At Christmas, we want to enjoy time with family and friends, have a fantastic meal, and give and receive presents. We send out Christmas cards or social media posts with beautiful pictures and words. Yet often on Christmas, we feel disappointed or hurt because we know that something’s not right . . . and we just don’t feel the peace on earth.
How can we celebrate Christmas when we struggle with unresolved feelings of hurt and sadness for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world? I’m so thankful that Christmas is more than the right food, decorations, presents, and relationships. Being in touch with brokenness and pain can be a way of experiencing greater joy and hope in Jesus. His birth had the same mix of joy, longing, and pain, and we can come to him exactly as we are with all our feelings.
Be Honest with Jesus This Christmas
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16
Some of us won’t be spending Christmas with family. Or even as we gather, we feel the pain because a loved one has passed away. I rejoice that my dad is now with Jesus in heaven, but we miss him, and it’s hard to see my mom alone after 65 years of marriage. My friends who lost their young son to cancer will always feel that gaping hole, even as they enjoy and love their other children. Jesus invites us to come to him with our sadness.
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3
Or we may feel the ache of something missing in our relationships. For me, it’s a husband, children, and now grandchildren. And even if you’re married and have children, it may not be all you hoped for, so you feel deep disappointment. Jesus invites us to come to him with our loneliness and discontent.
“It was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.” Isaiah 53:4
You or someone you love may be struggling with physical or mental health issues. A close friend of mine is still recovering from an unexpected stroke and finds it difficult to walk. Other friends are caring for a loved one who is dying. We feel the pain of those we love and long for them to be at peace. Jesus invites us to come to him with our loved ones who are suffering.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 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.” Philippians 4:6-7
And when we dare to look at the world, our hearts ache even more when we see wars, natural disasters, violence, terrorism, racism, starvation, and unjust tragedies. Jesus invites us to come to him because he loves the world and has power to restore and heal.
“What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
As we approach Christmas, we know we are not that perfect picture in a greeting card or movie. We know our weaknesses, our disappointments, the pain of our loved ones, and the brokenness in the world.
Jesus Understands Us
Jesus came vulnerably as a baby born to an unwed mother who was a virgin. He was a refugee. And, as he grew, he felt the emotional pain of misunderstanding, loneliness, rejection, and betrayal. He never got to marry or have children or grandchildren. He knew what it felt like to have his closest friends desert him. He knew what it was like to be beaten and tortured to death.
When he died, Jesus took our sicknesses, diseases, and sins upon himself. He took strokes, mental illness, cancer, abuse, and addiction. He understands our weaknesses, brokenness, disappointments, and loneliness. Jesus feels deep compassion for our broken world and longs to bring restoration. He died for all of us and God raised him from the dead. Death and sickness have no power over him. We can invite Jesus into our suffering and he is present.
Jesus is always with us even if we are houseless, in the hospital, or in prison. Somehow Jesus can care for each of us but also care for everyone in the world. Because of Jesus, we have hope for ourselves and for this world to have love, joy, and peace.
Struggling on Christmas Can Be a Great Gift for Us
As I am honest with Jesus and experience his love and companionship, I’m reminded that I am not alone; Jesus is my husband and brother, God my father, and the Holy Spirit always with me. If I open my eyes, I see that I am rich with spiritual children and grandchildren. Our struggles are a reminder to us that life is more than the right food, presents, financial situation, or relationships. Our joy and satisfaction in life come from being connected to Jesus, worshiping him, receiving from him, and having hope in him. This is good news for us, for our loved ones, and for the world.
Thank you, Jesus, for coming so vulnerably in great weakness, and being willing to suffer in every way! Forgive us for finding greater joy in family, friends, food, and comfort than in you! Give us strength to let go of anything that replaces joy and faith in you, and when we find ourselves in need, let us rejoice that you are our rock and refuge!
Brenda has spent over 41 years leading, discipling, and developing InterVarsity students and staff in San Francisco and Hawai`i. You can support her ministry at https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#17.