Where to Turn When Sorrow Suffocates Seasonal Joy

I remember my first holiday season as a single parent. Surrounded by ringing bells and colorful bows, the only box I wanted to open was a box of Kleenex. Ever been there?

Christmas Box
(Image from Unsplash)

You Are NOT Alone!

We desperately wish it were the most fun and festive time of the year, but some Christmases aren’t fun and festive at all.

Neighborhood lights are twinkling, kids are singing, Santas are ringing holiday bells, but these sights and sounds only magnify our pain.

Those who have faced loss or who live with unresolved family conflict or who are haunted by childhood physical or emotional trauma often dread the holidays.

I recall interviewing Kay Warren several years ago about the loss of her son. Rick and Kay have served for years in the pastorate at Saddleback Community Church and are dearly loved around the world.

But that Christmas, the long cheery letters and cards with photographs of bright, smiling faces sent by well-meaning families became unbearable. Kay finally tossed them in a drawer, knowing nothing could change her sorrow.

I don’t know where you find yourself this year. Maybe when all is quiet, the sun goes down, and the lights turn off, the only wish on your list is to skip Christmas altogether and wake up to a new year.

While others are celebrating the arrival of Christ, you may be wondering where He is in your life today. When we’re suffering, our Savior can seem so removed.

I understand.

Coming Full Circle

Full Circle

(Image from Unsplash)

I recently shared Psalm 22 with a friend who is suffering this season. It is a lament categorized as a “Passion Psalm.” It foreshadows Christ’s suffering despite His being thoroughly blameless.

Psalms 16, 22, 40, and 69 are profoundly comforting during dark, deeply painful seasons.

In Psalm 22 God’s anointed, David, is anguished to the core. Caught in the ebb and flow of grief, David expresses enormous emotions, dangling between his human pain and intimate worship of almighty God.

When faced with grave sorrow, I encourage you to meditate on Psalm 22 daily. Read it out loud, write out the emotions you are feeling, and know God is with you at this very moment.

  • Psalm 22:1–2: David groans, crying out to the Lord day and night but finds no relief.
  • Psalm 22:3–5: David turns to worship, praising the Lord for rescuing those who, in the past, had cried out for help and God saved them.
  • Psalm 22:6–8: David succumbs again to grief, exhaustion, public doubt, and private discouragement.
  • Psalm 22:9–10: Connected to Psalm 139, David recalls the truth that he was created by God and is known by God . . . and that God is with him.
  • Psalm 22:11–18: Sometimes it seems grief or depression will never end. Here, David pens much more about his heart . . . his feelings of helplessness, loneliness, emptiness, weakness. David freely shares with God his enormous pain.
  • Psalm 22:19–31: After pouring out his heart, David’s words shift from thoroughly empty to confidently empowered. David praises the Lord for protection, for His faithfulness to those who have trusted God to come through. From past generations and those to come, David’s spirit is saturated in God’s saving grace and faithful promises. David is humbled before the King whom he honors.

I chose this Passion Psalm for a purpose. In Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, Christ, while on the cross, cried out words found in Psalm 22:1. Through hard seasons, we can find enormous comfort in knowing Christ understands EXACTLY how we feel.

This very moment, He cries with you; He catches your tears as they fall. He has felt just as you may be feeling today.

Because Christ in His suffering freely expressed His pain to His Father, you and I, too, can freely express our pain to God. And by God’s grace, we can endure.

Let Me Hear from You

In the week ahead, please let me know how you are doing.

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  • Gina Marie

    Hi Colleen, Happy New Year from the land of Oz! I sure hope it’ll be happy in more ways than not, for us both.

    Though this Christmas time arrived with less impact from past trauma, it brought with it profound exhaustion! Moving, studying, working, work placement, a parent entering the realms of dementia, all added to two in their last year of school (double rehearsals, performances, exhibitions and graduations), one moving and graduating their first degree, one still attempting to get accessible access to uni material, being the only driver, limited public transport…

    Christmas, though, was draining but not lonely. I enjoyed carols again for the first time in years (still not up to decorations). Had my whole family around with dad and some neighbours, much harder to do than it used to be but I actually enjoyed it all. I still yearn to be away, alone for a Christmas though.

    Looking back to God’s faithfulness, and loving kindness has been the only hope providing incentive to take one next right step though. I think that’s a large part of God establishing feasts, monuments, altars, records, and songs for his people. An often-missed expression of his favour and loving kindness toward us perhaps.

    Love to you from afar. Gina

    • HI GINA!
      SO good to hear from you!!! And yes, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and more. I love what you wrote about rituals…feasts, monuments, alters….yes, all as memorials of worship to our Heavenly Father. We do miss that in this crazy, busy world so often. I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”; he encourages us to stop the rush, step away from electronics and quiet our lives for periods of time so we can grow deep. While it’s terribly difficult when many things depend on you (as you wrote about-I so relate!), finding the quiet does change us and we need it. Perhaps this next year we can connect often on how we are doing with that…finding moments whether waiting in the car, in a line, cooking, or just stepping outside for a time to remember God and praise Him for His love, salvation, forgiveness, and more. I would love to hear your plans for this next year; what you are pursuing, and how I can encourage you. So thankful to hear from you my dear friend! Colleen