img_4753This morning at 7:00 a.m. Mass, I offered my prayers for everyone who is lonely or hurt or suffering during this Christmas Season. This post is for all those people who find this holiday season painful. Christmas is like a great magnifying glass which magnifies the good and the bad indiscriminately. When things are good, the Christmas season can make it seem even better. When things are bad, the Christmas season can make life seem heartbreakingly horrendous. If all is well in your world, you may stop here and find something more pertinent to read. Just remember to be sensitive when gushing about your holidays. The last thing you want to do is inadvertantly rub it in.

For those of you who are somewhat or very miserable this holiday season, I simply want to reach out and acknowledge your pain. You are not alone. Not by a longshot. You are not a failure because your reality does not match your heart’s desire. How often do all the stars align perfectly for anyone? My guess is that it’s not as often as you’d think.

When people are lonely or down, they often turn to social media to escape. The problem during Christmas is that if you spend time on social media you can get a warped sense of reality that only makes you feel worse. It looks like everyone is having the best times of their lives with their happy and healthy families, surrounded by good friends and loving significant others.  Of course, people generally don’t post their dirty laundry on social media, nor should they. We don’t need to advertise our pains and shortcomings – it’s just not appropriate.

But do not be deceived.

Scratch the surface of any human being and you’ll find someone who is concerned or struggling about something. I’m sure lots of people are genuinely happy, but I’m also sure that lots of people look a lot happier than they really are. Don’t let that social media tidal wave of real or fake happiness in the other houses on the street make you feel worse. Truth be told, most of us live most of our lives somewhere in the middle. There is joy amidst the pain, precious embers of warmth even while experiencing cold and crushing personal disappointments.

You may be lonely. You may be hurt. You may be deeply, deeply frustrated. If so, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook is not going to be very helpful at this time of the year. Here are three simple suggestions for you:

  1. Don’t blow your own situation out of proportion. Lots of people silently feel awful. You’re not the only one. Remember that the Christ-child was born under stressful and unpleasant circumstances. Terrifying even. It is important to count your blessings. Cultivate that habit of gratitude for what you have, not sorrow over what you lack.
  2. Don’t begrudge other people their happiness. It’s good that they are happy. Very good. Be happy FOR them, and WITH them. Do this sincerely and without any self-pity. It’ll give you something to take your mind off your own pain. If you can’t do it perfectly, then fake it. You’ll never regret this.
  3. Don’t squander your suffering. Take it from a 3 time cancer patient: suffering can be offered as a powerful and effective prayer. Take your suffering, wrap it up in a Christmas bow and humbly give it back to God, asking Him to to transform it (and transform you) into something beautiful.

Be brave, be strong, and have courage. Christ loves you very much. You might not always feel it, but I assure you that He does!