The holiday season is often a difficult time for many people. This year especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic and loss of loved ones, high unemployment rate, rise in addiction, mental health issues and loneliness, – our nation has faced deep challenges. The trials 2020 has presented us are numerous and far reaching for ourselves, families and congregations. Our friends at Pastors.com have allowed us to post this article from Pastor Rick Warren on lessons we can learn from a difficult holiday season. With the rise of addiction in our country due to the pandemic, biblically based recovery programs like Celebrate Recovery are needed more than ever. Pastor Rick Warren discusses lessons we learn from our hurts and the importance of finding community and help. Please contact us for more information about Rockbridge’s Recovery Ministry Track option to equip yourself and your people to meet the needs of your community. Praying for you, your family and Church this Holiday Season – Tommy Hilliker, President, Rockbridge Seminary
Three Lessons We Can Learn from a Difficult Holiday Season
by Rick Warren
I know the Christmas season isn’t particularly merry for many people. When December rolls around, you’re not thinking of Christmas carols, holiday gatherings, and Christmas Eve worship services. Instead, your mind is on family members who are gone and on holiday disappointments.
Many also live in places where it’s cold and dark in December, which likely makes the problem worse.
Pain is a part of life, and holiday lights and eggnog can’t always push it away. I don’t know what the source of your holiday pain is, but I know it’s real and it hurts.
I also know God can turn your pain this holiday season into benefits. Re-read that last sentence. Your pain hurts—badly, but it doesn’t need to have the last word.
Paul writes about the benefits of our struggles in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. No, he wasn’t facing a difficult Christmas season. Paul was facing persecution for his commitment to preach the Good News about Jesus regardless of the consequences. Here are three benefits of our struggles, according to Paul in that passage.
God will use your pain to teach you to trust him.
You’ll never know God is all you need until he is all you have. The holiday season may be painful for you. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a relationship, a loved one, your health, or even your hope and joy. Now all you have is God.
I want you to know—and more importantly God wants you to know—he’s enough for you. He is all you need. Paul discovered this firsthand and wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 1:9: “In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead” (NLT).
God will use your pain to give you a ministry to others.
Your pain often reveals God’s purpose for your life. God never wastes a hurt. He doesn’t want you to hold on to the pain you’re feeling this Christmas; he wants you to use it to help others. What does that look like? I don’t know. Maybe it means that you minister to people who are struggling this season—ministry that may help stop the pain from being repeated in the lives of others.
Paul reminds us of God’s promise: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). Paul says that as God comforted him, he could comfort others.
We can do the same. Take a look at what causes you pain this Christmas. Ask yourself how God can use that pain to help comfort others. If you’re struggling through this pain, I guarantee that others are, too.
That’s what many in the program Celebrate Recovery® have learned firsthand. It’s no accident that the final step in the Celebrate Recovery journey is “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.”
That principle isn’t just true for your hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It’s true for whatever you’re struggling with this Christmas. Let God heal you, so he can use you to heal others.
God will use your pain to draw you closer to other believers.
This is another truth we see in church families and through Celebrate Recovery programs. God wired humans for community. You weren’t meant to go through a painful Christmas season all alone. That’s why you need your church family and if you are in recovery, your friends from Celebrate Recovery to come alongside you.
In fact, one of the reasons we tend to go through particularly tough holiday seasons is because we get so busy that we neglect our relationships. We isolate, miss church, small group or recovery groups – even if it is only available online.
Paul writes, “You can help us with your prayers. Then many people will give thanks for us—that God blessed us because of their many prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:11 NCV). Pain reveals how much we need each other.
You can’t get to the deepest level of relationships in your church family without opening up about your pain. If you are struggling with the holiday blues, the Christmas season isn’t the time to neglect your Christian relationships. It’s the time to dive into them face-to-face if that is an option or use technology.
I don’t know what you’re going through this Christmas season, but I do know that God wants to use your pain—to teach you to trust him, to show you how to help others, and to draw you closer to other believers.
I pray this Christmas, as you face whatever pain is in your path, that you will have the greatest Christmas season and learn to worship the God who came to earth to make a way for you to be right with him.
Have a very Merry Christmas!