December 11, 2022
How's Your Mental Health?
I bet you’ve heard the Andy Williams song somewhere. On the radio, holiday playlist, and in the store. It’s a recognizable Christmas song, and has an incredibly catchy title - “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The song goes on to describe how awesome Christmas is - with friends hanging out together, marshmallows being toasted, caroling, ghost stories (for some reason), and spending time with loved ones. He even refers to it as the hap-happiest season of all.
That’s a lot of pressure, Andy. Sometimes our Christmases turn out like this - full of cheer and fun and memories. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. What do you do when you don’t feel like this is the most wonderful time of the year, but rather a time you’d prefer to rush past or forget? The loneliness, the grief, and the financial strain is too much and there is no room for Christmas cheer under your tree because you haven’t even had time to put the tree up this year.
If you are dreading the next month or two, here are a few suggestions on what to remember that can help us survive during the holidays.
1. Remember to communicate.
When the holidays aren’t going the way we want and an expectation isn’t met, a few things happen. We begin to take it personally, and we feel it deeply. We notice a loved one isn’t there, or we weren’t invited to the work party after-party, or we are just having a difficult time.
To survive it, talk it out. You can always talk to God. Sometimes, we don’t really know that we are expecting certain things. Talk to God about how you feel, what you think, and what you hope for… and ask him to help you navigate it. The Holy Spirit, which is God, can help you navigate the tough stuff. Ask him to help.
We can also talk to someone who understands and can support you through it. There are lots of circumstances beyond our control, and the holidays bring it out around us. Talk to someone who you trust and who loves you. Be honest, allow them to be honest. We are not alone. God is with us, and people are with us. It’s hard, and sometimes we have to seek it out a little bit, but the community is real and available. You are not alone. God is with you. The Ridge cares. Reach out to your group. Let us help you connect to a counselor. Talk to someone.
2. Remember to be thankful.
Even in the hard stuff, God shows up, and we can be thankful. Maybe it's a good job, someone who checks in on you, or an unexpected gift. Remember, be thankful for what we have. Full disclosure, I need help with this, but when I do it changes my demeanor. Be thankful for the things that are; don’t just acknowledge the things that aren’t.
Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Thank God for all he has done, and then what? THEN we get to experience God’s peace that we can’t even comprehend. It’s possible, in the middle of the holiday struggle, to have his peace literally guard our hearts and minds. Like a bouncer, not even allowing the things that don’t bring peace access.
3. Remember to forgive.
Sometimes we have formed expectations for friends or loved ones that they cannot live up to, especially during the holidays. That’s one of the issues with the Hallmark movie approach to life – when the stars don’t align and the Christmas miracle doesn’t happen, we get pretty upset. A lot of times that’s because we don’t have realistic expectations. There are times, though, when our expectations are reasonable and healthy, but they still aren’t met. And when this inevitably happens in our lives, we have a choice. Bitterness or forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
This is how I want to respond: Make allowance for faults? Nah, I’d like for you to live up to your potential.
Still, we’re all called by God to forgive without caveat. We forgive because we’re forgiven. We make allowance – ALLOW other people to have faults, just like we do. People who have been hurt (me and you) hurt other people. Forgiveness is what the holiday season is all about! It’s baked right in! Jesus died on the cross so that we could ALL experience forgiveness from God. God wants us to live a life full of forgiveness, freely given, and by choosing to forgive we are accepting a gift far greater than any perfect holiday season.
4. Remember God is in control.
God is in control when the turkey is burning.
God is in control when the family member offends you.
God is in control when the empty chair at the table is screaming at you.
God is in control when the finances aren’t going to add up.
God is in control when the loneliness seems overbearing.
God is in control when the darkness is closing in.
God is in control when hope seems so far away.
In your life. In the good stuff. In the bad stuff. He is in control. It is God who loves you right where you are.
Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
The hope that comes along from Christmas always shows up because of the work God is doing within us. That's really what the Christmas story is all about - God showing up at just the right time to save us. He was in control then, and he is in control now, and he is working in your life. When someone lets you down, God is accomplishing more than you can comprehend. When the Hallmark movie seems more like a dream than a reality, God is doing more than you can ask him to do. When the pain and darkness seem to be winning, know that God is in control, God loves you, and God is doing mighty work and will provide in ways we don't even understand.
Whatever it takes,