wife’s family didn’t know about her plans, so when we visited them for Christmas, I reluctantly agreed not to say anything. It was agony to pretend that we were a happy family when in fact we were far from happy. Angry and hurt, I kept my feelings tamped down.
I carried that hurt over to the next year when the holidays reopened my wound. Now divorced and in sole custody of two very small kids, I felt the weight of loneliness in a season that celebrated fellowship. Even though I had found a welcoming church, had made several friends, and went to my small group’s Christmas party, I still felt lonely when we returned home and it was just the three of us and our cat. Like the year before, I pushed through the Christmas season, refusing to acknowledge how I felt. It wouldn’t be until some time later that I recognized how God used the people of his church that Christmas season to display his hope for me. Their presence didn’t make all my pain go away, but they provided comfort to somebody who couldn’t even admit he needed comfort. Looking back, my church family helped me see that God was with me in my loneliness.
As Christians we often think we have to put an optimistic spin on our hard circumstances. “My wife passed away last year, just before Christmas; but now she’s with Jesus.” Or, “I don’t know where my adult daughter is or who she’s with, but the Lord’s got her in his hand.” Or, “I just lost the best job I’ve ever had, but I know God will provide.” I’ve actually said those last words myself, and they were true: God did provide. But it didn’t tell the whole truth of how losing that awesome job had devastated me. A wise friend took me aside and showed me how God gives us permission to mourn loss: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Psalm 22:24). Giving voice to my pain of the job loss allowed me to release it and process its impact on my life. And now I believe it ultimately helped me trust God for his provision.
In a tough Christmas season, allowing yourself to name your pain and talk about how it makes you feel can help you open yourself up to God’s hope. He hears us in our darkest seasons and brings people to us to help us through.
The Today devotional has gathered a set of fourteen encouraging devotions to reassure you that even during a blue Christmas, you’re not alone. Subscribe here to receive the free ebook and 14-day email series.