Holy Days and Holidays: Keeping Your Sanity and Your Spirit
By the time you read this article you will have finished most of a roasted turkey, yams, and the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner. You might have even braved the Black Friday crowds. In any case, you’ve experienced the first major holiday of the winter season and probably some of the insanity, as well.
Studies show that many people experience depression and sadness during the holidays. While the reasons vary, we all find ourselves, at one time or another, wishing we could just hide away from everything around us. At a time when we celebrate families, friends, and our Savior, the stresses of the season can drag us down.
Depression can be situational (caused by our circumstances) or physical (chemical imbalance or disease). Whatever the cause, how can we avoid and/or deal with depression during the holidays and throughout the year? Believe it or not, you can find the answer in the Scriptures.
A Few Examples of Situational Depression in the Bible
King David: “I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart” (Psalm 38:6,8, NIV; David is depressed because of his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah.)
Jeremiah the prophet: “I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:17-20; Jerusalem had been destroyed, and famine consumed the city.)
Apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Symptoms of depression include hopelessness and feeling defeated, deserted, or deprived. Causes can include the recent loss of a loved one, loneliness, financial and physical stresses, among others. People experiencing depression, even for chemical reasons, often have negative thinking patterns—ingrained habitual thinking about themselves and the world around them.
Dealing with Depression
First of all, if you are experiencing depression, or the “blues,” please talk to your doctor to rule out physical causes. Many physical maladies can bring about depression, including thyroid problems and hormonal changes, among others. By the way, it is okay to take medication for depression, even if just temporarily to help you work through a tremendous change in your life, such as a death, divorce, or other major loss.
Second, it is important to change the negative thinking patterns that are keeping you bound by depression. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside. Talk to someone about your feelings of depression, alienation, loneliness, etc. You are not alone.
Scriptural Responses to Depression
1. Is your depression originating in disappointment with yourself or guilt from your past? Confess your failures and your sins that you may be forgiven. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
2. Change your way of thinking about your past, your present, and your future. Don’t let the opinions of people around you drown out God’s opinion.
The Past: When we continually blame and criticize ourselves, we are disagreeing with God. Even when we don’t “feel” it, we need to remind ourselves that God is faithful and, when we have confessed our sins, God forgives and redeems us from the guilt of the past (1 John 1:9). Even if you don’t feel “forgiven,” tell yourself the truth, that God loves you and wants the best for you.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
The Present: Circumstances change—employment, financial struggles, physical problems, and even persecution can cause emotional trauma and depression. Change your thinking by taking an eternal view about these things. You may not understand why things happen, but that’s what faith is about, knowing that whatever comes our way, God is with us.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7,8).
The Future: Again, only God can see the future and know what is to come. A healthy view of the future, then, is one that recognizes God’s care for us. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Everything I experience today is a part of the future God has planned for me. I don’t need to see the future to know that I can walk toward it without fear.
3. Practice faith in God by choosing to find the positive. “Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9).
4. Pray for those who have hurt you or caused your feelings of loss. Prayer is a therapeutic practice. You cannot hate someone when you are praying for them. Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44,45).
5. Practice thankfulness for God’s involvement in your life. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19,20).
As you celebrate the holy days and holidays this year, my prayer is that you will find hope in God’s Word, strength through God’s Spirit, and help for the problems that come your way.
Pastor Mary Kay