Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Most Meaningful Time of the Year

Carrie squirmed in her seat as the familiar chords of It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year began. But instead of making her feel warm and cozy, the song caused her to ask herself the silent question, what if — for you, it isn't the most wonderful time?

Her youngest child tugged at her shirt sleeve and smiled up at Carrie in innocent joy. A child born over a year after the blow that plunged Carrie into an onyx hollow of depression. A child who didn't realize, that for her mother, it was the most sorrowful time of the year. For this was the season they'd lost their home and oldest daughter in the fire. The slightest stench of smoke still made Carrie anxious.

As the last echoes of melody wafted into the rafters, the minister stepped behind the podium. The crackle of tissued pages turned in his Bible magnified by the microphone. With a compassionate smile, he said, "Christmas is not a wonderful time for everyone."

Had he read Carrie's mind? She swallowed bitter bile.

The pastor continued, "But God has a gift for the broken-hearted this season. In the New Living Translation of Psalm 56:8 we are reminded, 'You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.'"

Carrie's daughter wriggled, "Mommy, you're hurting my fingers."

Carrie looked down to realize she'd squeezed her four-year-old's tiny hand. She immediately rubbed the reddened skin and whispered, "Sorry, Baby."

The minister added, "Many suffer from things they'll never get over. But where well-meaning people often don't understand, God comes from a place of experience. Imagine His sorrow when He lost His only child, Jesus Christ — sacrificed for an ungrateful lot like us."

Carrie felt a waterfall wash off her chin.

"Because He truly knows how we feel, God is able to console us in our painful places. And in 2 Corinthians 1:4, He urges us to follow His example when we're told, 'He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.'"

Through tear-blurred eyes, Carrie looked at the row of seats across from her. She'd noticed Jessie earlier, but had avoided the wounded woman wearing a veil of fresh grief. Thirty-four weeks into her pregnancy, the young mom had delivered a still-born baby boy.

When the service ended, Carrie approached Jessie. Instead of avoiding her as an excruciating reminder, she now saw the young woman as a fellow traveler. Forced to walk a valley so dark, so deep, so despairing, it seemed it would never end. Challenged to endure Christmas while others celebrated.

Recently, Carrie realized God was guiding her back into moments of light. She even caught herself smiling, and basked in the wonder of such simple pleasure.

As Carrie stood in front of Jessie, she offered a humble but powerful gift. Experiential empathy.

The two women shared an aversion to painful reminders spurred by the Christmas season. But they could also accept the presence of a deeper appreciation for their Savior, who cared enough to track their sorrows, collect their tears in a bottle, and record them in His book — knowing each would transform into gifts of compassion they could offer others.

In that moment, Carrie realized Christ in Christmas meant offering her compassionate presence, hope for the hurting. Where others saw the most wonderful time, Carrie now saw the most meaningful, but she would give her gift all year long.

Copyright © Anita Agers-Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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