A Season of Sorrow and Joy

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No other time of year encompasses so great a dichotomy of feelings. For many, we are in the midst of the happiest time of the year, for others the most sorrowful. For the vast majority, I think it is safe to say that the holidays come wrapped in an intermingled mixture of both. We are sorrowful yet rejoicing, pained yet laughing, feeling both the good and the bad of the past year.

Christmas is a season that lends towards remembering all that happened in the previous year, and the depth of our happiness at Christmas is often measured by the losses and blessings we have sustained in the past twelve months. The pain of any type of loss is hardest at the holidays. The absence of a loved one is most noticed and palpable. The sting of poverty, infertility, loneliness, divorce, and yes, chronic pain and illness, are all magnified tenfold this time of the year. But the same is true of the good. Newborn babies, financial success, in-tact families, and new jobs all give abundant reason to make the celebrations all the more grand and all the more special.

Christmas magnifies our joys and heightens our losses. Whatever we are feeling, we start to feel it more at Christmas. 

I had intended to write through and process some of the best and worst memories of this past year, but I will save it for another time. Because in all honesty, this past year feels somewhat like a blur, the memories seeping together at the edges. It will be important to separate the pieces out later, but for now my mind is simply feeling everything, all that has happened, as an amalgamated and unprocessed mess. It is all there, it is all unprocessed, but at least for now, it is not bogging me down. I simply know it exists, and that I will have to do something about it later.

Bad things happened this year. I quit my main job because of my health. I spent more days than I can count barely able to leave the couch. I felt a lot of physical pain and experienced a lot of loss.

Abundant blessings happened this year. I was able to keep my other job, a job I absolutely love. I started this blog and made plans to write a book. I have been surrounded by family and friends who are loving and caring.

And taking it all together, my desire is simply to experience Christmas as it is, Christmas as it naturally flows from what I have experienced this past year. I am simply feeling what I am feeling and knowing that it is normal to feel both happiness and sadness together. I am not trying to turn Christmas into something that it is not, pretending this year has been filled with rainbows and butterflies. I am not placing expectations on this Christmas that it will be like other Christmases I have experienced at the end of years that held mostly joy and success. This will be a Christmas of both sorrow and joy, and that is the way I think it should be, for me, this year.

This is not a Christmas of all happiness, but it is also not a Christmas of all sorrow. It is both, simultaneously and together.

And this intermingling of sorrow and joy seems fitting because the birth that we are celebrating holds more joy than we can imagine, but also more sorrow than has ever been felt. We are celebrating God coming to earth, becoming human, and humbling himself to become a child. We are celebrating loss. Loss in which our Lord humbled himself to the point of poverty and pain. Loss in which Christ bore the physical agony of the cross, felt the wrath of God and was forsaken by Him.

We are celebrating the experience of unmatched loss, but also the bringing of unparalleled joy. And so it is fitting, that as we celebrate, we feel both the losses and the blessings, the agonies and the ecstasies.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

16 responses

  1. I just want you to know that you are not alone. This year hasn’t been great for me either and it’s hard to fight the sadness that comes with this time of year. Work hard to remain positive. The New Year is almost here and I am praying for a better year for you! Merry Christmas!

  2. “the holidays come wrapped in an intermingled mixture of both…” is exactly correct for me…I am often filled with tremendous gratitude for the life I have been given despite the challenges but I am also filled a quiet but powerful sorrow for the people I have lost and with them the traditions and connection to my family.

  3. I just want to thank you so much for really giving permission for people to feel not so great this time of year. That’s one thing I haven’t read about anywhere. Feeling low ans holiday depression is something that so many of us share, yet we all tend to feel guilty or embarrassed about it when there is much to be grateful for all at once. Fighting against these feelings so hard cannot be healthy. You really said it beautifully and set a faith-based precedence that I have never heard before.
    I am hopeful you have a rich, joyful new year with new hopes and renewed passions in your life.
    God bless you. Thank you so much for this!

    • Thank you! Yes, I was actually surprised as well at the lack of posts talking about the more difficult and depressing side of the holidays, as it is such a common feeling that so many share. This year I have been thinking through how Paul describes himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” – they really can come together at the same time, and so often do for those who follow Christ. Not only Paul, but Christ was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We talk about being sorrowful as if it is such a bad thing that we must avoid at all costs, but it really comes with the territory of living on this broken earth. I have to learn to not become bogged down in it, to embrace the “always rejoicing” aspect of life as well, but more and more I am accepting that to feel grief on this earth is normal, perhaps even necessary.

      Wishing you a wonderful start to the new year as well!

      • That’s excellent. You are so wise and have so many wonderful insights to share. Yes, Paul was struggling and had everything he thought he once was taken from him, yet he found joy. You’re right, if we don’t allow it ALL to come, then maybe we won’t get the height of the joy as well.
        I shared this on facebook and I hope it helped as every one if my friends (some of the most upbeat and godly people I’ve ever known) have had a very low couple months.
        As you were thinking of Paul, I’ve also been thinking of David and the beginning of the Psalms. We think of the Psalms as being so uplifting and a book of rejoicing. However, his first nearly 20 chapters were about how desperately he was struggling. The Psalms blossom into his praises from his lowly place.
        Thank you for sharing this. Such a blessing!

      • Yes, thank you for sharing about the Psalms. That is so true, and so comforting that God allows us to speak exactly what we are experiencing from our lowliest places. It is what I love best about the Psalms.

        I am sorry so many of your friends have been having a hard time. This year has been difficult for so many close to me as well. It has been not just the difficulty of my own year but of those around me that has led me to some of these thoughts. I am thankful for the starting fresh of a new year. It gives me hope.

  4. Wise. Birth and death are both part of life. God came to us as a human, as Jesus. He was born, felt pain, and died. Just as we do. Beautifully and thoughtfully written. Thank you. God bless you.

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