By Mary Sutherland
According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the holiday blues.
I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.
To deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total surrender to God and His plan of healing, even if we cannot see or understand that plan. The bottom line of God’s heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.
While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching home improvement shows. On a recent program, an interior decorator and homeowner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.
“First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced. I was surprised that she listed this task first— until I saw the house.
The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold, but it was thick and chunky as well. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out. The result was a dark isolated home. The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed.” When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way.
We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain. The result is
darkness, loneliness, and missed opportunities for restoration. We don’t want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.
Many people try to understand and deal with depression on
a surface level—refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships, and the broken places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too high to pay.
Emotional integrity is an essential step to dealing with depression. We must be real before we can be right. Until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.
The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place and push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide. The arrival of certain family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved. Financial pressure opens up like a sinkhole, waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy, and false expectations leave us empty and hollow. The dark slimy pit waits for us to fall in.
We can choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to give God praise. Choose to focus on the victories and joys you have experienced during the year, and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others.
Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life. The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds.
Right now, choose an attitude of joy by focusing your mind on the things of heaven—not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ. Your Christmas chaos will turn into Christmas joy!
To learn more about Mary Southerland, visit www.girlfriendsingod.org.
Father, I want this holiday season to be filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as my family and friends. Father, help me make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Luke 2:1–16. Answer the following questions after reading the Christmas story.
What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?
How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus’ birth? What did they do?
How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary?
How can your choice to “ponder” the miracles of Jesus’ birth change your perspective of the holidays?
Write a letter of commitment to Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made. Make a plan or a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life. Include your family in making this plan, and make the commitment to hold each other accountable.