The holiday season can be hard for those who are single or struggling, mostly because it seems to highlight what we don’t have.
This Christmas, we are heading to Florida to visit my brother, his wife, and my brand new nephew. My brother. My brother who is two years and two months younger than I. My brother, who has been married for two and a half years. My brother who always seems to live his life ahead of mine.
To give you a little background on this particular brother and I, we have a long history of him always doing things first.
When I was in Jr. High, I ran hurdles in track. Correction: I wanted to run hurdles. I was just afraid of jumping. My grandfather got two 50 gallon barrels, put them in the back yard and set a board on them. A “country” hurdle. I was convinced I couldn’t jump it. I ran up to it multiple times, but could never muster the courage to leap over that board.
That was until Justin, nine at the time, cleared it in his first try. I watched angrily, and then did it myself.
Probably the same year, same back yard, same grandfather had a dirt bike. Justin got to ride it first. It looked like fun, so I marched outside, climbed on the bike, and told my grandfather I knew what I was doing. That was a lie.
I twisted that handle like I was in some biker movie. Turns out, that’s the throttle. I took my foot off the brake and promptly flew across their backyard, cut a hard right through the neighbor’s gravel driveway, across the street, through another neighbor’s front lawn, went airborne jumping the ditch coming back across the street, and then flipped the bike in the side lawn.
I laid there on the ground, a brake handle in my leg, a bike- still running- spinning on my back. Sometimes, that’s how life feels like it works for us.
Someone else seems to get life figured out while we feel like a royal failure.
Christmas and New Years can be notorious for this. We’re spending time with friends and family, watching couples, watching engagement rings fill our news feed, listening to hopes and dreams for a new year. And it’s left some of us asking, “Where on earth did I mess up?”
Everyone else seems to have the house, the spouse, the kids, the degree, the dream, the job, and you’re sitting at the table feeling like you’re five years old, still floundering around. This is the season when whatever you feel like you’re missing in your life is amplified times 100.
Even without that feeling, this season can already be rough. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the stress that already exists around Christmas is compounded by the shorter days and less chance to be outside.
It all swirls together in a perfect storm of struggle for us. Emotional, mental, and physical factors all join together to make the holiday season especially hard.
Here are some truths that have helped me replace that frustration with hope.
Desire is not wrong
We fall into this trap of believing that it is wrong for us to desire something. We talk about contentment, and we warn against coveting. We act as if it’s super spiritual and mature to completely kill off desire. It’s not.
If you desire marriage, children, a better job, a more stable family, a good friend, don’t feel guilty for desiring those. Don’t buy the lie that “contentment” is somehow synonymous with having nothing you desire. Don’t let desire make you feel guilty or ashamed.
Freedom is being able to rejoice with others
Relationships are a privilege. I don’t mean dating relationships. Relationships, in general, are a privilege. We get to live in families and communities that experience growth, loss, new life, and love all together. Shame will drive us into isolation. It will take our good and healthy desires and turn them into perceived failures. It will make us envious and frustrated.
So, instead of sitting in a corner, stewing, get out there and get involved in the discussion. Rejoice with your friends and your family. There’s an element of trust and healing that is shown when you’re able to say, “Yes, of course, I want to get married and I’m annoyed that it hasn’t happened yet, but I will gladly stare at your ring and celebrate with you!”
Never fear honesty
That being said, don’t try to “fake it till you make it.” That never seems to work. If being single this holiday season is a struggle for you, it’s ok to tell somebody. If your family’s jokes about you finding a special someone cut a little too deep, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself or, at the very least, change the conversation.
If the holiday seasons are a struggle in a different way- with the increased stress of family, relationships, and more leading to a greater battle with temptation- tell someone. Part of accountability and freedom is being able to identify a “red flag” situation before it becomes a problem. If you know that this could be a struggle for you, let someone know beforehand so they can stay in touch and be praying for you.
Timelines are different
A couple years ago, I suffered a devastating break up. Many times, throughout this particular year-long relationship, I had told my friends that I was asking God if I could please keep this man. I had even gone so far as to say, while helping another friend shop for her wedding dress, that if he wasn’t the one, I was done. When that relationship went up in flames, I was devastated and physically ill.
One of my dearest friends sent me this verse:
He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 a (AMP)
I printed the entire chapter of Ecclesiastes off and put it on my desk at work. I highlighted this part and put stars around “and appropriate.” It has sat there on my desk for well over a year- a daily reminder that God’s time is not my time, and it’s ok.
That’s how we hold on to hope during seasons that would try to steal it from us.
We trust that whether it is for our own healing, or for some greater purpose- there is a good, appropriate, and beautiful reason things can seem to take so long. It doesn’t mean someone else is better than you or has their life figured out. God isn’t “rewarding” them and punishing you.
So, this season, show shame the door, plug into your friends and family, and believe that, even when it seems you’re unheard, forgotten, and “falling behind,” you are loved by a God who makes everything beautiful in His time.