It seems like the holidays were easier when I was a kid. As a kid, I was caught up in the wonder and excitement of it all. There were presents under the tree with my name on them. Each one held so much possibility. The expectations on me were minimal. My family would ask questions like, “Are you making good grades? How’s soccer going? Do you have a lot of friends at school?” The answers were easy: “Yep. Soccer’s great. I love my friends.” Then it was over.
Now a couple harmless questions at the family dinner table can feel like being on trial: “How’s the job? How much longer are you going to stay there? What about dating? Do you have a boyfriend?”
“The job’s good. It’s paying the bills for right now. Um, a guy asked me out to coffee last month, does that count as a date? Actually I paid for it, so never mind. Nope, no boyfriend… still.” Meanwhile, my thirteen-year-old cousin’s next to me texting his girlfriend, and I have launched into a full-on quarter-life crisis before the mashed potatoes made it around the table. Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Why am I still at that same job? When am I going to start a career? And how did this kid get a girlfriend? He can’t even drive.
Christmas is a beautiful season of giving and spending time with the people we care about, but sometimes it comes with the realization that life did not turn out the way we expected it to. We look around at family or friends or people we’ve known forever, and it’s hard not to compare our life to theirs. It’s hard not to remember where we thought we would end up or how we thought things would be at this point in our life. This is where we wanted to offer you some encouragement and practical things to help, so here are four ways to thrive this Christmas:
1. Don’t Play the Comparison Game.
This is your life. It’s not going to look like anyone else’s because it’s not supposed to. God is doing something new in you. He is telling a story with you that He’s never told before. Measuring your life up against the lives of others doesn’t do it justice. Let Him take you on your own unique path and bring out all the talent and passion and courage and beautiful things He wants to bring out in you.
2. Shut Shame Up.
Here’s the thing about shame. It doesn’t play fair. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools. His whole job is to ruin things (John 10:10). He will shame you for working too hard or not working hard enough. He will shame you for getting married too young or not getting married young enough. He will shame you for going too far in your past sexually or for not going far enough. There is no winning with him. He will always find one more thing for you to feel shame about.
Instead of listening to the voice of shame, listen to the voice telling you that you are enough. You work hard enough. You love deep enough. What you have to give is enough. You are enough because you were created in the very image of God, and He crafted you together with intentional design and purpose. You are enough because God loves you so much, He was willing to pay the highest price for you. You are enough because even in the places where you are weak, God comes in and shows Himself strong.
3. Be Honest About Where You Are.
It’s okay to be real with God about the disappointment. It’s okay to bring Him the pain of unmet expectations. It’s okay to talk to Him about the dreams that haven’t happened yet. Start where you’re at and allow Him to bring you into alignment with what He is saying about you. The truth is, He is working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28). You may not see it or feel it yet. You may have dreams you’ve been waiting on for a long long time. You may even feel like you’ve lost your hope and your ability to be in wonder about anything, but this is not the end. You are still in the middle of your story, and there is a lot more good to come.
4. Feed Yourself Good Things.
We talked a little bit about listening to God’s voice over the enemy’s voice. One way to do this over the holidays is to pay attention to what you’re feeding yourself. You probably know that filling yourself up with sugar cookies and other things that are delicious but terrible for you is not a good plan. You will not feel great afterward, and you will also not be hungry for the things that actually are good for you like, dare I say, vegetables. It’s the same way with your soul and spirit as well. If you fill yourself up on endearing, yet unrealistic Christmas movies and conversations with your family and friends about where your 5-year-plan is lacking, then you will not feel great.
Instead, make sure you are filling yourself with things that are good for you- body, soul, and spirit. It may mean you take a walk and listen to a podcast that’s encouraging. It may mean you listen to the Bible while you’re getting ready or while you’re Christmas shopping, but find a way to squeeze this in. It’s worth it to fill yourself up with the truth so that when the accuser comes in and tries to lie to you, you won’t have any room for what he’s saying.
Our heart for you this Christmas season is that you would truly be able to enjoy the time that is meant for you to rest, recuperate, spend time with family, and celebrate one of the greatest gifts we’ve ever been given. Get yourself in the Word. Feast on God’s promises. Rest in His goodness, and remember that He has better things planned for you than you could ever imagine.
We pray abundant blessings over you and your family as you spend time together this Christmas and as you head into the New Year.
ANDREA IS A GRADUATE OF THE SCHOOL OF MINISTRY AT BETHEL AND CURRENTLY SERVES ON THE WRITING TEAM FOR MORAL REVOLUTION. SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT SEEING THE CHURCH CARRY JOYFUL HOPE AND EXPECTATION IN EVERY AREA OF THEIR LIVES. SHE LONGS TO SEE THE UPCOMING GENERATION EQUIPPED AS STRONG LEADERS WHO STEWARD THEIR LIVES WELL AND INFLUENCE SOCIETY AS A RESULT.