By Dr. John I. Snyder, Guest Author (University of Basel Alumnus)
We want holidays to be merry, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic cited some of the below as factors that tend to make the holidays not very happy:
- Connecting the holidays with family problems or painful memories
- Expecting that you should feel happy
- Dealing with the loss of a loved one, or spending the holidays away from friends and family
- Developing unrealistic expectations, or thinking about negatives that have occurred during the past year
- Dealing with changes in the family, such as divorce or death
In addition to the above, and the normal anxiety of not meeting holiday expectations, the past few years are some of the toughest many feel they have experienced in a long time—unemployment, debt, bankruptcy, broken hearts, life-threatening illnesses, and seemingly no hope for the future.
Instead of holiday joy, maybe despair—a sense of hopelessness, no way out, the end of the line—is what we’re feeling. Our problems seem to have no solutions. They’re all too big, too complex, too out of control to fix, and it appears that indifference to each other’s needs is growing. What is overtaking so many of us is worry and hopelessness.
Are you there now? You’ve hoped and prayed the worst wouldn’t happen, only to stand by and watch as it does. Or perhaps you’ve hoped for a long time for something but still received no answer, and you wonder, Why won’t won’t it happen for me—it does seem to happen for everyone else? Our most diligent human efforts have produced nothing.
So this is Christmas. But what does that mean?
It means—Immanuel, God with us! The birth of Christ gives us hope—no matter what our circumstance. Regardless of how we may feel at any given moment, Jesus assures us: Do not worry! He himself promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
So we have a God who makes an exit where none existed before, a God who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), who opens not only a doorway out, but also a doorway in. That’s something we call an “exodus”—a way into the Promised Land—a real solution, a rescue, a better life.
The reality we find is that no one is immune to life’s trials and tribulations. We’ve faced tough times, been betrayed, had our trust broken, faced our losses, headed in one direction, but found ourselves going in an opposite and better one. If you’ve found yourself there, you’ll come to realize that your life is being directed by a loving and gracious Father. His plan is unchanging and his ultimate goal for us is the very best.
So instead of giving in to despair and discouragement, consider this promise from the Psalmist who had seen every trial and been delivered from the worst, “See that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
What to do while you wait? Consider different ways to serve others, commit to prayer, immerse yourself in new projects, learn a new skill, get together with friends who increase the positivity and joy in your life, do some writing therapy, laugh at some of the things you’re going through, and plan one fun thing to do each day.
And God will grow you in ways you don’t expect. In time, you will discover that God is far more faithful and generous than we deserve.
This Christmas, remember that whatever else claims a place in your life, hopelessness should not. As long as we have Christmas, we have every reason to hope, to enjoy, and to rejoice. Don’t give up; in Christ, the better and brighter day will come.
About the author:
Dr. John I. Snyder is an international pastor, conference speaker, and author of the new book “Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame” from Abingdon Press. He is also the author of “Your 100 Day Prayer” from Thomas Nelson Publishers, a transformational 100-day guided prayer journey, and “Reincarnation vs. Resurrection” from Moody Press.
John has been featured on Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, Fox News, Faith Radio Network, Cru, American Family Radio Network, In the Market with Janet Parshall, The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh, Miracle Channel, Bill Martinez Live, and many more.
As an ordained Presbyterian pastor, John has served congregations in the United States and planted churches in California and Switzerland. He is currently pastor of Starnberg Fellowship, an international church in the Starnberg/Munich area. He is the advisor and lead author for theology and culture blog Theology Mix (theologymix.com), which hosts 80+ authors and podcasters, and visitors from 175 countries. He received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he studied with acclaimed professors Bo Reicke, Markus Barth, Martin Schmidt, and Jan Milic Lochman. He also has Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.
You can find some of his articles in academic journals, online magazines, and newspapers including Theology Today, Theology Mix, Outreach Magazine, The Christian Post, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Dialog, Theologische Zeitschrift, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, The Washington Times, and others. John has also served on the adjunct faculty of New College Berkeley as well as the World Journalism Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @johnisnyder or connect with him on LinkedIn. Dr. Snyder and his family reside in Germany.