How to be Thankful When You Dread the Holidays
Thanksgiving and Christmas may be a difficult time of the year, bringing increased stress and anxiety.
For some, it highlights a sense of isolation or pain due to the loss of a loved one or of not having family nearby.
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Perhaps romantic expectations of what the holiday should look like and never quite attaining that specialness is a huge factor in dreading days that should be filled with appreciation and hope.
Amidst our tears and fears, the exciting truth is you and I may face this time of the year with hope in our heart. The Lord Jesus loves us and has promised to always be with us.
Gifts and finances.
What should you get for Suzie? Uncle Ron?
You’re short on finances and feel compelled to meet expectations of family or friends, who think it’s okay to go into debt to buy everyone expensive gifts.
Give yourself permission to do what is right for you. You don’t have to go into debt to have a good time.
As you move forward, be mindful of the wonderful gifts you enjoy every day.
The busy working Mom.
You’re exhausted and can barely think straight.
How can you get everything done in time?
What will give you encouragement so you are a blessing to others?
What about cutting back and simplifying your preparations and plans? This is to be an enjoyable time. Pace yourself lest you struggle with resentment and lose an opportunity to make a special memory with your family.
Give yourself permission to enjoy this time. When you feel stressed, stop and breathe deeply. Relax and do something fun.
Break your tasks into manageable goals interspersed with things to make you laugh and be thankful for.
You’re single, divorced, or widowed.
Perhaps you are grieving the death of a beloved friend or spouse. Firsts are always painful. Tears are near the surface.
What if no one invites you to dinner and you have to face what should be a time for family and friends all alone?
Or what if you’re invited to a party and have to go alone?
Give yourself permission to feel sad or even to cry. Find someone you don’t have to pretend with who will listen and allow you to share your emotions.
Even though grieving, seek to enjoy and give thanks for those around you.
If you stress out about receiving a special invitation, you will move into fear. If you don’t get that special invitation, you will feel rejected, discouraged and depressed.
Be proactive. Volunteer to help serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at a local homeless shelter. Bake cookies and take to the fire station.
Bless someone who doesn’t have family by inviting them for dinner or for dessert. Reach out to someone else; it doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive to be a special time.
Celebrate life rather than self-isolate.
You feel depressed.
You’ve heard suicides increase during this time of year and you feel afraid.
Take a deep breath. That is a myth. Suicides actually decrease because this is a time to be with family and friends. AND the Lord Jesus is only a prayer away.
Remember the old Viking saying – “This too shall pass.” Don’t focus on what you don’t have or feelings of fear or depression. Be mindful of your blessings. Start a thanksgiving journal.
Think of what will help you feel more connected and grateful. Call a friend and invite them out for coffee.
Take a walk. Paint a picture. Put on Handel’s Messiah. Dance or sing about God’s love. Bake a pie.
There is much to be grateful for. I know how difficult it is to face the Holiday’s with feelings of sadness, regret, loss, and loneliness.
It is also difficult when your family is on the other side of the country or isn’t interested in family times.
Let’s join together and look for opportunities to give thanks in the midst of our pain!
1. The gift of life. Today is a gift. Let us be intentional and give thanks for this moment. We don't have to try to be thankful for tomorrow or even the next moment. Let us just give thanks in this moment, even if tears are streaming down our face.
2. Family & friends. Even when we feel unloved, the Lord sees us and cares.
3. Beauty of Creation. Go outside and enjoy the wonder of a starry night; feel the snow kissing your cheeks. Enjoy the majesty of a mighty river, a baby’s smile, the resilience of flowers pushing through the snow.
4. Sight – the ability to see our child’s face, the face of a loved one, or the beauty of a tree or flower. If blind, the ability to touch our loved one’s face, or feel the roughness of the bark or the smooth texture of the flower.
5. Hearing – the ability to listen to a symphony or to the song of birds. If deaf – the ability to feel vibrations.
6. The Word of God – enjoy the Christmas story. Celebrate the birth of Christ and the beauty of His life.
7. Jesus Christ became a man to show us His Father's heart of love. Jesus understands your pain, your fears, your loneliness. He weeps with you.
8. Calvary – Jesus died in our place, taking our sin and shame on Himself so we could be set free to experience relationship with the Father.
9. The empty tomb – Christ arose! Because He lives, you and I may celebrate life with the hope of being reunited with our loved ones.
10. Our hope is Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in circumstances, wealth, education, or success. Jesus loves you regardless of success or failure. Bask in that wonderful truth and sing “Jesus loves me”.
Dear Heart, I pray you experience the Lord quieting your heart with His love. May you face this season knowing you are never alone. You are precious to the Lord; He understands your deepest sorrow and will enable you to walk in gratitude. Be blessed my dear friend and walk in the hope of the resurrection.
What are you thankful for this Holiday season? Share something that encourages you below!