Why do so many people struggle more during the holidays? Loneliness, depression, family arguments, increased temptations, you name it—this time of year can be downright tough.
But half the challenge around the holidays has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with our expectations.
Expectations are TNT to holiday peace and joy.
And they come at us from every direction:
Advertisers prop up idealized images of food, friendships, family.
Holiday movies and TV specials do too. (Heck, they paint a pretty unrealistic picture of even the first Thanksgiving and the first Christmas.)
Loved ones can foist their expectations onto you, too: what time you’ll arrive, how long you’ll stay, even how you “should” think and feel. Not to mention their thoughts (and comments) about your spouse and children (or lack thereof).
And then there are your own explicit or subtle expectations as to what the holidays should hold for you. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, somehow it’s so easy to slip into thinking that this year will be different.
Without taking time to recognize the expectations you’re living under, you’ll find yourself experiencing a cocktail of stress, disappointment, resentment, and increased temptations in the days and weeks leading up to the end of the year.
Sometimes, just taking time to make a verbal or written list of expectations (coming from others and yourself) will reveal how impossibly unrealistic they are, and hopefully free you up a bit to accept, work with, pray through, and enjoy life as it comes to you.
Where your holidays disappoint and discourage, let them remind you that you’re not Home yet. Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t a respite from life on earth, not a fast-forward to Heaven. They are, in many ways, actually more of a petri dish of life on earth, where we experience (as C.S. Lewis put it) “all the pains and perturbations of love” in a fallen world.
And where your holidays do bring you joy and love (and I sincerely hope they do), receive that joy and love as just a foretaste of what God has in store. And remember to share some with others around you, too.
Hey, click on the image in this post and it will take you to a tremendous commercial depicting a real historical event when the goodness of Heaven invaded the most unlikely of places.