Thanksgiving 2014 is now tucked away in our collective past, and I’m thinking about you, sweet (in)courage readers, the ones for whom this isn’t the most wonderful time of year. Maybe for you, it was hard to give thanks, hard to choose joy.
Maybe today, while the rest of the world is buried under Black Friday bargains, you’re still buried under covers. Maybe you’re dreading the countdown to Christmas because it flat out hurts too much.
It’s okay to admit that, really it is. You’re safe with me and in this place, because if you don’t have the freedom to be honest here—in our Proverbial beach house—where can you be? Here, the welcome is warm no matter how deep the snow. I just wish the hugs were skin to skin.
Eight years ago I was journeying my father’s end of life during the holidays, and my heart was torn between the living and the dying.
Two years ago we were planning our trip home after living a year in Germany, knowing that when we landed we were leaving one job behind and facing uncertainty, not knowing when or where the next job would come.
Right as the holidays were gearing up, there were hard good-byes, and in some cases, forever good-byes. Black Friday bargains were irrelevant when we had no idea when the next paycheck would come. Brave-faced, I lived small and inward because to talk about our circumstances over and over was wearying. I didn’t know how to ask for help or maybe it was just too defeating. Maybe I was too proud.
Regardless, the holidays were hard.
Yes, the holidays were hard even though I trusted God for my salvation and provision. I don’t think anyone ever thinks that claiming the name of Christ will insulate you from everyday problems, but sometimes it feels like failure if you can’t just pull up your bootstraps and move on when life gets tough.
Are you having a Blue Friday? Are you struggling with guilt because you’re finding it impossible to rise above your circumstances? Do you feel like your faith is anemic because . . .
you’re grieving a loss so great—a child, a parent, your best friend—you don’t feel like you’ll ever recover?
your marriage is at an all-time low, and you’re wondering if there’s greener grass somewhere else?
you’re tired of being lonely, and no matter how hard you try, the loneliness never seems to change?
you and/or your husband can’t find a steady job, and you don’t know how you’re going to pay the bills?
your children have made poor choices that threaten their future and impact your entire family?
you or one you love is not well and may never be this side of heaven?
While I can’t fix your circumstances—I sure can’t fix my own when life feels out of control!—I can offer you some tender counsel I’ve found to be true.
Recognize faith has nothing to do with our feelings.
Faith is a lot of things—evidence and substance, victorious, salvific, demonstrative—but it isn’t dependent on your feelings. Feelings are deceptive. They lie. They confuse. We cannot trust our feelings, but we can trust the One who created our feelings and cares most about us.
Relish the redemptive purpose.
It will do our hearts good to remember not one breath of our life is wasted, that everything we experience can ultimately be for our good, God’s glory, and somehow for the Gospel’s sake. We can ask the Lord to show us how our pain or long-suffering can bless another. When we’ve walked a long road or battled a stronghold, once we’ve made it to the other side, our hearts are tendered toward like circumstance. We’ve gained the knowledge of how to minister to another because we know what it feels like from the inside out.
Do the things you know to be right even when you don’t feel like it (especially when you don’t feel like it?). Pray. Spend time in Scripture. Seek, listen to, and respond to godly counsel. Be open and willing to change and receive the hard times as refining fire. Sometimes it’s true: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, which to me, is a lovely redemptive purpose of life’s hardships.
If you need help, ask. If you need help . . . a s k. People are not mind readers and don’t know what they can do; they don’t want to assume or impose. Oftentimes, people are more than willing to help, but they find it awkward to offer; they don’t want to make you feel bad or self conscious. So help them, help you—verbalize your need and don’t apologize for it. There will be a time when you can return the favor.
Reach out to others.
Even on your darkest days you still have something you can give. Never underestimate your countenance, kind words and a warm smile—they might be the brightest spot in someone else’s day. Extend grace. Volunteer at your church or babysit your neighbor’s children. When you give, despite your personal void, you’re considering others more highly than yourself.
Remember “this too shall pass.”
No matter how blue this season is for you, it will get better. Maybe because the circumstances themselves will change or maybe because your perspective or attitude will change. Perhaps both.
Let’s walk this season with hearts and eyes wide open, that we might see and be sensitive to those who are having a hard time; then pray to respond like Christ.
No matter how those around us are struggling—physically, financially, emotionally, relationally or spiritually, there are ways we can help. Is there anything more incredible than someone telling you “you’re the answer to my prayer”?
Listen well. Invite over. Offer help. Encourage often. Be generous.
Share your stories—what you’re struggling with, why you’re feeling blue, how you’ve endured a difficult season and now see the redemptive purpose. I’d love to hear them all!
With love and hugs,Leave a Comment