Joy to the World… Surviving Holidays and Celebrations

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

Nehemiah 8:10 (NKJV)

It should be a blessing to get together with family and/or friends during Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, birthdays and other times of celebration.  However, these days and seasons—which should be joyful—can be extremely lonely and emotionally painful times for many people.  As a result, and very sadly, the rate of suicide increases during the holidays. 

If you dread the holidays because emotional pain from the past is usually triggered, please know that you are not alone.  This is very common.  However, there is help.  Jesus can release that past pain and trauma!  As Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  His joy is not dependent on our circumstances or any past emotional pain we have suffered.  His joy is endless and without comparison.  If we are on a downward spiral into the opposite of His joy, we must draw near to our heavenly Father and pray for His strength and joy to overshadow the emotional pain. 

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!

Psalm 119:28 (ESV)

When emotional pain or trauma from the past is triggered during the holidays, it can be extremely difficult for those who are unknowingly carrying that pain.  They may not realize that their reaction to Aunt Suzie or Uncle Harry is really partially the result of past pain that has been buried and is now coming to the surface.  Reactions to what should be happy situations can appear to be inappropriate and even unreasonable to the traumatized person and others, because they do not understand that suppressed pain and trauma are being triggered.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you restless and disturbed within me?
Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my [sad] countenance and my God.

Psalm 43:5 (AMP)

An example of emotional pain from the past being triggered after over six decades was described to me by one of my ministry recipients several years ago.  This woman, Betty (not her real name), had been married for over 50 years when she asked her husband to go to the store to buy a jar of pickles for her.  Betty told him the type and brand of pickles that she wanted, but when he returned home, he had a jar of generic pickles that was not even the type that she had requested.

This woman, who was in her seventies, said that she went into a rage!  Thankfully, Betty also had some knowledge about inner emotional wounds and quickly realized that her reaction had very little to do with the pickles.  So, she asked the Lord what was going on with her, and He revealed the root of her emotional outburst.  When Betty was a child, her family was very poor and her mother only bought things that were the least expensive.  If her mother came home with anything that was not the cheapest item, this woman’s father got very angry.  The pain and trauma that surfaced when Betty’s husband came home with the generic brand of pickles had been stuffed for over 60 years!  The end of the story is that Betty received the healing and freedom that she needed through Jesus Christ from this past emotional pain and trauma.  Praise the Lord!

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Until inner healing is received, there are several things we can do to minimize experiencing emotional pain during the holidays.  If we know that particular people, or specific situations have caused us emotional pain in the past, we must do whatever we can to limit our contact with them, or completely avoid being exposed to them, if at all possible.   We must set healthy, godly boundaries to protect our hearts and spirits.  Other examples of guarding our hearts also include avoiding watching seasonal programs on television, not listening to certain holiday music, and not going to some parties or events, all of which may bring past emotional pain to the surface.  It is much easier to avoid being triggered than to deal with the emotional pain once it has come to the surface.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Also, focusing on the main reason for the celebration is a must in order to avoid emotional pain and trauma from ruining holidays.  For example, remembering that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior—and not about the gifts, parties and social events—will help immensely.  We cannot get offended and hurt as easily if we keep the main thing, the main thing.  Jesus’ birth allowed for His death and resurrection which provided all people the opportunity to receive forgiveness for their sins and healing for their broken hearts.  Taking our focus off Aunt Suzie or Uncle Harry will help prevent the pain and trauma they trigger from coming up in our hearts and spirits.  Everyone with broken hearts must focus, focus, focus on the Healer and not on the people and situations that caused our hearts to be broken.  Creating new, joyful memories helps heal our broken hearts as well. 

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 (NASB)

It takes determination and laser-like focus on our part to be joyful during the holidays. Returning to a place of peace once emotional pain and trauma have produced depression, great sadness, despair or hopelessness in our hearts and spirits is not easy.  However, it is possible through the love and healing power of a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  There is never a better time to ask Jesus to be our personal Lord and Savior than the present moment.  He wants to heal our broken hearts, but He will never force anyone into a relationship with Him.  We must willingly choose to accept that gift, which will make it possible for emotional and spiritual healing to take place.  Once Jesus becomes the true focus of our lives, we can ask Him to release the pain that has surfaced and replace it with His peace and joy.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;”

Luke 4:18 (NKJV)

God loves us very much and wants us to be set free from past pain and trauma.  Luke 4:18 are Jesus’ words, proclaiming that He came to heal the brokenhearted.  My prayer for you is that you will allow the Lord to direct your steps to receive the inner healing you need.  May God bless you with His peace and joy in your hearts, minds and spirits every day and especially during the holidays when we celebrate God’s amazing love and goodness to us.

Kathy Shelton