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Unhappy Holidays

God eagerly waits to meet us when we come with our losses and broken hearts to His welcoming embrace.
By Barbara Rainey

Blogs I’ve been reading are oozing with enthusiasm, emotion, and eager anticipation for the holiday season. Descriptions of fireplaces and hot cocoa, plaids and sequins, lights and laughter are so vivid they feel like an attempt to scatter glitter from every screen. Be warm, be filled, be happy. Let the dazzling delights of the season satisfy.

But for many of us the holiday sparkles only magnify our loneliness. Our losses. There has been a cloud of discouragement over my world this fall. Like a moving cold front with periodic breaks in the cloud deck or dark stretches with thick rolling billows, it has changed from day to day, but the external circumstances in my world have not. 

I have a friend whose son and daughter-in-law are divorcing. Their situation is unbelievably complicated by a beyond-healing medical condition. How does my friend find joy in this season?

My daughter has lots of friends, godly young women, who yearn to be married but are waiting again this Christmas for that long-prayed-for but still-unanswered prayer. Yes, they know marriage is not the answer for all, but they also know Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The ever-present images of happy children opening gifts with ever-smiling moms and dads is a constant reminder to these delightful young women of their aloneness.

Another young friend will walk through this season knowing her unborn baby has a heart defect. 

It seems our prayer list of dear friends, family members, and many acquaintances is littered with challenging medical issues and broken relationships. Where do they and we find joy in this season and beyond?

In God alone

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 33:6: “And he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.” No matter the current national or world crisis, and though our eyes constantly look for the outward to satisfy, to fill us, to bring us joy, it is only found within. David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He knew the source was in God alone.

Joni Eareckson Tada gives me the perspective I need. Since a diving accident in 1967, she has been bound to a wheelchair and to the constant need of others caring for her physical needs. 

She said in an interview, “In the morning when I wake up, I know they’ll be coming into my bedroom to give me a bed bath, to do my toileting routines, pull up my pants, put me in the wheelchair, feed me my breakfast, and push me out the front door. I lie there thinking, Oh God, I cannot face this. I’m so tired of this routine. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. But I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. Can I please borrow Your smile? I need it.” 

Do you tear up just reading those words? I do. Do you shake your head incredulously at her impossible-to-comprehend circumstances? I do. And I marvel.

She went on to say, “I make myself be happy. I make myself sing because I have to. I choose the Holy Spirit’s help because I don’t want to go down that grim, dark path to depression any more. Cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weaknesses because that is what He promises.”

Her faith stuns me. But God eagerly waits to meet us when we come with our losses and broken hearts to His welcoming embrace. That is where joy is found in the holiday season—in a real, vital, alive relationship with Jesus Christ who willingly shrunk His deity to a single cell to then be born on Christmas Day for our sake. 

Come to Him.  Give Him your broken heart.  Adore Him always as Christ the Lord.  Then sing for joy that He has not abandoned us.  Not for a moment will He forsake thee or me!


Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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