Surviving Christmas: it’s really hard to fake happiness for a whole month

A few years ago, on Christmas Day, a friend was celebrating with her family when they heard a single, loud pop outside. They didn’t think anything of it, but soon the sound of sirens filled the neighborhood.

Their neighbor had walked out to the back patio and shot herself.

As the woman was taking her final steps to her back door, other families in the neighborhood were opening presents, baking desserts for Christmas dinner and listening to holiday music. But something told this hurting woman she would be better off dead than to live through the remaining hours of Christmas Day.

The thought of her Christmas death haunts me – how isolated she must have felt, how desperate for relief. But though she might not have realized it, in those other houses down the street other people could relate.

Someone was baking a pie and fighting back tears in a losing battle against depression. Another person was so anxious she could hardly breathe while cleaning up the wrapping paper. Someone else was facing his first Christmas without a loved one. And while those people did not commit suicide, I’m sure many felt like they were dying inside.

Christmastime brings with it an expectation of happiness and there are plenty of times you’re expected to show it. But faking happiness throughout a whole month only serves to remind a person who’s depressed just how lonely he or she feels inside. It’s in that dark place that the real meaning of Christmas shines through.

Matthew 1:23 says: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” There couldn’t be better news in our dark hours.

Jesus – “God with us” – lay in a feed trough on Christmas night and brought us a message through the meaning of his very name: I’m with you.

Immanuel is in the heartache with you.

Immanuel is in the loneliness with you.

Immanuel is in the shame with you.

Immanuel came so he could lie down in the dirty manger of your circumstances and simply be there with you.

Immanuel will provide comfort through his Spirit, and he will also give you the strength to reach out for help from loved ones, support groups, counselors or even a crisis hotline. Receive that strength today. Experience his presence through the people he will use to help you get through this unbearable time.

During this hard season, keeping praying, over and over, “Immanuel, I need you.” As God uses others to be with you in that dark place, you will experience the true meaning of Christmas: You will not be alone.

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