It’s not all presents, food, laughter, and holiday cheer: in fact, I know people who feel that Christmas is the most awful time of the year. For some, Christmas stinks!
Maybe Christmas reminds you of how messed up your biological family is. Or that you’ve never have a spouse and want one. Or that you used to have a family but now they are dead or enjoying someone else instead of you. Maybe you can’t afford to put gifts under the tree this year. Maybe Christmas brings up terrible memories of past fights. Maybe your health won’t allow participation in the festivities, so while everyone else is out having fun you’ll be lying alone in bed. Again. For lots of people December is a rough month.
One important part of being a church family displaying the gospel is caring well for those among us who would rather skip Christmas and get on with the New Year. After all, the Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But how do we do that? The person in chronic pain or mourning the loss of a family member likely does not need a quick pep talk about how to get on in life more positively. Here’s a few suggestions that may be more helpful:
- Pray for the brother or sister who is suffering. Likely nothing will be so helpful as prayer. Pray especially for hope and confidence in the God of all comfort.
- Give the ministry of your presence. Don’t worry so much about what to say. Just invite the person over for a meal and enjoy time together.
- If the suffering brother or sister does open up and share, offer compassionate empathy. Listen, don’t give Christian platitudes, and display the compassion of Christ.
If, like me, you’d like to be better equipped to be helpful to those who suffer, I highly recommend the new book Being There by Dave Furman. Dave, a disabled pastor, has written a tremendously honest and practical book on how to weep with those among us who weep.