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When the Holidays Hurt

For most of my life, Christmas was the very best thing that could happen to a person. I spent most of December in blissful anticipation of the 25th, and anyone that didn’t share my views was labeled “Scrooge” or “Grinch.”

How could people be unhappy when there were lights everywhere? What’s sad about listening to Christmas music? How could you be lonely when there were dozens of holiday parties to attend?

But somewhere along the way, I began to realize that it’s not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Life hits hard, and the holidays can make those blows especially painful when your world is not as merry as everyone else’s.

The lights only remind you that the year is almost up and that insurance is about to start over.

The music feels forced when you’re barely functional amidst ongoing depression.

The parties only remind you that you’ll be returning to an empty house once again.

Whether there’s an empty chair at your table this year or just a big, gaping hole in your heart, I get it. The holidays hurt.

This photo was taken last Christmas right after one of my husband’s major surgeries, and we’re now facing our 3rd Christmas in that less-than-merry place as he continues to battle chronic illness. Where Christmas used to bring celebration, it now brings stress, uncertainty, and a lot of presents held together by medical tape.

And I know how I’m supposed to feel: peace on earth, a thrill of hope, joy to the world…. But real talk? I feel so far from any of those things.

I can’t find peace because I’m facing some really tough decisions in the new year.

I can’t find hope because I’ve been burned too many times in the past.

I can’t find joy because that sounds like a lot of work.

So let me tell you what I’m desperately clinging to as I make it through another Christmas season:

Emmanuel.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” -Matthew 1:22-23

God is with us. He is with us when we’re putting on a happy face to hide our loneliness, and He’s with us when we cry in our car on the way home from the Christmas party.

There’s something freeing in knowing that I don’t have to have it all together during the holidays. Even when I can’t wrap my head around the Christmas season, God is with us. God is with me. Jesus was born into mess and meets us in ours every single day—no matter how painful it is.

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