We followers of Christ are not exempt from sorrow, grief, sadness, and heaviness. Jesus himself wept. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and wept at the death of his beloved friend Lazarus (John 11:35). He was distraught at the loneliness he would endure on the cross. The thought of the suffering he would bear brought him into such a state of distress that he sweated great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Our great Savior knows what it means to be lonely. He knows the grief and sorrow we bear. He knows of the rain that never stops. He knows that Christians get depressed too. He knows what it is to be royal and yet suffer.
When we wake up it is dark. When we come home it is still dark. This time of year can be a season of tremendous sadness. Some sadness emerges due to things like clinical and seasonal depression. Another sadness comes from the circumstances of the season.
- Seemingly every advertisement shows smiling faces, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel like smiling without his wife of 50 years beside him anymore.
- The family came to visit for the holidays just a few days ago, but it might as well be decades by the tears on her face. It was just a few years ago the kids were playing tag in the basement. Now one is a drug addict, and the other committed suicide Christmas Eve two years before.
- She’s thrilled to be in the embrace of her new boyfriend who asked her out over the Christmas break. The old boyfriend struggles to find words or motivation for anything and ends up quitting college after failing 3 out of 4 classes in the spring.
- The alarm clock disturbs a brief moment of restful sleep to remind the parent that all is quiet in the house, their little 5-year-old daughter won’t wake them up in bed anymore because she’s in hospice care with only a few days left to live.
While many this time of year are in “shop until you drop” mode, some are in “weep until you sleep” mode. Despite all the efforts of commercialism to drive an anxious populace to buy happiness and exchange material gifts, whatever fleeting experience of excitement and enjoyment soon fades. Willy Wonka’s 4th quarter push to stimulate gains can’t compare to the crushing realities, tragedies, and struggles of the broken world we dwell in. The temporary timestamps of worldly pleasures fade away as the grim darkness and coldness of winter come with a truckload of haunting guilt, regretful words, and overwhelming circumstances.
Why are some sad during this time of year? Because the grass withers and the flowers fall (Isaiah 40:8). Because nothing under the sun can provide lasting satisfaction, everything is wearisome (Ecclesiastes 1:8-11).
The heaviness of this time of year is a burden for many. The cacophony of voices shouting words like “sale” “special” “discount” and “celebrate” echo as dark empty hallways in the hearts of those grieving, wounded, weak, and weeping. All the memories of loved ones and bygone days seem to pile up and throw themselves across the checkout counter of life during this season. I’ve seen it in the poor, and I’ve seen it in the rich. It’s a look that betrays the inward thoughts. There is nothing in this world that can bring lasting gladness. This world is gray. No, this world is worse than gray. It is overcast with a storm of tears and seemingly no wind to push the storm away from us. All is calm, but all is not bright.
This time of year awakens in many of us the realities of death. Of relationships gone, of friends and loved ones beyond our present reach. Of opportunities lost, doors closed, and windows locked shut. For many, they wear a smile only because it is a socially agreed-upon thing to do. We smile outwardly because it is expected, while inwardly we rage, we curse, we fear, we long.
In the long night of winter, we do not feel like merry-making. We sit in proverbial ashes and dust, waiting for the next time of fitful sleep to overwhelm our exhausted hearts. For many this time is the loneliest time of year. This is the time when death most tightly grips us with its ice-cold bruising grip.