Surviving Your Dark During Christmas

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king . . . “children-singing-christmas-song

 

“Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la”

 

Over the next few days, many will struggle to find “joy” or “jolly.” I’m thinking of dear friends who unexpectedly lost loved ones this year; a family shattered by a spouse’s infidelity in such a way that never again will the family sit together for a Christmas meal; my peer in ministry with crushing health issues; the “man or maid” alone on this holiday that seems to demand companionship; a wife who finally just had enough of her husband’s meanness and walked away, for the first time she faces a fractured Christmas; an elder who has managed to outlive her peers and her children; those parents whose son will not make a Skype call from Afghanistan this year, his death a few months back the result of an improvised explosive device; the resident of a local nursing home, surrounded by peers whose family have visited, but it seems she has been forgotten by her busy family.

Others with melancholy temperament, or having a physical disorder that results in a chemical imbalance known as depression may be “blue” in what is supposed to be these brightest of seasons.

 

My objective is not to cheer you, but to validate that what you feel is ok. Look to Matthew for validation. The ancient village of Bethlehem was the site of the birth of Jesus Christ, the grandest event in human history. In the same season of time when wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus, Bethlehem was also the site of atrocity worse than what happened in Berlin a few days ago.

 

16 Then Herod, . . . slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (Matthew 2:16-18) 

 

From the passage notice:

 

  1. The joy at Bethlehem’s stable did not eliminate or reduce the reality of “Rachel weeping for her children.” The birth of the king of the Jews, did not reduce the pain caused by the murder of a peasant child.  Matthew allows those who suffered depressing loss to own and mourn their loss. Neither the original prophet Jeremiah or Matthew criticize the residents of Bethlehem who lamented, wept and mourned – at the time of Christ’s birth. It is fine for there to be some tears at Christmas tables. You have permission to feel what you are feeling! Don’t apologize.
  2. The visit by the wise men; and Rachel’s weeping for her murdered children happened in close proximity. The lesson: sorrow and joy can co-exist. Loneliness and hope often use the same mailbox. Your sadness and depression should not define other people’s experience, nor should you expect it too. Children will laugh and enjoy their new toys; the ugly sweater contest will happen, even if you don’t participate; and MawMaw’s turkey and dressing will be as wonderful as ever. So . . . don’t pull your shroud of despair over everyone else.

 

Confession time:  on occasion I struggle with Christmas. I’m not sure why. There is no particular reason.  The “holy children” are a joy, Norma’s holiday meals merge the best of southern tradition with recipes gained from years of travel, days of holiday quiet are enjoyable but . . . still it is there. Perhaps my confession will at least help someone else feel themselves to have company in their strangeness.

Actually, there can be any of several reasons. My second most dominant personality trait is having a melancholy temperament. Further, at times, I’ve fought the dark battle of clinical depression. Also, I’m not particularly oriented to enjoy settings where I hear stories about “Aunt Lucille’s thyroid gland is acting up again.”

 

Some of the solutions:

 

  1. If any of this describes you, it is fine to feel what you and I share. Be comfortable in not being the “life of the party.” Be secure in your own skin.
  2. Don’t rain on other people’s holiday tradition or enjoyment of the season. God has not called any of us to be Scrooge. Your sorrow or melancholy and a son’s thrill at having bought himself a new drone for Christmas can coexist.
  3. Be present and visible for lunch, dinner and opening those presents, but at some point you may decide to take your Kindle reader, escape to a back room and read a book. You could even choose to get and read my book “Healthy Church, Start Here!”  from Amazon. Take some divinity, fudge, pecan pie and other assorted goodies and for a while enter your own little world. It will be fine. You have permission to do it.
  4. If the darkness, despair and your depression becomes overwhelming please call someone for help. The sadness of their season causes some to commit suicide. Please value yourself more than that. I do! Where you live, there is a suicide prevention hotline. There are people who will listen to your despair and may be able to light your path through the dark of your Christmas.

I’m interested in how you have worked your way through the challenges of this season. Please share your comments.

