The holidays can be a joyous time with family and friends. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve bring plenty of opportunities to celebrate and reflect on the past year. However, the holidays can also cause pain, grief, and disappointment. Many of us feel alone during the holidays.
If you feel lonely at Christmas, it can help to remember that you’re not the only one. What you feel is not unusual or beyond hope. Resources, tools, and other people exist to help you navigate the difficult holiday season. Plus, God draws close to the lonely and brokenhearted.
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Each person’s circumstances are unique, but here are a few common reasons people feel depressed during the holidays.
Grieving During the Holidays
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. -Matthew 5:4
If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions can bring a fresh wave of grief. There’s a void left by those who are no longer with us. Whether it’s a recent loss or one that happened decades earlier, the pain can be especially fresh over the holiday season. Grief isn’t a predictable, straight path, so it’s normal to experience a sudden, strong wave of sadness.
It’s okay to grieve. About 40% of all the Psalms are psalms of lament. One entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations! Sorrow is not foreign to God.
Cry out to God about your mourning. He’s not intimidated by your emotions or questions. God has experienced loss and grief, as well. Jesus lost loved ones during His time on earth. He understands what you’re going through and has great compassion for you.
Separated from Family At Christmas
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
Thanksgiving and Christmas are often times for families to celebrate together. Holiday events, movies, and advertisements are often centered on family. That’s one of the reasons that distance from family at Christmastime can cause a void. Being separated from family due to estrangements or disagreements brings pain. Sometimes, even anger.
It’s in these moments that we need to remember that God is a God of restoration. There is no brokenness too broken for God. He can do miracles in people’s hearts.
Past experiences can make it unwise or unsafe to seek restoration of a family relationship, and that brings a unique type of grief. At the same time, God can restore your heart through forgiveness and peace.
No matter what reason you are separated from family over the holidays, talk to God about how you’re feeling and what you need. If you need to forgive someone, ask God to help guide your heart through that process. If you are praying for reconciliation with family members, pray for them and for your heart toward them. Finally, ask God to give you wisdom and patience as He guides you toward peace with your family.
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Longing for More at Christmastime
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18
Life has a way of surprising us in both good and bad ways. Perhaps you’re depressed during the holidays because life just doesn’t look the way you expected. Maybe you’re longing for a new career, or are tired of struggling in life. You could be struggling with addiction and are frustrated you still haven’t found the freedom you hope for. You may be longing for a spouse or a child, or are hoping for a new path for your family.
In these moments, you may feel like you’ve been left behind in life. But remember, God is right there with you. He hasn’t left you or neglected you. You are seen, heard, known, and loved. Lean on God and let Him comfort you.
Regardless of the reason behind your loneliness during the holidays, here are five things that can help you cope with sadness at Christmas.
Fight the Temptation to Isolate Yourself
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12
When we’re feeling depressed during the holidays, being social feels intimidating. We talk ourselves into staying home, even if it is lonely. But, simply bundling up to go for a short walk can boost our mood. The fresh air, physical movement, getting into God’s creation, and maybe even smiling or saying hello to someone refreshes our spirit.
Getting around others means you have to get out of your home and outside your comfort zone. Try to strike up a conversation with another customer or with the store clerk at a shop or cafe.
The Bible says it’s good for us when we can encourage and help others. Try out some volunteer opportunities where you may meet people who care about similar causes as you.
Whether you have friends or family available to talk with, don’t be afraid to seek out a professional. Whether it’s a pastor, mentor, or Christian counselor, they want to help you grow in a healthy, faithful way. Many providers are open to meet remotely, too, so you may have more access to support than you think.
Resist the Urge to Compare
You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. -Isaiah 26:3
We have the tendency to compare ourselves to others. We judge our finances, attractiveness, and relationships based on everyone else.
And, what if our source of truth—of how we should be or feel during the holidays—is what we see on TV and social media? It goes without saying that we’ll feel sad, lonely, and discouraged with what we don’t have.
You can fight loneliness during the holidays by resisting the urge to compare. Set your sights on what God says is important. Trust in God’s ways, keep your mind on Him, and remember all He’s given us.
Trust God’s Plan and Timing
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11
No matter what you are going through this holiday season, remember that God’s will for you is good. He loves you completely and has a plan and purpose for your life. It may not look like it in our narrow view on this side of heaven. But, we cannot fathom what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in our lives.
Spend time talking to God about your fears, hopes, and questions. Trust that God hears you and is working on your behalf.
Look for Little Mercies
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phil. 4:8
Whatever we focus on – true or false, good or bad – becomes magnified in our minds. That’s why, when Jesus was tempted, He fought back by quoting scripture. He focused on what He knew was true of the Father.
We can also remember God’s truth in small, practical ways. Try to keep truths from Scripture in front of you everyday. Write your favorite verses on notecards or on your bathroom mirror, or set it as your background on your phone or computer. We have a list of Bible verses for when you feel alone that you can use.
Expressing gratitude also shifts our perspective as we focus on what’s good. You can be grateful for the littlest blessings that God put in your path today, like an unexpected act of kindness, a characteristic of God that felt real to you, or anything in between.
Through these little mercies, we can break the pathways of negativity that could otherwise keep us spiraling in a dark place.
God is With You
At Christmas, we are reminded that Jesus came to earth to be with us. He experienced loneliness, sadness, rejection, and other emotions that you may be feeling right now. Jesus understands.
What’s more, Jesus came to earth to rescue us. He came to take on our guilt and pain. On the cross, He delivered us from sin and death so we may enjoy the freedom that comes from life in Christ.
Jesus is our Immanuel, God With Us. In all our messiness, God came near. He came to be with us – not because things were going perfectly, but because we were in desperate need of Him.
If you feel alone this Christmas, remember that God is with you. He sees you and loves you. You are never alone.
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