When Family is Hard

📸: thenational.ae

Last Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas to me.

Growing up, many of my family’s holiday traditions centered around my grandparents. We’d spend the day at my paternal grandparents’ (whom I call Nana and Papaw) house on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day was spent at my maternal grandparents’ (whom I call Mamaw and Papaw). The festivities began around noon and lasted late into the night, complete with Christmas dinner for lunch and leftovers for dinner, opening gifts, and goofing around with my cousin and sister all day. 

Because of a disease called dementia, Mamaw doesn’t even know what Christmas is anymore.

We still celebrated, but it was certainly not the same. We made Christmas breakfast, one of the few meals she still enjoys. We exchanged a few gifts, explaining to her repeatedly why we were giving them. Then, my cousin and I, both engaged that year, left to fit in our soon-to-be in-laws’ traditions. 

I share that to say that sometimes, the holidays are hard. Family issues like loss, brokenness, and dysfunction can make even the merriest of us dread this time of year. If that’s your story this year,  you’re not alone. Read on as I share what gives us hope this holiday season.

You’re Part of a Bigger Family

Earthly families are very important. In fact, the Bible commands us to take care of them. But, like all other earthly institutions, families can be fallible, messy, and broken. Maybe yours is; maybe divorced parents, feuding relatives or loss makes the holidays hard for you.

But thankfully, my Christian brothers and sisters, there is still good news. At Christmastime, we celebrate God coming down as a man, so that we could join His family. At Thanksgiving, we thank Him for that. The people around the table are not your only family. You have a perfect father in Heaven who loves you with an everlasting love. You have brothers and sisters to whom you are bonded by the blood of Christ. This is cause to rejoice, no matter our circumstance.  

It’s About More than Tradition

Holiday traditions are great. They add fun and merriment to the day, and bring us closer to the people we love. So when they are interrupted or ruined, it can be heartbreaking. 

But the meanings of our beloved holidays are bigger than our traditions. With or without all our loved ones, we have much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. No matter who is fighting, where you celebrate, or how you feel, Jesus still came to Earth as a vulnerable little baby for Christmas. The day is still good, even when it is hard. 

Celebrate on the Inside

If the holidays are to be joyful regardless of our circumstances, the celebration must take place inside of us first. Take time to reflect on the meaning of the day. What are you thankful for? Christ came to us in the form of a baby. Why is this the greatest news in the world?

If your family traditions are in flux, there’s no rule that says you can’t create some of your own. As a newlywed, I’m in a perfect place to do that. Josh and I get to decide what the holidays mean for us as a family and how we will celebrate. But you can do this as a single person too. Spend some time volunteering. Make a party out of wrapping gifts. Do a gift exchange with friends. There are lots of ways to make the holidays feel more merry and bright, but the celebration has to start inside of us.

Sometimes, the holidays are hard. Some are scarred by loss. Some are hard to endure because of depression or family dysfunction. But there is no difficulty that cannot be counted joy in Jesus. Praise Him for who He is this holiday season, and if it’s hard for you, find your rest in Him. 

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