Some seasons of life the best you can do is survive, there is likely no way to thrive. Live the day; live the season; trust me, laughter will resonate again. Wise people around you likely know your pain and are willing to validate it as I am doing. The way you feel emotionally is not a reflection of how others feel about you.

If it seems there are none who will do so – find an elder who has lived 7 or 8 decades. Elders tend to intimately know the many faces of life.  They have lived the co-existence of life and death, light and dark, disappointment and hope. An elder’s hug and quiet conversation may well be exactly what you need this Christmas season.

 

My free e-book Where is God in My Dark Place is available again. Perhaps you have a friend who you know to be struggling with despair or depression this year. Would you send them a link to carltoncoonsr.com and suggest my free e-book to them

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10 Comments

  1. Unbelievably refreshing, empowering and enlightening to hear the truth resonate in your writings. One feels you have “been there and done that” . Coming from someone we respect makes it all the more validating. Thank you for candidly confronting a dilemma that many struggle with even as they maintain a daily relationship with God. May this aspect of your ministry bring you joy in your own journey.

    • Blessings . . . based on my observation of the scripture, many of God’s best faced some struggles of a similar nature. His grace has always seemed to be sufficient.

  2. As this is our first Christmas I am still figuring this out. We all process grief, loss, trauma etc very differently. While there are some universals there are those things that are simply our way. We need to give ourselves permission, as you alluded to, to feel and process according to our own emotional psyche. Not all those ways may be appropriate and it is not a shame for temptations to try to arise. Jesus allowed himself to be subject to temptation, he did it in an extremely weakened, weary, and lonely place, he conquered that temptation with the Living Word of God. In all the years I have been saved, I never thought or felt I wanted to drink like I did yesterday. I was fully delivered of that years ago. Never so overwhelmed in all that time. I am not ashamed of that. I understand it. The pain was so deep and I know that our carnal man is willing to go to any length to escape the pain. What I would have been ashamed of would be if I had succumbed to that. As bad as the pain, the momentary relief would not be worth the resurrection of pain that I know comes with a tragic fall back to that. I looked to the cross and Christ’s willingness to allow all those deep dark despairing emotion to burst forth when he cried out “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” In that instant all my feelings were nailed to that Cross, then taken to the grave and conquered. Now I understand that I will suffer, but that there is victory, if I hang on. My comfort comes in knowing two things. One is that I am not the only one who has felt this horrible, Paul stated he despaired even of life. That is deep, yet he still was able to make a teleological sense of it. Second, I know that I have a high priest who allowed himself to be touched be the despair that the Apostle Paul, you, and I feel and His throne is open that we may come, not timidly, but with confidence that we will get help and Grace to carry us through today. That is all we have to worry about, today. Tomorrow is a new day, and that throne will be there and available for what help we may need. For any temptation that my flesh and/or the Devil may to take advantage of, I know Christ has given me a way out. Oh it don’t make it feel any better, but it gives me the strength I need in my weakest moments. His perfect Strength.

    • Thank you. I know you would prefer to take a bypass instead of living through this particular season of your life. Unfortunately, we don’t get to opt out. Love you much and believe in you.

  3. Thank you Bro Coon. This helped me today…
    The way you feel emotionally is not a reflection of how others feel about you…
    Thank you for sharing that.

    You have been such a blessing to me personally. Through the last several years, I’ve listened to many interviews you participated in and read many of your writings. I believe you spoke at IN family camp a few years ago. I remember being on my porch listening online and feeling the Holy Ghost minister, speak and confirm some crucial things into my life. Your ministry has an eternal impact.

    God bless you this Christmas and all year through!

    • Your statement makes for an excellent comment on emotional health. Be blessed. Pass the link to the post on to two or three others who may be fighting the same battle.

  4. December 25th used to be my favorite day of the year. Now it’s December 26th. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the season, for I do. However, the hole in the heart is overwhelming. The understanding of what was will never be, is difficult to deal with. Thank you for validating what I feel. You allowed a therapeutic tear to escape.

  5. Thank yout for this timely and excellent writing. Just what I needed at this time.

    May the Lord give you a double portion of anointing

    Merry Christmas. 2016
    Diane White

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