The holiday season is in full swing and waves of pain and grief engulf the joy of many this time of year.

Life adventure brings jubilant events as well as times in the valley of despair.

There can be an expectation (often self-imposed) of a Norman Rockwell, “ideal” holiday.

Social media doesn’t help – we can often fall into the comparison dilemma and imagine that everyone else has the perfect-non-trauma-heartache-free-overflowing-laughter-at-all-times life and holiday season we wish we could experience.

Maybe this year held great loss for you – job, family member, dream.

Maybe this year held a nightmare ordeal or torrential life event.

What do we do when we sit in the middle of life challenges and feel unable to summon joy?

When stressful thoughts swirl at all hours of the night.

When we cannot imagine how to draw the next breath around the raw agony coursing through our veins.

I heard one of my favorite Christmas songs the other day and it struck a chord of hope, positivity, and joy.

(One of the most overwhelming feelings during any stressful or grief-filled season is that of helplessness. Choosing a positive action can help us take steps in a meaningful direction!)

God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ, Our Savior

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Rest

Self-care is so important. There is a reason airlines educate passengers for emergency situations – in the event of cabin pressure loss, adult passengers are instructed to put their oxygen mask on before helping their child. The same concept is true in our lives. If we want to help others or be vital participants in our lives, we must take care of ourselves and be well-rested.

Take time for sleep, “mindless” brain exercises (puzzles, light reading, nature walks), and long breaks from the vortex of social media.

Resting doesn’t always mean complete inactivity but just a time give your brain and emotions some margin from the noise and challenges of life.

Invite good friends into your restful space if you like – it doesn’t have to be complete isolation.

Remember

Remember and reflect on times in your past when God worked things out for your good. Handwrite a list so you can spend time deeply remembering these occasions and have it on hand as a reminder.

If you are mourning the loss of a loved one, spend time thinking on happy memories with them in the past. Write these down as well. Find pictures of fun trips you took together or special times of celebration. Really ponder the love and care of those times. (This isn’t to say there won’t be emotional pain too, but be intentional about your focus on the happiness, just for a bit.)

Rejoice

Rejoice in the good news of the Savior’s birth. In the midst of misery, his joy and comfort can touch our souls in unimaginable ways. Cling to him, cry out to him, rejoice in who he is – your loving creator, helper, redeemer, and source of abundant life. Give thanks for his mercy and grace.

“For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   Isaiah 9:6

If you consider yourself a person of no faith will you try something this Christmas? Will you say a quick prayer to God and ask for help with your unbelief? Who knows, you might experience the good news and glad tidings of great joy in a new way this year.

If you are a person of faith for whom the birth of Christ is a reminder of the good news of salvation eternal and abundant life right now, may you fully live the blessings of this season. No matter your circumstances, remember you possess the peace that passes all understanding through the One who gave his all for us.

May the Lord richly bless you and may you have a Merry Christmas.