Have you ever noticed that loneliness is a major theme of Christmas/Holiday movies? The storyline might follow the life of an orphan, widow or divorcee, or an addict or homeless person, a military spouse, or someone surrounded by family and friends and co-workers but bereft of “true love.”
All suffer from loneliness (with depression often in tandem), magnified and multiplied during the holidays. And all around us people are joining with friends and family in beautiful, joyful, loving revelry, while we suffer the loss of loved ones or the shame of being abandoned and left unwanted, or the consequences of our own sins that have isolated us from others.
Maybe a movie like this could be made about your life. Maybe you know all too well what it is to endure the holiday season with your loneliness and accompanying depression. Maybe you’re dreading the holiday season upon us and already grasping for ways to cope and just make it through without harming or killing yourself.
Loneliness and depression are real, and many of us suffer from these ills. I’ve had my share of these unwanted companions in past holiday seasons while living in New York City away from my family, trapped in a lifeless, hopeless marriage, all the while surrounded by millions of people.
Ironic, isn’t it? I wasn’t very lonely in the sense of being alone—most of the time I couldn’t get an inch of personal space on the subway. And although New York is one of the most beautifully decorated cities during the holidays, I never felt much joy in or freedom to appreciate the beauty of the art all around me.
I remember trying to overcome the loneliness by staying as busy as possible at work—taking all the night secretary shifts available, working Christmas Eve (double-time pay was nice, but. . .) while everyone else was at home with their families (except for the lonely attorney I was assisting). I also went to as many holiday parties as I was invited to—and people in NYC like to party.
But the busyness, the parties with friends and co-workers, none of it soothed my aching, lonely heart. It often made me feel even more disconnected and depressed as I was reminded more and more of what I did not have that I so desperately wanted: home. I wanted that place of belonging and being treasured by my loved ones. I wanted to exchange my hopelessness for songs of joy and laughter.
The Blessing Of Community
One place where I felt at home (away from home) was gathering with other believers to worship together and celebrate that Christ HAD come to free us from our sins and fears—to deliver us from the power of Satan, hell and death. Although I wasn’t a member there, I attended the Brooklyn Tabernacle regularly and made it a point to attend a Christmas Eve service each year. I can’t describe to you how much these times of worship comforted and encouraged my heart and spirit.
I was so uplifted by the choir of voices joyfully singing all around me, by the loving fellowship in Christ of those gathered, by the Word of God employed to call believers and sinners alike to faith in Christ. All of it served to strengthen me and relieve some of the loneliness and depression I’d been bearing. It also reminded me of the never-disappointing hope I have in Christ who will come again as He promised and take His bride home.
I’m also thankful for the Christian community God gave me in NYC. I wasn’t the only one removed from family traditions and away from home during the holidays. And there was always someone who was at home there and invited me to join their family for a feast. I could have turned them down and chosen instead to feed my loneliness, but something inside me knew that I needed them more than I wanted to admit.
- I needed the fellowship of a family, a place where I could rest and receive comfort and joy from others.
- I needed to share my story with people who cared about me and could prayerfully encourage me to press on.
- I needed grace to help in my time of need.
And that need brought me (and still brings me) to the throne of God. Even if I’d never found a family to share Christmas with, if I’d never had the chance to worship at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, I had my place as a child of God. I belong to Christ. And He is also mine. We are family, we are one. And with Him I will always be home.
I pray for those among us who are lonely and hurting this holiday season to be comforted by peace in knowing Jesus Christ. I pray that God would provide relief to aching hearts as He sets the solitary in families. He’s done that for me and I know He’s faithful to be near to the brokenhearted and save those whose spirits are crushed.
Let Him do that for you, friends. Let Him carry you through this difficult holiday season by joining you with other believers in worship, as you fellowship together around the table of our King. Trust Him to care for you. And don’t be afraid to tell someone else that you need them. It’s okay to invite yourself.
Let Him Use You To Care For Others Who Are Lonely
Find someone who’s lonely and invite them to be at home with you, to join you in gathered worship with your church family. Share the peace and comfort of Christ with others who are so desperate for it. Let’s show hospitality without grumbling, but with generous grace in the same way that we have received hospitable, generous grace from our Savior King.
Mercy, love and peace be yours in abundance this holiday season.
“While Still Sinners” artwork by Christy Harner, courtesy Sojourn Visual Artists