Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is an important part for some. Our Faith column is a place for anyone to discuss how faith positively affects their mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
Christmas — it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The weeks leading up to December 25th are filled with happiness and cheer, with family and gift giving, with festivities and celebration.
For Christians, it’s also the season of Advent, the coming of Christ. This is a time of rejoicing and celebrating, a time of peace and hope for the Savior has come! Joy to the world — Christ is here!
At Christmastime, everything seems a little bit lighter, a little more hopeful.
We sing songs of joy and peace and glory in the highest. Hearts feel more joyous and more filled with love.
Except for those of us who struggle with depression or other forms of mental illness.
For us, around Christmastime, we struggle, whether it’s because of the shorter days and lack of sunlight, the changes in routine, or the increased presence of triggers. Often, those of us with depression sit through church services feeling despair instead of joy, loneliness instead of love, shame instead of peace.
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We grieve the absence of our rejoicing rather than celebrating in the birth of our Savior.
We feel guilty.
It’s hard enough to reconcile being a Christian with depression and mental illness, when Christians are so often stereotyped as being joyful and filled with peace. But to go through one of the major holy days in Christianity not feeling as Christians are “supposed” to is a very difficult feat.
Know that whatever you may be struggling with this Advent season, you are not alone.
You are not the only Christian who is hurting this Christmas.
Whether you are struggling with loss, physical illness, depression, anxiety, addiction, absence of family, you are not the only one for whom this particular season is hard. You are not alone.
Look for community in this time of hardship.
Speak with your church leaders, with your spiritual mentors, with your friends and family. Let them know you are struggling, so they may walk alongside you. Let others bring light into your darkness by acknowledging your pain.
Light has the power to drive away the darkness, even just a little bit.
That’s what Christmas is all about — the coming of the Light into our darkness.
Christmas brings us Jesus, who is a Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Light of the World. Christmas means there is hope for our darkness. It means we don’t have to walk through this season alone, even if we feel we have no one who will understand our struggle.
In Mark 14, we see that Jesus, too, experienced the pain and desperation of depression in the time leading up to his crucifixion. His birth at Christmas made it so he could fully understand our pain because he experienced it as well, so as he walks with us through our own darkness, we can have hope we aren’t alone.
Know that even if you don’t feel this hope, it is okay. Your feelings are valid. You are valid.
What you do or do not feel in this particular time is not a reflection of your faith or you as a person. Remember, not experiencing the hope and joy of Christmas does not make this hope less present in your life. It doesn’t make Jesus less present in your life.
Not feeling or believing something is true does not, in fact, make it less real or less true. Christ is here. We have hope. There is light for our darkness. Thanks be to God.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. For to us a child is born… and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6)
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