During the holidays, we almost can’t help getting caught up in the sentiment of the season because it’s everywhere around us. The sound of familiar music, the cheery lights decorating homes and buildings, the smell of tasty treats sitting within too-easy reach—you almost can’t avoid the contagious spirit of joy and encouragement in the air. Whether we intend to or not, we find ourselves receiving and sending warm greetings and wishes of enjoyment to others.
When I think of enjoying the season, I think of family and friends I love, and of being able to get together to spend time with them. I think of enjoying the treasured relationships I have with others.
It seems strange then, but is extremely common, that the holidays also seem to bring a sense of loneliness to many. Whether it’s a passing feeling upon remembering a loved one gone from us too soon, or a longer-term brooding over life as a whole, many people experience some type of sadness or despair amidst the hustle and bustle—and joy—of the holidays.
In case you know exactly what I’m talking about, you probably have wrestled with God over the matter. Maybe this wasn’t the case for you specifically during the holidays, but at some other time or season in your life. After all, God created a hole in our hearts that only He can fill, and while many things tend to cover up the feeling of that hole, it’s human nature to turn to Him when we feel our pain the deepest.
When you’ve found yourself in a past sad state of heart and mind, maybe you poured out your concerns to God and found instant relief; I hope so. He works miracles in that way. Sometimes though, even after much soul-searching, we are unable to regain that feeling of God’s presence. It is then that our head needs to go to work to bring the feelings in tow.
J.D. Greear made a statement in his recent Tabletalk article (“I Can’t Feel God,” Oct. 2015) that I liked: “Just because you feel that God is absent doesn’t mean He actually is. Just because you can’t track His footprints doesn’t mean He’s not walking beside you. If you’re a believer, that feeling of being alone is always an illusion. Yes, always. Here’s how I know. …Jesus [on the cross] faced our aloneness…so that we would never have to.” Whether you feel God’s love and joy or not, He is right beside you all the time.
At Desire Street, we walk with our ministry partners along the lonely path of inner-city transformation. I’m sure sometimes they have a hard time tracing our steps. But I pray that they will never have times when they doubt God’s presence with them—or if they do, I pray that it will be only a “light and momentary trouble” (2 Cor 4:16-18)—a blip on the screen of the long road necessary for neighborhood revitalization.
And for you, I pray too, that if you are feeling lonely this holiday season, God will make His presence known to you—maybe even through some tradition of the season—so that you can find the joy that is inherent in the Good News of the season—Christ has come to earth, paid the price to make a relationship with God possible, and will one day return to make all things new.
Photo courtesy of Caleb George Morris on Unsplash.com