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Hurting During the Holidays Part 2

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In Part 1 of “Hurting During the Holidays,” we looked at the symptoms and causes of the “holiday blues”–feelings of anxiety, sadness, or loneliness that occur during the holiday season. If you missed that post, I encourage you to read it first by going here. In this post I want to give you four practical steps for ministering to those who are suffering from the holiday blues.

Be Proactive

If you suspect someone is suffering during the holidays, don’t wait on them to come to you. Reach out to them. Don’t ask them to initiate contact. Imagine what they might need and provide it. If you tell them to call you if they need anything . . . they never will. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what you would need. Take them a meal. Pick up some groceries. Take them to dinner. Invite them over to spend some time with you and your family. Don’t offer to do something; actually do something.

Be Present

Caring for people is difficult to do from a distance. Phone calls, texts, and e-mails are good. Taking them to lunch is even better. Sitting in their home and caring for them is best. The holidays are busy. That’s one of the reasons why many people struggle during the holidays. They suddenly feel forgotten and alone. Others around them are busy with family, friends, parties, and celebrations. The busier everyone around them is, the more isolated they become. Show up and spend some time with them. The power of your presence will have a healing effect on them. People won’t always remember what you say to them, but they will remember that you were there.

Be Prudent 

Be prudent in what you say to those who are hurting during the holidays. Sometimes when we speak in spiritual platitudes, people think we don’t understand their pain. We cheapen their experience when we try to play it off as if it is no big deal. Sometimes our advice seems insensitive and can sound judgmental. Charles Spurgeon wrote in 1881, “I know that wise brethren say, ‘You should not give way to feelings of depression.’ If those who blame quite so furiously could once know what depression is, they would think it cruel to scatter blame where comfort is needed.” So if you’re in doubt about what to say, don’t say anything.  Be wise in any advice you give them.

Be Prayerful

There is nothing more beneficial to the hurting than God’s intervention in their lives. When you pray for them, you are inviting the Holy Spirit to do what you cannot. You are interceding on their behalf to a loving Father who wants to comfort them. But don’t just pray for them, pray with them. Instead of telling them that you are praying for them and then walking away, ask them if you can pray with them right then. You might see their countenance change as soon as you start praying with them. Spurgeon said, ““The way of sorrow is not the way of sin, but a hallowed road sanctified by the prayers of myriads of pilgrims now with God–pilgrims who, passing through the valley of Baca (weeping) made it a well.” It’s your prayers that will help them, not only to make it through a dark time, but also to leave a well for others as they pass through the darkness.

You have a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people who are hurting during the holidays. If you strive to be a blessing to those who are hurting this holiday season, you’ll be blessed beyond measure.

Tate Cockrell is the Assistant Director of Doctor of Ministry Studies and Associate Professor of Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He also serves as the Associate Pastor of Counseling over Recovery Groups at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C. He and his wife, Wendy have three children – Tatum, Preston, and Spencer.
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