Christmastime is supposed to be The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. For many of us, however, it’s actually the most difficult time of the year. Expectations run high with stories on Instagram and posts on Facebook and Pinterest. And if we happen to be among those who still get what my friend Julia calls the “my-family’s-better-than-your-family” Christmas letters, all the glorious glitz and glam can make our life look miserable in comparison.
But are all those stories and photo shoots real or just a reel?
You know, it doesn’t even matter. Here’s the deal: when we compare our lives to the climatic achievements and capstone accomplishments of others, we’re in for trouble.
Comparison kills joy. Expectations rob of us gratitude. But perspective can change everything.
In 1992, just after my second child was born, my first husband and I separated. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband wasn’t paying support. In other words, I was flat broke. When I looked at my budget, the forecast was miserable. After I paid bills and bought diapers, I had only $15 left over for the entire month.
I was used to letting my circumstances rule my feelings. When I had a lot of money, it was easy to be happy but when I was broke, despair ruled my emotions.
Struggling with discouragement, I sat down at my kitchen table and flipped open the pages of my Bible. I call this point-and-click style of reading Bible Roulette. Sometimes it’s really profound. Such was the case this day. When it landed on Philippians 4:12-13, I knew God was speaking to my situation.
Paul was writing, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
I looked up from the passage as my daughter Brittany bounced into the kitchen. When she opened the fridge and poured herself a glass of milk, the truth slapped me in the face. The reality was, I’d never been hungry. I’d never been in jail for preaching the gospel. I had to wonder. If Paul could be content in those kinds of situations, maybe I could be satisfied with mine. Besides, what good would it do to remain in discouragement all month? Despair wouldn’t make me richer. Plus, it’s contagious. If my despair rubbed off on my children, then our whole household would be discouraged.
I could choose to be discouraged or I could choose to be content. My perspective was my choice. If I chose to stay in discouragement, I’d be in it for a whole month! I didn’t want to be depressed the whole Christmas season. What kind of Christmas would that be?
To distract my thoughts, I found some towels I no longer used because I had changed the color scheme in my bathroom. Navy and burgundy were rejected when pastel blue and pink became the preferred palette. Then I got busy making matching bathrobes for my daughter and niece. At least I had two gifts to wrap. And my baby was too young to know I had nothing for him.
Later that week we went to the grocery story. As Brittany skipped up to the entrance of Food Lion, her eyes gleamed. “Look at the pretty Christmas trees!” She yanked on my arm. “Mom, can we buy one please? They’re only $15.”
I gave in. Blew the bank and spent the whole wad. I had nothing left for the rest of the month, but every time I looked at the tree, the ornaments and twinkling lights seemed to say…
I could choose to be discontent as easily as I could choose to be content. That $15 could have been spend on despair. Instead, the fresh joy it brought lasted all month long.
On Christmas Eve, an acquaintance who had heard about my situation brought over a ham and all the trimmings plus gifts for my children.
God is never too late. He’s always right on time. The Christmas of 92 provokes fond memories for me. God took me through a season of lack to demonstrate that He is faithful. Without a season of want, I would have never learned how to experience true joy.
When I saw the expressions on Brittany and Mariam’s faces as they delighted in their “twin” robes, I experienced a true Christmas miracle. God turned something I no longer used into everything I needed.
Father, I want to lift up my sister to you. You know her needs. You know her situation. And You care for her deeply. I’m so grateful that you promise to supply all of her needs. Please help her to see her circumstances through your perspective so that nothing takes away her joy. May this be a true Christmas to remember for her and her family. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
What about you? Would you take the time to encourage someone who is having a difficult time now? How has your perspective given you the ability to move ahead despite difficulties?