When I was a kid, Christmas couldn’t come fast enough. I loved the big family gatherings, seeing my cousins, all the great food (especially my mom’s fudge), decorating the tree, and of course all the presents. I loved it all. And my birthday is in December. It was the best month of the year.
Now, my family is broken, I have children who don’t speak to me, and all decorations are just work I don’t have time for. December hurts and January can’t come fast enough. I just can’t wait to get it all over.
December is hard for a lot of people. The physical darkness in the Northern hemisphere this time of year doesn’t help any either. It’s a well-known fact that depression increases this time of year, and the lack of sunlight is one component. Another, and probably larger, component is the holidays highlight the pain in our lives from broken families that we push down the rest of the year.
When parts of your family are dead to you, either literally, emotionally, or relationally, how do you get through watching everybody else’s happy family? What do you do when everyone else’s happy, jolly Christmas just screams to you your own loss and brokenness?
I had a pastor who, as a young boy, used to love visits from his favorite uncle. His uncle would always invite him into a pocket swap: “I’ll give you what I’ve got in my pocket for what you’ve got in yours.” The young boy always had something ordinary in his pocket he gladly gave his uncle. Sometimes a rock. Or string. Or a frog.
But the uncle always had something special in his pocket. Sometimes a piece of candy. Sometimes a shiny silver dollar. It was always worth the exchange.
Jesus is inviting us into a gift exchange with him this holiday season: “I’ll give you what I’ve got in my heart for what you’ve got in yours.” This is how I get through the holidays. By doing a gift exchange with Jesus. Sometimes every day.
I’ve got pain, brokenness, pain, betrayal, more pain, rejection, and yes, even more pain. I get away by myself, usually in the mornings, behind the closed door of my office at home. Sometimes I play my keyboards and worship. Sometimes I lay on the floor and cry. Sometimes I pour my heart out in travail. But there’s one common thread. In those moments, I give Jesus all my pain in my heart. It’ll probably look different for you. That’s ok.
And I stay there until I get what he’s got in his heart. Peace, joy, stillness, quietness of spirit, and most importantly, hope. Precious hope. And I realize, after receiving it, that hope is the thing I was missing and needing the most.
One of the most deceptive lies is that the current situation will last forever. “This is just the way it is.” Not true. It’s a season. We don’t know the length, but God does, and it is of limited length, one way or another. This pain will not pass into eternity, even if it’s not healed in this life, which a lot of it will be. Because that’s God’s desire. Hope blows away the lie that this pain is forever. It’s not.
My gift exchange with Jesus doesn’t change the painful situation. I’m still living in the loss and living with the pain. But it’s no longer overwhelming, and my sense that He’s on it, in control, not caught off guard by it and in fact is working in it. The blood of Jesus is stronger than the pain.
How about you? Does your heart need healing?