The greatest paradox of the Christmas season is why during a season of joy and celebration so many people feel sad and lonely. Are you among them? Research going back to the 1950s shows that mental health issues increase and depressive episodes deepen for many of us during the holidays.
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The Yuletide season brings wistful nostalgia and deep memories. We face time and money pressures, exhaustion, and feelings of intense loneliness if we don’t have our family around us—and sometimes when we do. Someone once said, “Christmas is a time when you get homesick…. even when you’re home.”
Those of us who have been following Jesus for many years are vulnerable. If you have moments of stress and sadness this time of year, you’re not alone. A “blue Christmas” is common for so many.
The carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” has a line that heralds “O tidings of comfort and joy.” What wonderful words—comfort and joy! But what do you do when there is little comfort and you can’t seem to locate that joy?
In Answers to Questions About the Bible, Dr. Jeremiah has collated more than a hundred questions about the Bible to help you in your spiritual quest to know more about Him and His Word. Learn more about this powerful resource here.
My good friends Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote these lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “Joy Comes in the Morning.”
When the things you gave your life to fell apart,
You’re not the first to be acquainted with sorrow, grief or pain.
But the Master promised sunshine after rain.
Hold on my child; joy comes in the morning.
Weeping only lasts for the night.
Hold on my child; joy comes in the morning.
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight.
That Gospel song was inspired by Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30 is a song of praise. The first sentence says, “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up” (verse 1). The last sentence says, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (verse 12). In between those expressions of praise, David recalled a time of sickness and suffering he endured. In answer to his prayer, the Lord had healed him (verse 2), kept him alive (verse 3), and turned mourning into dancing (verse 11).
In the middle of this testimony, in verse 5, David said he wept during this dark period, but joy returned to him in the morning. For the Christian, no night lasts forever. From time to time we walk through dark valleys, but they are not box canyons. It’s possible to spiritually work through our emotions and prayerfully move from pain to praise. We can do that because we have a God of hope, a Book of promises, a confidence in heaven, and the internal indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives us joy and comfort.
Joy is the appropriate emotional response to the unmerited and unlimited grace of God. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, How can I not be joyful—when God made me with loving skill, when He became a Man in Bethlehem to identify with my needs, when He died to free me from my sins, when He rose to give me a bright future, and when He’s coming back to take me to heaven? How can I not be joyful!
You are not your emotions. You are someone who is being sanctified—body, mind, and spirit. And by sheer faith on the basis of God’s unfailing Word, you can choose to smile and to say aloud, “Praise the Lord!” Try it right now. As you choose the attitude of joy, the Holy Spirit will gradually recalibrate your emotions, and you’ll find that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.
The Lord will also give you peace. At the very beginning of Christ’s life, the angels cried, “And on earth peace” (Luke 2:14). At the end of His life, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
In his oral history of World War II, The Good War, historian Studs Terkel related the experience of David Milton, an eighteen-year-old merchant seaman. Milton told of one time when his ship was transporting Sherman tanks across to Europe. He said, “In the middle of the Atlantic, these tanks broke loose in a big storm. They were Sherman tanks, twenty, thirty tons. As the ship would roll, these tanks would just slide through the hole and bang up against the bulkhead. Then they’d roll the other way, just shaking the ship apart. So we pulled out of the convoy. We headed into the sea, while the deck seamen went down below to secure those tanks. They were riding them like cowboys, trying to hook cables through. Finally, they got the tanks lashed down.”1
The great danger to Milton’s ship came not from the storm on the outside but from the disturbance on the inside. We can handle the stresses without only when we are battened down with God’s peace within us.
Psalm 29:11 says, “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.”
It is spiritually impossible, however, to enjoy God’s joy and peace if we are not trusting in Him by simple faith, believing that God has not forsaken us, and He works all things for our good. Our faith in the Lord grows as we approach His Word, realizing it is His personal message to us. Many Christians neglect their Bibles, and some just don’t know where to begin reading in the Scripture. If that’s you, you may want to begin in Matthew, the first Gospel, which begins with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel goes on describe His early ministry, His Sermon on the Mount, and eventually His death and resurrection. It ends with His Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples in every nation. Try reading a few verses or perhaps even a chapter every day. Ask the Lord to show you any verse that may apply particularly to you. Try to circle a special verse each day.
I’m suggesting this because Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
As you do this, you’ll find that joy, peace, and faith produce an overflow of hope in your life. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
God wants to fill you with joy and peace as you exercise faith in Him so that you will overflow with hope. And what is hope? It’s the anticipation of blessings yet to come, of all the unimaginable things the Lord has for you in the near future and in the distant future. It’s the expectation of His return. It’s the anticipation of heaven. It’s knowing that your biography will always end with the words: “And he or she lived happily ever after.”
The attitude of hope within us lifts up everyone around us. If you are blue and burdened, you’ll be apt to discourage others. You may pull down the atmosphere of your home. But when the God of hope, peace, and faith floods your soul with joy, you’ll become a blessing to everyone around you.
We can remind them and ourselves that joy comes in the morning.
I want you to know that we all battle with our emotions, but God doesn’t want you to live in discouragement or self-pity. Our current circumstances do not represent our eternal realities. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. And the daybreak of that morning shines brightest for those who choose to trust God with their current circumstances, claiming in prayer His comfort and joy.
Let me offer this prayer that you can adopt for your own:
1Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (New York, NY: Pantheon, 1984), 104.
This article was adapted from an issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.
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