When Christmas feels Sad: letting yourself be okay with unresolved heartaches

Warning!  This is not a festive post and I am okay with that.  Most of this month, I am happy.  Most of this month, I am bee-bopping in my reindeer-antlered minivan singing about the weather outside being frightful, bells jingling, and mangers .  However, there is always a part of me that  twinges with sadness, and I know I am not the only one.  Also, you should be warned that this blogpost does not end with all of your sadness tied up in a little bow and made to look happy.  Although, I do believe we can live with sadness and still have hope.   And, that is why I write today…

Come Christmas day, many churches across America will sing in loud boisterous voices,

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.”

However, if you were to be able to find my parents, my sister, and I in our separate pews sprinkled across America, you would find us with tears in our eyes.  For you see, my grandma died on Christmas day, and this song reminds us of that year.  She died 24 years ago, and the heartbreak feels just as fresh.  A part me is stuck forever on that day.  A part me sits forever in a little hospital room with my dad on Christmas Eve as he had to tell us that our Tutu (Hawaiian for Grandma) was not going to live.   A part of me sits in a silent house with my cousins and sister as we wait for all of the grownups to come back home from the hospital after receiving the phone call that my grandma’s body was failing.  The Christmas meal grew cold on the dining room table and not a one of us said a word.

Perhaps, you have a moment like that where life forever broke, and it remains forever sad.  I hate that for you.  Golly, I wish all of us could have stories where all heartache has reasons and perfect answers.   But, it just doesn’t.  There are parts of life that feel robbed.  What is a person to do when you feel robbed?  How are you to make certain moments have purpose when it seems like there is no rhyme or reason you had to live through that situation?

I don’t know.

This week is the week the church looks at the peace that Jesus brought to this Earth.  Many times we equate peace with happiness.  We think that to have peace is to have resolution.  People make it sound like I just have to put two fingers in the air, and I will find it.  However, I think finding peace lies a lot deeper in a part of ourselves that we will never see here on Earth.

Peace lies in the relinquishment that we are not enough. It is the act of giving up the grind of fixing a situation.  It is the act of saying I could not and cannot fix that moment. However, it is not enough to just relinquish sad or painful things.  It is not like we can just send our sadness into the air and it goes away.  It takes one more action.

Deep-seeded peace lies not only in the relinquishment that we are not enough, but it lies the acknowledgement of God’s control.

A guy in the Bible named Job, upon hearing of the deaths of all of his children and livestock, says , “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  This verse is my mantra in the moments when I feel the most sad.  Why?  The reason this has to be my mantra in the moments of my deepest sadness is that these are the moments I am the closest to walking away from God.  I am closest to walking away, getting angry, building walls, and creating destruction in my heart. This verse reminds me that I will not carry my sadness.  I will not carry the why question.  I will not carry the heartache.  I will give it all back to God and relinquish control.  Deep peace comes in the hallowed space God saved just for me.  

Giving our problems to God, sort of, feels like a cop-out and worn-out phrase.  It can feel like a panacea, just some trite thing Christians say.  But, you know why we say it?  We say it because it works.  We want it to be more complicated, but when Jesus says that He will carry our burdens and our loads will be light, He is not joking.  Perhaps, you have been carrying your sadness too long.  Perhaps, you harbor bitterness because you feel robbed.  Perhaps, there is a part of you that is just broken and you are tired of fixing it. Why don’t you try it another way?

All Good Things Collective’s Do Less, Make it Mean More Advent Guide says,

“It was the return to Joseph’s place of origin that resulted in Jesus being born in a humble stable.  Likewise, it is in returning to our place of origin, to our Creator, that births humility in us: a remembrance that we were birthed simply because God spoke us into being.  He didn’t even have to use His hands: He simply spoke and man was formed.  That same God that spoke us into being came to us in human flesh in order to bring us home to Him.”

He is calling us home.  If you are reading this and feel sad this Christmas season, God is calling you to talk to Him.  He is not asking you to carry your heartache alone. You may still cry.  Sadness does not mean a lack of peace.  Sadness just means you are justifiably sad. Let the words of Jesus bind you up in the promise that He came to bring you home to Him.  May you be comforted in the knowledge you are not alone.

You may always wonder, “Why?”  I know I do, but I know I will, also, say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  I will go back to the place of relinquishment and walk on.  I will walk on with a lighter load and, in that lighter load, I will find peace.

You are worth the fight for peace.  God did not make a mistake.  You can know peace. That is my wish for you this Christmas season.

Hugs from me to you.  Merry Christmas.



Two books that taught me to give up bitterness and control and point me back to God:

The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and  John Eldredge-  This is a very touchy-feely book, but it helped to reboot my life when I hit ground zero.  It woke up the real me that had been living boxed up behind a fake me.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp- There is a reason why this book is a bestseller.  It is just that good.  Again, super high on the feelings, but when you hit rock bottom, you are pretty much living on feelings.   Ann appeals to the feelings, but gives practical steps to come to place of living gratefully at peace.



About Janelle Upton

My name is Janelle and I am so glad you are here. I am a person who God brought out of a dark pit and set in a spacious place to be healed and really live. I love to study, read, and ponder all things that will lead me to understand who God is and what He is doing in my life. May what you read in this space lead you to walk closer to the God that is crazy in love with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *