The Lord spoke to me the other day about intercessing for those who are lonely and confused during the holidays. I have been there. I was loved by God. I was called by God. Yet, I struggled with rejection, confusion and being lonely through the holiday season. I have never forgot the emotional roller coaster of 2001.
2001 was the worst year of my life. Nothing compares to it. It started a little early when my best friend was killed in December 2000. This released me into a season of grieving and hurtfulness that went way into 2001 and beyond. All to the mix that my wife walked out of the door without warning over the summer while pregnant. In July, the father of my friend who died committed suicide. Another long time friend ended up in jail (and later prison) in the fall. They year ended with the divorce against my will. It was truly the year from hell.
The holidays was anything but joyful. There was a lot of tension in the air. I had lost two friends, a wife, a son, and in many ways my own soul. (mind, will and emotions) At this point, I was just in pilot mode. I was just doing what I needed to do but there was no real concern. There was no real emotions connected to the activity. I was just going through the motions.
I say this to tell you that I understand people who grieve in the holidays. I have been there.
Holiday Depression is real
While I never really recovered from 2001, I learned something that created empathy in me for people depression in November and December: holiday depression is very real. It is more painful to hurt because the seasons is one that we are told to be happy and smiling. When people do not do that, it is even more clear something is seriously wrong. For whatever reason, we tell people who are depressed not to be depressed like that will change it. When people are struggling, they do not want to “fake it until they make it.”
According to WebMD, holiday depression or “holiday blues” is caused by things such as stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, finances and absence of family. All of them can make you quite depressed during the seasons of joy. The important thing for many is to know that struggling with mental fatigue is completely acceptable. It is ok to be hurting and to admit that pain is there.
Back in 2001, the last thing I wanted to do was unwrap gifts, sing Christmas corals, or drink egg nog. It was less than two weeks after a divorce against my will. No one could be happy and singing Joy to the World. It was more about getting to January so everything somewhat normalizes. The last half of the year had been full of unrealistic expectations. It was just about getting to 2002 for me.
The absence of family added to the issue. What should have been a happy time at Grandma’s house with my wife and newly born son was now a time of grieving without my now ex-wife and son that I was not even there to see born. It is only natural that I was grieving at that time.
Can you relate?
Trying to hope
In the midst of the depression and those who would just try and beat me down anymore, I knew I needed to be about people that cared, people who have seen me walk through things, people who believed in me. For me, this was not family. I had a close circle of friends who had been there for me. They saw me when I came to Christ, they saw the transformation, they saw the depression I had after the divorce. They loved me just the same.
I ditched the family gig and spend the day with these friends. We had some food, played the Playstation, talked about what has happened with us, and jammed out. All of us have stressed family connections and we all found release in each other. There was far more hope to be found among them than I would ever get among family members.
Interestingly, this was one of the best Christmas I had. I also think back to it because of the 15 of them that was there, only three of us are even alive today. One of those is in prison. It was the Christmas to remember and one that I have shared at every funeral I have spoken at for friends. I was not doing the things they were doing but they all loved me as a friend unlike anyone did…including my ex-wife.
Find people of Hope
If you are struggling with depression, find the people of hope to be around this Christmas. It might be your family but it might not be. Anyone I need hope, my family is not where I find it. However, it is very important that you connect with someone. Isolation is very dangerous for people who are struggling. Rejecting family time does not mean you isolate. It means you choose who you spend the holidays with.
I have spend a Christmas in a Fijian village, on the beach in the Philippines, with drug addicts in recovery in Pensacola, and with the homeless in Kansas City. There is no shortage of people that I can touch for the holidays with the hope of glory. I have found it is better that we are celebrated than we are tolerated by family that do not even like us.
For several years, I would come together with a few dozen long time friends and commit to pray for the nation all day Christmas. We kept the prayer meeting that has been going for over two decades going on Christmas Day. While other were eating turkey, we would making sure they were prayed for. It was one of the most powerful traditions that I have had on Christmas. Doing that meant more to me than any family gathering ever will.
Find someone to be with for Christmas!
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart…Feliz Navidad Prospero año y felicidad