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 Carol 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 not watching worldly, seasonal programs on television or on other devices, 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 Carol or Uncle Harry will help prevent the pain and trauma they trigger from coming up in our hearts and spirits.  Everyone with a broken heart must focus, focus, focus on the Healer and not on the people and situations that caused their heart to be broken.  Creating new, joyful memories helps heal 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 sincerely 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 His children, followers of Jesus Christ, very much and wants them 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 make the choice to accept God’s gift of salvation if you have not already done so, and 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

GODLY BOUNDARIES – No Door Mats!

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. 

Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

Brokenhearted people often have major problems setting godly boundaries in their lives. The lies of the enemy, Satan, can cause a trauma victim to feel like they deserved the abuse and trauma that they suffered. They may feel like a doormat, being walked on over and over, because they were vulnerable and an easy target. That is how the enemy would like wounded Christians to view themselves. Embracing the true identity that the Lord God has created for His children enables them to reject Satan’s lies!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Most High God! The enemy would like us to forget that and see ourselves as less than the beautiful creations that we were meant to be, reflecting God Himself. When we are carrying pain and trauma in our hearts and spirits, our opinions of our worth and value can be skewed. Not having godly boundaries is agreeing with the devil that we are worth less than the enormous cost that Jesus paid to set us free. The true nature of who we are in God’s eyes can be distorted—which then causes us to accept more abusive treatment—and the destructive cycle continues. We must break that cycle by believing God’s Word and taking godly action to receive the freedom to be who God created us to be.

“I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV)

Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are sons and daughters of the Most High God, the Lord Almighty! We must protect our hearts, minds and spirits, realizing that we are precious to our Heavenly Father and that He is saddened when we do not do so. God chose to pay the ultimate price for us to become His sons and daughters when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer an excruciating death for our salvation. Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead needs to be treasured for the amazing and incomparable gift it is to us by our valuing ourselves enough to set godly boundaries!

Connected to the practice of not having healthy, godly boundaries is fear, especially the fear of man. The fear of man—and what a person may think or do if we do not make them happy and comply with their requests or demands—is one of the most difficult things for people with broken hearts and spirits to overcome. Many people learn that the fear of man keeps them from suffering additional abuse and trauma. The fear of man becomes stronger with time and brokenhearted/traumatized individuals will often do anything to please people to avoid the consequences of not doing so.

We must understand that being a born-again Christian does not mean that we are supposed to allow repeated abuse. Nowhere did Jesus say that we have to trust someone to love them. He also did not say that we have to continue in relationship with those who continually cause us severe emotional or spiritual pain. Jesus told the woman who was caught in adultery to go and sin no more. If a person is not remorseful and repentant, we should not stay in the relationship unless the Lord leads us to do so, knowing the possibility of future reconciliation. If they honestly repent and/or seek help to stop the behavior, we should cautiously and with the Lord’s direction, support their pursuing freedom from the sin. However, allowing anyone to continue to hurt and abuse us is not how the Lord wants us to live. We must value ourselves as sons and daughters of the Most High God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. It grieves Him when we don’t set godly boundaries with people.

Not setting godly boundaries in our own lives is a trap that the devil uses repeatedly to cause us emotional pain, especially in the lives of ministers. Sincere Christian ministers are compassionate. That is why they have entered ministry. They desire to help people and this desire drives them at times to neglect the wisdom of the Lord in setting healthy, godly boundaries in their lives.

Although followers of Jesus Christ should be “moved with compassion,” that does not mean they are supposed to allow people to deceive or take advantage of them. Setting godly, healthy boundaries is so important if we are going to run the race and stay in it to the end. People will test our boundaries just like children test the boundaries with their parents. It is not a sin or an ungodly practice to protect ourselves from exhaustion and unreasonable demands from others. Saying no to people is not sin. Of course, saying no applies only to people and not to the Lord. He will never ask us to do anything that He does not give us the strength and guidance to accomplish.

Godly boundaries are good walls. However, painful and traumatic situations happen in our lives that can break down the good walls that the Lord designed to shield us from evil. We tend to develop ungodly, destructive walls as a result. Those detrimental walls can separate us from the love of God and His Son, Jesus. Harmful walls can also prevent us from receiving the healing we need for emotional, mental and/or spiritual pain that exist inside us.

We cannot be truly healed unless we allow the finished work that Jesus did on the cross to penetrate the ungodly walls that we have built around our broken hearts and spirits. Jesus will remove the harmful walls as we receive His healing, and He will replace them with godly ones. Asking Jesus to gently and safely release the pain we are carrying and replace it with His love will help us to develop godly, healthy walls, or boundaries, in our lives.

Accepting help for healing and freedom from past pain and trauma can be a difficult and frightening thing to consider, because it involves facing the truth and being honest with others about what we have endured. This is especially true if the pain and trauma were caused by other professing Christians. However, we must return to the Lord’s truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and ask God for the courage to begin setting godly boundaries and to restore our true identity in Jesus’ name!

Kathy Shelton