By Melissa McLaughlin

If we are honest, we would all admit having experienced this at some point… The world around us dances merrily to the joyful strains of Christmas hallelujahs while we sit quietly, the inner hum of sadness drones on, a low and steady beat in our spirits. We may smile for the camera, sing along to the Christmas carols, bake cookies for the family gathering, but underneath it all, the soul-weight pulls downward, like a gravity of the heart.

Though we read once again the story of our Savior’s birth, we find no joy in His coming.

Though we remember Him, born as a humble child, we see no wonder at this gift.

Though we sing of angels and shepherds and kings bowing down, our worship seems hollow.

Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one.

Perhaps the loss of a job or ministry.

Perhaps the loss of our health.

Or perhaps just the slow grind of life in a broken world, that slowly wore away our gratitude for God’s blessings.

No matter the cause, the problem remains.

How do I celebrate Christmas when I feel sad or low?

The answers are not complicated, yet when we are feeling weak, weary or worn, they are not necessarily easy.

1.The first step is to admit how you feel to God. Take it to the Lord in prayer. God is not threatened by our feelings, even when they appear overwhelming to us. He is our loving heavenly Father and He desires us to draw near Him with the entirety of our being, the good, the bad and the difficult. The phone line to God’s heart is never busy and He waits longingly to hear the sound of each person’s voice in prayer. Talk to Him, call to Him, cry to Him. God is always ready to listen.

2.Next, seek God’s comfort in His Word. God has revealed His nature, His heart and His ways to us through His Word, the Bible. Reading the Bible helps us hear God’s voice and receive His love. His truth can ring out over the hustle and bustle, the noise of our world and the whispers of defeat Satan murmurs in our ears. Read His Word like your life depends on it. Because it does.

Often when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will read the Psalms. Out loud. Reading the scriptures aloud helps you slow down your reading, read more deeply and hear the message of the words in a new way. Take your time reading and let God’s Word speak a new reality into your innermost being.

Many Bibles have a topical index with scriptures on subjects like comfort, peace or strength. This is also one of the best features our internet has to offer. You can conduct an internet search on any topic, by typing the topic word and adding the word “scriptures” or “Bible verses” and it will provide you with countless lists of topical scriptures.

Here is one example: Bible Verses to Comfort You by Biblestudytools.com

After I have collected Bible verses, I write them on cards or slips of paper and hang them around the house or place them in a visible spot in my car, in order to meditate on and memorize these scriptures. This way, I can read and reread and reread these verses allowing God’s Word the opportunity to occupy more space in my mind than my feelings.

3.Another helpful strategy is to praise God in the storm. Sing along to or listen to Christian worship music. It sounds like a small thing, but praising God through your tears or hard times reaps rich rewards. You can even say aloud, “God, I praise you when it hurts. I praise you when I’m sad. Because you are God and you are good. I praise you for Jesus, who died for my sins and won for me eternal life. I praise you, for this world is not my home. You have gone ahead to prepare a place for me in heaven. No matter what happens here and now, I praise you!”

Praising God in the midst of sorrow is like flipping a switch. A dark room is suddenly flooded with soft, illuminating light. Our eyes can view to new distances. We can now recognize what was formerly hidden or hazy. We can see God again in the light of Christ. The difficulties may remain, but praising the Lord despite the pain, allows us a vision of God through it all.

4.Finally, ask a trusted Christian friend to pray for you AND with you. Oftentimes we ask others to pray for us, then we both walk away. That may be good and helpful. However, when we hear another person pray aloud WITH us, voicing our needs, before our God, in our presence, the audible prayer can lift us higher and bring us deeper healing.

If the Christmas season is something you dread this year or if you find yourself just trying to “get through”, you are not alone. Pause and lean a little harder into Jesus. By setting aside a few extra minutes for personal prayer, Bible reading, songs of praise and partner prayer, we free up our clenched hearts for the gentle touch of our Savior to hold us day by day.

Along with these strategies, we remind ourselves that one day, our Messiah will make all things new. On that day, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

For anyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, this is our comfort of all comforts. A soul-comfort that goes beyond any sorrow of this life. Because of Jesus, we have no guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me. (Excerpt from “In Christ Alone”)

How do we celebrate Christmas, even in the hard times?

Because of Jesus, we can…

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Please join me in prayer. Heavenly Father, we praise you from the mountaintops and from the valleys, for even in the valleys you are God and you are good. We lay before you our sadness, sorrows, frustration and stress. We ask you to give us a fresh perspective as we read your Word, the Bible. Encourage our hearts as we gaze upon the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Help us raise our voices in songs of praise, for we know that praise lifts up your name and lifts up our spirits. Direct us to a Christian friend who could pray with us, for where two or three are gathered, you are in our midst. Send your Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to permeate our thoughts, our words and the attitudes deep in our hearts. Help us rest in you alone, for you are our Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Savior, Shepherd and King. Let us see Jesus anew this day. The One who made the trees, came as a babe to rest in a wooden manger, then laid down His body on a tree for our sins. May the magnitude of your great love for us, give us peace and fill us with hope once again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Additional Resources:

For additional tips on the power of prayer in tough times, check out my book, available on Amazon: In Dark of Night When Words Fail, Voice of Jesus Pray for Me. “This book is a great resource to keep on hand and share with anyone who is struggling, new to faith, or working on their prayer life!” (Customer review by Jamie T.)

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