When the Holidays are not Happy
By H.B. Charles, Jr.

The holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years – is a special time for many people. It is a time of celebration. Family and friends come together that may not have seem one another for a while. Wonderful meals are enjoyed. Gifts are shared. Affirming traditions are practiced. No wonder so many people look forward to the year-end holidays all year long.

But this is not the case for all. There are also many people who find the holidays to be a time of grief and sorrow.

My father was estranged from his father for most of his adult life. They finally reconciled. And my dad drove across the country to pick up his father, who was to live with him. His father died during the trip back to the West Coast. On Thanksgiving. As a result, my father could never really “celebrate” Thanksgiving.

Your story may not be as dramatic as my father’s experience. But the sorrows of the holidays are just as real to you.

It may be that the recession has brought about a financial reversal in your life. And the holidays are an acute reminder of your new reality.

You may be separated from loved-ones because of military service.

The holidays may be particularly stressful time that causes you to become anxious about your life situation.

A misunderstanding or disagreement may have broken fellowship with those you care about.

You may feel that you have healed from the grief a death has caused until the holidays come around again.

These days may confront you with the fact that the plans that you started the year with did not come to pass.

Things in your life are not the way you want them to be and just don’t feel like celebrating.

For whatever reason, you may face this holiday season with a sense of trepidation. You just want it to be over with. The Lord sees and knows and cares about you. Your situation is in his sovereign hands. And God really does cause everything that happens in life to cooperate for the benefit of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

The holidays may not be a happy time for you. What should you do? “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

This is the power of Christian joy. You don’t have to be happy to rejoice! Give your situation to God. Count your blessings. Remember the faithfulness of God. Trust his promises. And praise God that things are as well as they are.

Job was right. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Bless the Lord, because he always gives before he takes away. Bless the Lord, because he always gives more than he takes away. And bless the Lord, because even when he takes away, he leaves you enough to make it with.