I really do struggle this time of year. The reasons don’t really matter; if you can identify me in my holiday blues, you have a nuanced situation that is different than mine, and I want to be able to serve you where you are. I have been doing better overall the past few Christmas seasons but I still don’t mirror the festive mirth of almost everyone around me. I know many can relate to me; please comment below if you need to talk.
Clinging to the Psalms
David was one of the most blessed men ever to live, and yet he was plagued at times with discouragement. Does that mean he was ungrateful for all God had given him? Not at all. If David’s laments were sinful in some way, the LORD would not have included them in His divinely inspired prayer and songbook.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2, ESV)
If you are struggling, I would encourage you if you have not already, to find a Psalm that resonates with you and pray through it regularly and fervently. The page in my Bible containing one of my favorites is quite wrinkled from tears falling on it. It is an old and trusted friend.
Though He Slay Me, Yet Will I Praise Him
It needs to be said that, even though discouragement is not inherently sinful, my propensity to sin when I am down is huge. My eyes tend to be on myself, and any kind of prolonged self-focus is always spiritually dangerous. In extreme cases, I can be entrenched in self-pity, shockingly apathetic toward others, and utterly prayerless. If I do cry out to God in these times, there tends to be a subtle accusation toward Him for what I am suffering.
Job 3 contains a starkly graphic lament, including the godly man’s regret that he was not allowed to die as an infant. Throughout the first few chapters of the book, though, the writer of Job tells us Job did not sin with his lips, nor did he accuse God of wrong. He crossed that line later, like I tend to, and the LORD rebuked Him severely. Rightfully. God is good, and He does good (Psalm 119:68), and He is ever worthy of praise.
“How are you, Great Aunt Matilda?”
There are those people who, when you forget yourself and ask them how they are, quickly make you regret that you did. They are emotional black holes whose negativity and complaining suck the life and joy out of everyone in their paths. I desperately do not want to be one of them. My children, now grown, had no idea until recently that I’ve always dreaded Christmas. Very few people know this about me; I don’t want my dark cloud to be theirs as well. This is one way I have tried to serve their interests, to count them more significant than myself (Philippians 2:3-4). Whose interests are you seeking right now? Who can you look outside of yourself to serve?
The flip side of this is that I rarely ask anyone to pray for me, or tell them what I’m really thinking. I don’t let the body of Christ be the body of Christ to me, and I sin in doing so. I’m doing better now– I have a few awesome sisters who are honored to walk with me when I need them, if only I will admit that I do! How are you doing in this area? Who can you share this struggle with? Or if you don’t struggle in this way, who can you come alongside and encourage?
I may not be mirthful, but I am joyful; profoundly so! The Eternal Son of God left His throne and condescended to enter His creation to redeem me from the curse of sin and death. Because of this, my pain does not have the last word– it will end. And while it remains, I have the privilege of bearing the image of my LORD and serving those He has placed in my life. Emmanuel has come to us, Believer! Rejoice!
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:5-11 ESV