It was barely noon on Christmas day and I ransacked the house, tearing down the Christmas tree and all the decorations, trying to rid the house and my heart of every visible reminder of Christmas…my first Christmas without my mother; my first Christmas in the unwanted role as matriarch of the family.
I had heard, but never previously paid close attention, to people speak of those for whom Christmas was not a joyous time of year. I couldn’t previously relate. How could it not be joyous? It was a time of family, celebration, and, of course, remembering the ultimate gift in the form of the birth of our Savior so many years ago.
I wept as I fell to my knees, willing the clock to speed supernaturally forward 12 hours to December 26th, as if that would put an end to my pain. I didn’t want to see everyone else’s happy family pictures and smiling faces, when all I could do was cry while feeling our family was now and would always somehow feel incomplete, as I grieved my mother’s early departure from this world. I wanted to feel comforted in my loss. I wanted what had been taken from me to be returned so that my children could know their grandmother and grandfather—both now in heaven. I wanted the pain to end and life to return to “normal.”
Yet another glimpse into the pain others experience during the holidays came several years later when for the first time in 15 years, my husband’s parents didn’t join us for their traditional three-week visit at Christmas. Stricken with Alzheimer’s, and in a memory care unit, travel was too difficult on my mother-in-law, disrupting her routine and exacerbating her confusion. Taken quite by surprise that year, I awoke before any of the other family members on Christmas morning and scrolled through social media posts, but I was sad and disheartened, absent the normal holiday cheer that always accompanied spending time with my family and celebrating our Savior’s birth.
In my quiet time, I took this disconcerting feeling before the Lord and realized I was again grieving. Although not a physical death, it was a death of tradition of family time spent together, and the death of a relationship that would no longer be what it once was. While we had our memories of years past, no new memories would be formed—a mirror of what she was encountering as a result of a wicked disease process.
Those two years dramatically shifted my perspective. Ever since that first Christmas without my mother and best friend, I now look into the eyes of others and see the pain of those for whom Christmas is not the most joyous time of year.
Despite the carols, and lights, and festivities galore, the holidays are for many, a difficult and painful reminder of all they have lost or lack. The parties and gift exchanges just further serve as a tool of comparison for what they cannot do or do not have. No other time of year is there such a time of concentrated comparison that serves to stir up pain and regret.
As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas, let us remember the reason Christ came: to share God’s love in physical form so that we might ultimately come to know Him.
Let us be aware that many are in pain right now from the loss of friends and family members due to death, divorce, deployment, addiction, incarceration, poor health, estrangement, and poor choices. Many are dealing with a disparity between their hopes and expectations and the reality of what is. What they need from us is not an admonishment to “Cheer up,” but for us to be a light in their darkness, and love in their brokenness.
Let us pray that in His faithfulness, God will be near to the brokenhearted this holiday season, and save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
If you have been there, as I have, and know what it’s like to grieve and lack joy when it seems the rest of the world is singing Christmas carols and drinking eggnog, you have a particularly special gift to give this year. Because of your own experience, your ability to empathize with another’s suffering, you can now comfort others with the comfort you were given during your own period of pain and suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4). In doing so, maybe they will come to know Him through our love. I can hardly think of any other gift that would mean as much, can you?
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Christmas Special! Free Study Guide and More!
Purchase the book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” today and you’ll receive the online version of the “Hope Prevails Study Guide”, as well as the ebook, “How To Help a Depressed Loved One” and “99 Truths From God’s Word to Speak Over Your Life to Combat the Lies of the Enemy”.
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A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)