With the Christmas season now having “officially” begun, we may be expecting the holidays to be an occasion of joy and refreshing, although for many it instead historically seems to serve as a season of sorrow, worry and loneliness.
For one thing, the ideals of what we assume the season should be are frequently not realized, leaving us feeling deflated and disappointed as our expectations are not met.
For another, the problems, turmoils and unresolved conflicts that we can lay aside for most of the year are often forced into the open simply because family members are in much closer proximity to one another during this time and what is generally “swept under the rug” is kicked up in our faces as relatives march into our lives and we into theirs.
With that in mind, many folks respond by taking on the impossibly heavy weight of responsibility for managing the world’s affairs (or at least their own corner of it). But the world is too heavy a burden to bear.
When the “whinies” strike (you know, those temperamental moments that children have when things aren’t quite living up to their demands and nothing can satisfy or satiate their desires) we may feel like pulling our hair out, assuming that we have some to pull out.
Kids don’t always get exactly what they want for Christmas (no matter how hard we try) and can’t always get all that they may have wanted (budgets do have limits after all). But most of the time they get more than they need and much of what they do want. Parents (hopefully) try to teach their children to be thankful for what they do get and give them a perspective of contentment (let us pray) that is not at the mercy of their circumstances.
In all honesty, however, we would have to admit that the “whinies” are not limited to children but have their more sophisticated versions in us adults as well. Not only do we not always get the gifts that we may have been dreaming of, but our holidays may not be everything we had hoped that they would be. From what is served at our Christmas dinner to who goes to whose house for Christmas morning, to just hoping to avoid the annual family argument over whose political party is caught up in the most scandal, we have entire lists of unmet desires and unsatisfied wants.
And, of course, some of our desires are more abstract and run deeper in our hearts, such as having all our family members together but finding that death, or war, or sickness have prevented such heart desires from being met.
Even so, our happiness cannot be based on our circumstances because trying to bear the weight of making everything all right for everyone is beyond the strength of anyone.
When I get particularly cynical and negative, my wife sweetly, although pointedly, reminds me that, while she does all that she can to be the wife and mother our family needs, ultimately no one can make me happy but me. I can choose to worry and fret, vent and complain, try and try to get everything right all the time, but my circumstances will never be “perfect” (at least, based on my superficial criteria and mortal perspective) nor will I ever be perfect either. But by God’s grace, I can still find joy in Christ.
In other words, if the fact that the turkey is too dry ruins your Christmas season, then you need a new perspective. If the tree getting knocked over (repeatedly) by the cat keeps you hot and bothered, then it’s time to re-evaluate what criteria you use to determine whether or not the holiday was worth it. And if Cousin Joe and Great-Aunt Matilda can’t help but get into their yearly argument (complete with name-calling and fist-fighting) about who he should have really married, there’s no reason that you should declare the holidays a failure and move to a remote tropical island as far from holiday “cheer” as is possible (not to mention those pesky relatives).
Now don’t think that the realization that you can’t bear the weight of the happiness of others is a license to skip out on responsibility. Sometimes folks will uproot themselves from their obligations and promises.
“I’ve carried it all for so long; now it’s time for everyone else to do the carrying,” we may think. But that’s not what the Bible teaches us. Instead, it teaches us to follow-through with our promises, to do our best for our God and Savior, and to then trust Him with what is beyond our strength to carry.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).
Jesus simply wants us to carry what we were designed to carry. And what is that? We are made to carry only the weight of walking with Him as His disciples. But that weight is really what gives us our wings. As we trust Him, obey Him, and entrust to Him our burdens of worry, control, relationships, work, and what appears to us to be an uncertain future, we are lifted up by the divine hope that our God is faithful beyond compare. He is not content to bear only our burdens but endeavors to carry us as well.
You have to admit, there is something incredibly freeing in the conviction that “God is in control” and that His grace is sufficient to cover all my imperfections and inadequacies. Do you want to know how to have a truly happy holiday season? Do this. Do the best you can to honor God with what you are and with what you have, and then trust the Lord with the rest.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 2:5-6 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]