Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
We call them holidays. They span from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We look forward to them. We celebrate them.
But not all of us.
For some, the holidays are actually horrid days. Troops deployed in distant and dangerous places can feel that way. So can those can those who are struggling with something like PTSD. The holiday season can be a miserable time.
Perhaps it is easier to understand why a Memorial Day may cause a person to be troubled, but why feel down and disturbed at a time of so many incentives to feel love, peace, and joy?
Those incentives are precisely the problem! The happy sights and sounds only underscore the pain and loss of the suffering one. We have seen that it is not uncommon for a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one to have a hard time with the holidays. Instead of a source of joy, the days remind such people that someone special is missing.
PTSD patients may grieve the loss of their former life. If we are not aware of this, if we urge the victim to join in the celebrations, we are increasing their pain. It is like encouraging the one with the broken leg to join in on a dance.
The person far from home during a holiday may feel more misery than joy. Some volunteer for extra duty during those days. Some do whatever they can to keep themselves from thinking about what they are missing.
Ken Gire sums it up in his book, The North Face of God: “There are times in our lives when it is hard being a Christian. Christmases when it’s hard to be joyful. Thanksgivings when it’s hard to be grateful. New Year’s when it’s hard to be hopeful. Times when we feel disappointed with life, maybe even despairing of life. Times when we feel abandoned by God.”
When everyone else is celebrating, the one downcast and miserable doesn’t fit in. He feels he does not belong.
What a shame! He is believing a lie. He is a member of the family of God. Everyone in that family is precious. Each one is special. Each one is the beloved of God and guarded by angels.
Strangely enough, the miserable one may know this to be true—but that does not change how he feels.
King Solomon wrote: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…” “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)
Saint Paul wrote that we should take note of what our brother or sister is going through—and share in their feelings. We will find that their sorrow does not lessen our joy, but their joy can surely diminish our sorrow. “I know how you feel!” become words of truth.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
If this holiday season does not fill you with the emotions of joy, know that you are not alone.
If you see another one struggling with the holidays, do not let that one be alone.
Feelings are often beyond our control. Our mind is blown back and forth by the winds of many thoughts. Our soul is different. It rests on a Rock.
Our soul knows, even if our feelings don’t: the holidays are actually holy days. They exist, not to make us happy, but to focus our attention beyond ourselves, to the very heights of heaven.
We find that when we look toward the face of God, we can see that we live under the benediction of the source of all joy and comfort.
For the Christian, every day is a holiday.
We live our lives in the sunlight of these words:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military