The Christmas season is a wonderful time to celebrate the life and hope of our faith. Joyous music fills our ears, bright lights adorn trees and houses, and the scent of fresh pine greets our noses.

This time of year can also turn our focus to the negative what ifs of life, especially when we are in the midst of painful experiences or during times of stress and worry.

There are many negative what ifs we humans often consider:

What if I end up alone?
What if I never marry?
What if something bad happens to me or to someone I love?
What if my health fails?
What if I have serious financial problems?
What if I can’t pay my rent next month?
What if my life has no meaning?

There are so many what ifs in life and I must confess I occasionally fret over one (or ten). ☹.

I recently completed foundational work on a research project that had me knee-deep in the past remembrance of infertility pain and struggle. During interviews and discussions with women who walked through infertility, we shared positive and hopeful experiences. We also discussed several of those what ifs we still meet with every once in a while.

This year I have also seen and heard about other areas of loss and uncertainty with people in my life. Some have gigantic what ifs right now. Their range of pain is vast and this time of year that represents hope and love can also scrape those deep, raw places of suffering.

In our technology-filled world we often come face to face with what appears to be harmony and perfection in the lives of our friends and acquaintances (even strangers) in the very areas of our lives that seem hopeless.

Making the assumption that the memories and photos we view represent bliss without blemish can add to our sadness and create even more negative what ifs.

What can we do when the holiday season shines a spotlight on our soul deep suffering?

– If you feel lonely, reach out to a friend or loved one. We must be willing to be vulnerable with people we trust. If we don’t share that we are lonely they won’t know. Make a plan to gather with those you care about. Being alone in difficulties is sometimes desired for a bit, but put a limit on alone time and make isolation purposeful.

– Find a creative outlet to make solitude a time of peace and beauty. Listen to inspirational music, take a walk in nature, paint a picture, or build something.

– Walk, drive, or ride a bus to see the display of Christmas lights in your area. With each colorful view think of a positive what if in your life. This is not to replace or deny pain but to start a process with baby steps in a proactive direction.

– Pray for comfort, peace, and joy.

The Christmas light displays project a bright spot in the night. Even when they are covered by snow from a storm, they beckon to the dark recesses of our soul.

Sometimes we have to look beneath the fallout of the storm to see the glow of hope underneath.

Your life matters.

You are a valuable creation uniquely formed by Almighty God. Hold fast to hope and grasp all that this season of promise and love represents.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

(If you know someone in the midst of grief or pain this season, how can you offer hope in a practical way? Would love to hear examples that we all can offer!)