Today, on Christmas Eve, as I go about preparing for Candlelight Service tonight, looking forward to a gathering with my family tomorrow, and enjoying quiet time with my son, I can’t seem to fight back the tears. It isn’t that I am unhappy; I am just sad. I know that sounds ridiculous, but many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. Even as we experience the joy and peace of the holiday season, buried just underneath the surface is an aching sadness which clings to all we do.
Holiday depression is nothing new. People often experience the dual nature of a season which is meant to celebrate love, peace, and joy, but often highlights instead the lack of those very things in our everyday lives. Maybe you lost a loved one this year, and there is an empty seat at your table. Maybe you went through a divorce, lost your job, or have conflict within your family. Maybe you feel marginalized, afraid, or alone. Maybe you have experienced none of those things, but for some reason, just can’t seem to shake the feeling of sadness which has settled over you in the last few weeks.
Here are a few things I want you to know:
- God doesn’t make the bad things happen. It is not all “a part of God’s plan.”
- God does say that when bad things happen you will find peace and comfort in fellowship, the Holy Word, and communion with God.
- Depression is an illness like any other. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something you can just “get over.” And what you feel is legitimate and real.
- You are not alone. Let me say that one again: you are not alone.
- If your depression seems unbearable, there is help. Depression treatment is just a phone call away. Make the call. Just do it.
- Just cry. Grief is a legitimate emotion. Sadness is to be experienced, not held in. Just cry. Allow yourself to experience the range of emotions which the holiday can bring, and work through them all.
- Find something of joy, right now. Pet a dog. Go for a walk. Watch A Christmas Story (my personal favorite). Read an online devotional. Read the Bible. Visit a friend. Visit a nursing home. Take a bubble bath (a great place to cry, by the way). But do something that reminds you that joy still exists.
- Get dressed and leave your house. Drive around and look at lights. Walk at the park. Attend a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. Go to a movie.
- Love yourself. You are a good and worthy creation of God. You have gifts. You will be okay.
- I love you. And I am praying for you as you read this. I might not know your name, but I feel your heart. I believe in the hope of Christmas and the grace of God. May you find the peace of Christ this moment, and in that peace, know joy.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.