Thursday, December 5, 2013

When Christmas Carols Sting the Heart

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
~ Proverbs 25:20, NIV ~

There are times in ones life where our trust in God is put to the test.   You know the times I speak of.  They come too often for parents like us, raising children with physical, cognitive or emotional difficulties.  These are the periods of time where the heartache is unrelenting.  Grief is the house guest we wish would leave.  Brutal circumstances affecting job, home, health, finance and family converge all at once without respect for one another.  And we flag under the heaviness of it all.

Weighty times like these can sometimes become more difficult when they impose themselves on us during the holidays.  It is difficult to feel the wonder and joy of Christmas when God seems silent or distant.  While we may know in our minds that the Lord is faithful, the deep aching in our souls when God chooses not to act can turn Christmas carols into a dirge.  The celebrating around us feels like the world  thumbing its nose at our pain, unwilling to slow down for a hug of reassurance.

Maybe that is the greatest gift to those of us who suffer deeply during the holiday season.  Compassion.  Don't push us to come to your parties and cantatas.  Invite us, but don't push us.  Understand that it may take a whole day's energy just to get dressed.  Take time to listen, to hold a hand, to say, "That stinks!", when you hear the details of our darkness.  Let us know that you will be here with us to walk the distance until things improve or even if they never improve.  Don't make us feel bad for feeling bad.  Life cannot always be reduced to a Bible verse as the magic bullet to make us "snap out of it."  We may not be the faithless person you assess us to be merely because we are groaning under the weight of our sadness.  Just understand that you may not understand.  Be tender and kindhearted, comforting those of us who are in a season of travailing.  Our pain may make you uncomfortable, but you need to change your expectations of us.  God designed us to weep in a season of mourning.

It is sad and hard when...
                                                 a child is hospitalized.
                                                                                            a spouse is unemployed.
                   someone close to us has died.
                                                                                                        our child is being ostracized at school.
a friend has betrayed us.
                                we can't afford to buy our children Christmas gifts.
                          the Church is vacant when we need to see "Jesus with skin on."
Yes, sometimes the swirling joy around us feels more like salt in the wound than an uplifting of our souls.  It is at times like these that we need others to slow down like the Good Samaritan, notice us, cross the street to our side, and help us find us a place of rest until we have healed a bit.  That is the sort of tenderness that helps us cling to what we know when our eyes cannot see it nor our heart feel it.

PRAY:  Invisible God, show us Your love in practical ways today.  Soften the hearts and minds of others so that they can show us compassion at our weak times.  Thank You for giving us the hope that, even though this Christmas may be difficult, we either get another chance at one here on earth next year or get to celebrate forever in heaven with You.  Praise You, Lord, that Your grace and mercy don't depend on our moods, attitudes or circumstances.

~Barb Dittrich

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