This will be a holiday season unlike any other, that much we all know to be true. You may be able to get together with family and friends this holiday season, but there may also be many of us who cannot for health concerns, travel restrictions, and safety precautions. If you are alone and struggling with loneliness this Thanksgiving and Christmas, I simply wanted to give you some encouragement, tell you that you are seen, and you are loved.
This year has done a doozy on us all. The last thing any of us want is for it to take away some of our most prized and precious moments with family around Christmas and Thanksgiving. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one, and dealing with an aching heart this time of year. You may be grieving much needed and anticipated time with family that you’re simply not going to get. You may be hurting from the pang of loneliness from so many days of isolation in order to protect your health. Whatever you are suffering from, I want to encourage you to give it weight and let it matter. Allow it to take up space, and give it time and attention. Invite the healer into your pain, loneliness, and longing.
So here are a few simple truths – truths that hold God’s nearness in tandem with pain instead of dismissing it. Because while suffering, heartache and loneliness are a part of life on this side of heaven, we do not have a God who turns a blind eye to our pain. We do not have a God who is absent.
Your loneliness, your longings are not irrelevant to the heart of God.
1. Jesus is a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.
Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
If you are grieving the loss of anything this year– a loved one, companionship, a job, a dream, etc.– you will be met by a Jesus who is not only sympathetic towards your grief, but understands and can relate deeply. He has stood where you stand. He has walked in your shoes. He is not just a God of the high and mighty, but a God of the lowly and poor in spirit. And Isaiah says that he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Would you be willing this holiday season to let God lighten your load? Would you be willing to let him bear your grief and carry your sorrow? Will you share it with him? Open it up to him, let him see it.
Our loads are always lighter when we don’t carry them alone.
2. God binds up the broken hearted and heals their wounds
Not only do we have a God who is deeply empathetic and strong to bear our burdens, our God is a healer. He is not only faithful, he is able.
Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Many of us are walking around with great, gaping wounds in our hearts and souls after this year. Many of us are physically suffering and very, very ill. Some of us are bearing the incredible burden of being all alone in a time that’s supposed to be marked by togetherness. We are in need of a healer this holiday season, a God who will make us well.
So not only do we give weight to our pain, not only do we open ourselves up to God, but we let him bring his healing power by his mighty hand. We let him touch those places that hurt so bad and allow his Spirit to administer the healing balm of his presence. When was the last time you sat in the Lord’s presence and allowed him to do his healing work? It may not be easy, but he is a tender Father with gentle hands. It may be time to allow him to do what only he can do, and begin the healing process in you. Make space for God to speak into your situation and to show you where and how he was working all along.
3. He is closer than a friend.
If you are alone this holiday season and/or missing someone terribly, with all of the above being true and important to hold onto, I want to remind you of the friend you have in Jesus. Now this is not a Sunday school song I’m talking about, but a real, deep, rich, abiding friendship that will never leave your side and stick by you through every heartache, every failure, any sin, and every mountain top. This is not a superficial, social media friendship, but one closer than any friend you have ever known. Treat Jesus like the friend you long for – speak to him often, cry with him, acknowledge his presence, ask him questions. Get to know this perfect friend.
Jesus said in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus calls you friend. Let that sink in for a minute.
Remind yourself afresh of what that truly means and how that impacts your day to day. Jesus is a present friend for the lonely heart. He is the healer of the broken heart. He is the carrier of the heavy load – the Great Burden Bearer. And this 2020 holiday season, he is yours and you are his. As we think about Emmanuel, this God with us, may we also experience him and his permeating presence.