If You Sorrow Deeply this Christmas…
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Today we were bombarded yet again, with tremendous sorrow and shock — this time the evil slaughter of innocent children in Pakistan. Amidst the holiday celebration, there is tremendous sorrow. And pain. And loss.
Perhaps you are one of those who cannot stop crying, even as the radio stations play “Deck the Halls” and sponsor Ugly Christmas Sweater contests? It’s just too, too much, and sometimes you wish it were over…
Last year, during a concert, singer/songwriter Michael Card told my church family that he identifies with those who are depressed during Christmas. In fact, he even said that out of the 400+ songs he has written, his most favorite is “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows.” As I heard him sing it in our 1761 century Meetinghouse that evening, it soon became one of my favorites as well.
“In this most holy place, He’s made a sacred space,
for those who will enter in and trust to cry out to Him.
And you’ll find no curtain there, no reason left for fear.
There’s perfect freedom here, to weep every unwept tear.” (Michael Card)
Not your typical Christmas carol. But appropriate for all who weep. That child who was born into a dark and evil world – Christ – was born to join us in our pain. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood…” (John 1.14 MSG) This Christ child was also “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah 53) He knows what our lives are like. And that’s why He came — to sit with us in our sorrow, to guide us in our bewilderment, and to give us hope to take the next step.
Emmanuel — God with us — is the great good news for all who weep today.
If you are someone who is struggling to lift up your sorrows, perhaps these few suggestions from a counselor can help you adjust your holiday expectations:
1. Talk about your feelings. It’s okay to be sad, even when others are not. Opening up with safe and supportive family and friends can be a great way to cope. Also talking with your pastor, a counselor or attending a grief support group can be especially helpful.
2. Make a plan to honor your loved one. There are many ways to do this- anything from watching their favorite Christmas movie, to lighting a candle at the dinner table, to hanging a special ornament on the tree can all help you feel connected to that person. Don’t be afraid to say their name, to reflect on happy holiday memories spent with that person or look at old photos. While those things may often bring tears, they can also bring comfort.
3. Give yourself permission to change your usual traditions. It’s ok to not go out in crowds if that feels overwhelming. It’s ok to skip putting out all the decorations you normally would. It’s ok to cook less, or not at all. During times of grief and loss, it’s most important to take good care of yourself. Over-scheduling and pressure are especially hard to handle, so eliminate everything that is draining, and make time for comforting and resting.
4. Spend time with loved ones. While over-scheduling is not good, isolating can lead to depression. Many grieving individuals find it helpful to create a support team of two to three people who call and visit, and whom you can call anytime you need to talk. Often friends and family don’t know how to help when someone is grieving. There are probably several people in your life who have said “If you need anything, let me know.” Ask them to be a support person. Ask them to call you every few days and tell them you might need to call them just to cry or talk.
5. Try to spend time in prayer, reading your Bible and worship. Remember that God cares for you. It’s ok to feel angry with God during grief, but try not to allow that feeling to keep you from Him. God experienced the loss of His own son Jesus and can empathize with your pain. The Bible says, “God is close to the broken-hearted…” (Psalm 34:18). It also says that “He heals the broken hearted…” (Psalm 147:3)
Remember that there is no way to remove the pain of grief. There is a path to move through the pain. It is a season that will one day pass.“Weeping may last for a night, but rejoicing will come in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 (from Debi Russell, Pastoral Counselor)
I cannot imagine the sorrow and loss you are experiencing right now. But I want you to know that I care too. Today I shall offer a prayer that the “Man of Sorrows” will enter your life in a special way this week and grant you His Presence and His Peace. May the message of Christmas bring you Hope for better days to come…
“Dear Man of Sorrows, so acquainted with grief, Help me not to recoil from Your wounds, not to fear touching them or to be touched by them. Help me to understand that in my suffering I am not only nearest to You, but nearest to becoming like You. It’s a sobering thought and I shudder when I think of it. Help me to understand that many of the sorrows I experience in this life belong to the nature of the world I live in, and will not pass away until this world passes away. Thank You for being in the midst of these sorrows, transforming them into blessings and filling them with meaning. Amen.” (Ken Gire)