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The "D's" of Christmas

Darkness

Let's face it. As counselor, most of the situations that bring people to see me aren't characterized by happiness or contenment. Marital strife, self-harm, unfulfilled longings, confusion, grief, loneliness, betrayal. The hours are often filled with tears and sighing.

Much of what happens in the counseling room feels unresolved. We finish a session and the pain hasn't subsided, the life circumstances haven't changed. Entering into another's hardship can become a hardship in itself sometimes. I long for relief for the hearts of those I counsel. 

I've noticed over the years, and particularly near the holiday season, that there are themes to the concerns expressed in the counseling room.

Disappointment

Doubt

Depression

Darkness

Discouragement

Death

It's not lost on me that these soul troubles are all words beginning with the letter "d." We find similar vocabulary in the scriptures as we look at how sorrow and sin affects the human heart.

David Murray has said, "Failure and disappointment are on just about every page."

Many faithful followers we read of in the Bible confronted personal doubts and questions about who Jesus was and about the goodness of God in the midst of hard circumstances.

In one of my favorite passages, we are told that we have been freed from the "powers of darkness" because of Christ. 

God's Word affirms what we long to hear -- we are not alone in our feelings. Better yet, we have not been left to ourselves if we know Christ as our Savior. While our circumstances, and even (especially!) our feelings may not change in the timing we would prefer, we can wait with comfort. We can groan in this already-not-yet life, and know that the Spirit is groaning with us. He doesn't leave us to face the suffering and sorrows of this life alone.

If you are facing a day of strained holiday gatherings, or constant reminders of what (or who) you don't have, there is space for your sadness here. If you woke up this morning as I did, acutely reminded of the "D" you're currently living in, know this. It is not your forever. A day is coming when all things will be made new, and in the meantime, you can receive consolation from the One who knew suffering and sorrow more deeply than anyone.

In the spirit of knowing the reality in which many of us live, I've compiled a list of my favorite Christmas reads from this month. They all have one thing in common. They're not pointed at commanding you to celebrate or pretend that your troubles are light in comparison to others. We all have our own heartaches. Jesus arrived when the heartache was great, when the darkness was pressing in on those who were suffering and longing for relief. And so he welcomes us, knowing just what particular mercy we need for our "d." 

The Most Uncomfortable Christmas Verse by Wendy Alsup

When Your Friend is Depressed by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

Christmas Means God Sees Us by Jen Oshman

When Advent Hope Groaning Doesn't Let Up in Time For Christmas by Chuck DeGroat

Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness by Tish Harrison Warren

I pray you find rest this day in the presence of the only One who can settle your soul -- our "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)