For some people the upcoming holiday season feels anything but merry and it’s hard to pretend. You’ve lost a loved one and this season does not feel the same without him or her. You’re recently divorced and the traditions and celebrations you shared as a family are now gone along with your wedding ring. Or you live alone and the holidays only magnify your isolation and lack of family or close friends.

Other people dread Christmas because it conjures up bad memories of holidays past. There wasn’t gratitude, peace, joy or good will. Only drunkenness, disappointment, conflict, and hurt that continues to rage wild even if you wished it wouldn’t.
If that’s you, or even someone you know, let me share a few things that might help you get through these next few days.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Give yourself permission to grieve and process your pain. As Christians, sometimes we feel guilty for having negative emotions. Jesus knows how you feel and you never have to pretend with him. Take some time to journal out your questions, your emotions, or your complaints as David did when he wrote his psalms. He often discovered after writing, he not only felt better but he experienced God in a new way.

Daily look for the good. When we’re in pain, it’s hard to be intentional to look for the good tucked within each day. Before you go to sleep, scan the past 12 hours of your day and ask yourself what happened today that you’re most grateful for? Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal of the things you have to look hard for in order to see them. The Lord tells Isaiah, “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).

Do an act of kindness for someone you don’t know well. We can always find someone who is in need of a kind word, a good meal, a meaningful card, a hug, or a little bit of our time. Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive. While you may not feel like it, give something of yourself to someone less fortunate. It will bless you as you bless another person.

Allow yourself to receive. Sometimes we’d rather sit home and eat a can of cold soup than accept an act of kindness from another person. We’re embarrassed and don’t want to feel needy. Yet God may have put you on someone’s heart in order to bless you. I remember early in our marriage my husband became ill with a life threatening problem. Our family didn’t live nearby but the people from our church rallied around us and not only loved us through it, but also provided cash for us to pay for some of the expenses of it. It was humbling but it met our financial need and it touched our hearts. Let yourself receive their act of kindness. You both will be richer for it.

Know friend that God sees you. Just like Hagar found out in her desert experience, the God who sees, sees you. (Genesis 16:13).