For many, the holidays are only reminiscent of that pain—the dark, cold, lonely, bitter days—best left to one single breath in, waiting for a new year to exhale.

The Secret to Overcoming the Holiday Blues: Gratitude

by Nayomi Thomas
11/22/17 Christian Living

I am not sure at what age it began, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around 13 or 14. And though my time frame is uncertain, the feeling of life with depression is clear. I can best describe it as a deep, piercing, long-lasting, body-aching sadness, a heavy, often-present gray cloud looming over my mind, will, and emotions.

From the age of five I had been involved in competitive swimming and I was active in sports until I graduated from high school. But as my commitment to sports waned and without my knowing the connection, my depression increased. Boredom, partying, insecurities, and many broken relationships later may not have been the cause, but they sure did not help. In my mid 20s, my friend Rachel pointed out how much difference she saw in me after I exercised. I realized how valuable a gift this had been for me during those younger years. I had not been aware of His leading in my life even at such a young age.

Yet however crucial exercise has always been and continues to be, it is all a momentary fix for a pain that would, days after, resurface and persist. Much like the numerous physicians, prescriptions, counselors, and friends that have come and gone, they have all proven to be incomplete for me. There was something lacking and, once discovered, the true path for lasting joy surfaced despite failing emotions. Perhaps for others in their journey with depression, those docs, scripts, counselors, and friends completed their healing. But that was not the case for me.

I had to learn two invaluable tricks of the Christian trade—first, it is essential to cultivate a heart of gratitude. And second, to learn to lean not on our own understanding—something you will only be fully able to do as you grow in an understand of the Word of God. These two gave me a hiatus from depression until one day I realized that I recognized something similar. It was a still voice, a sense of His nearness.

You’re More Real Than the Wind in My Lungs

A light bulb went on one day. I realized that the nearness of God, His voice, His presence, was always with me when I was depressed. What is that verse again? Oh yeah, “He is near to the broken hearted, binding up their wounds!” What I experienced, or rather WHOM I experienced while I practiced thankfulness or meditating on His Word, was the same Jesus whose still small voice was calling out to me in the midst of my darkness. The only difference, and what a dreadful difference, is that during those dark nights I had given more credence to my emotions and had chosen to silence Him!

I opted to overlook His presence and worship my own soul’s longings above Him. Such a lecherous heart of mine. You call it a pity party, but what it really is, is self worship of the most insidious kind. If you struggle with depression, you might be able to relate—you know you should turn to Him, but you just don’t “feel” like it.

Well, the fact that you even consider Christ as an option is not your own doing! Friend, it is Him. No one understands; no one seeks for God (Romans 3:10). I had Jesus on the brain, and it was His gentle/vigorous way of drawing me near to Himself. That is His grace, not some force, but rather He making Himself fully available to both you and me—because it is His most deepest of pleasures to incline Himself to us for our benefit. All so that we might be empowered to glorify Him.

He has not left us orphans. Not for one moment. Not in the pit of despair and not in the anguish of soul. I urge you lay hold of that grace, of the person of Christ, in whatever way you know how and see how, in due season, much like the budding of a rose, you too will begin to experience healing in your emotions, will, and your mind even down to your soul.

I am reminded every year around the holidays how much pain I have experienced, the deep loneliness, sorrow, mounds of regret, bitterness, and offense—against Him and His leadership, against myself for my shortcomings, and others for having seemingly forgotten me. For many, the holidays are only reminiscent of that pain—the dark, cold, lonely, bitter days—best left to one single breath in, waiting for a new year to exhale.

Think of the countless who have lost loved ones this year, the strife in our country in both our political and ethnic scenes, the division that seems to haunt the church and all her denominations—this makes it easy to give way to such despair and despondency. Oh, but friend, all those emotions are secondary to the still small tempestuous voice of God who calls from within: “Come a little closer, my dear, I have mysteries untold for you concerning Myself. Mysteries of such magnitude that in light of them the world and all your sorrows, will but fade to it’s rightful place. Your love for your own life will dissipate, and you will find rest.”

If you find yourself in this place of worry, sorrow, fear, and depression, as we begin the holiday season, know that it is impossible to remain there if you enter into jubilant thanksgiving filled with the knowledge of who God is. Don’t you remember? This is the God who is continuously perfecting all things which concern us, that is, all things which concern our desire to glorify Him! That’s what this life is about! You are either grumbling or filled with glorifying gratitude. You choose. But the latter leads to an internal hope that nothing can snatch away and this, this, is wonderful victory.

The fight for gratitude is crucial, not only to your emotional health, but as Proverbs 17:22 states, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Joy is found in the assurance of His mercy-filled sovereignty to which our only rightful responses are awe and gratitude.

Perhaps you are a person who already has a thankful heart. I believe these suggestions can only strengthen it. And for one who much like me goes through life with the ups and downs of emotions, begin by setting gratitude in place. Don’t stop with just these, though, but talk to the Holy Spirit, who knows you best, to reveal your next steps. So as you embark on this little journey, allow me to offer three tips that might help along the way.

1. Speak Gratitude

Others might think you’re crazy, but give thanks in all things. I mean it. Open your mouth and thank Him for the flat tire, the leak in the roof. Not because either are great situations but because they have come to expose how little you trust Him. This is the kindness of God saying to you, “Hey, you and I have some mending to do. And it’s not of your belongings primarily, but of your heart. Your unbelief is making it hard for Me to work in ya, honey, so come on over.” Shout for joy that He is allowing you to be pruned! Feel free to cry in the middle of it, too—keep it real. But keep thanking Him for His wisdom, presence, power, plan, purpose, and ever nearness. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.23).

2. Muzzle the Ox

If you have some faithful friends you trust and love, ask them to help you keep your tongue. Keep your tongue from evil, that is. Evil is more than saying bad words or slander—yes, those, too, are horrible. But I am speaking of the grumbling. God’s deep displeasure with grumbling is all over the Scriptures.

Words are the signs of ideas—if you speak it, it’s because you have thought it. When you speak words that are not true—not in agreement with the what He says about Himself, yourself, or about others—you are giving life to death. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21). Words were the first way in which He made known His power. He spoke and it was.

You and I are made in that image. And in a world where words seemingly have little value and their importance wains, give them their rightful place and use them rightly—to speak life.

3. Look Back

This will be challenging at first, but for me it just began with deep gratitude for clean sheets and drinking water and progressed into thankfulness for the cross, salvation, and the hope that is kept for us in heaven—they are not far from each other (Colossians 1:5). They all have come from His gracious hand.

Gratitude is the response of a heart that leans into the Lord and the doorway into His presence. It is cultivated in daily practice, meditation of HIs Word, and obedience. When you begin, you will recognize that He has been with you through it all and is daily waiting, smiling, for you to start the conversation.

Question: What helps you avoid the holiday blues?

Nayomi Thomas

position

  • Speaker and Author

Nayomi Thomas (MS, Organizational Development, Avila University) was raised across three continents, including a small island in the Netherlands Antilles, and now has a broad view of life, which she shares with her eighteen-year-old daughter Mahan, four-year-old-son, Justice, two-year-old daughter Addison, and husband, Jaye. Together, the Thomas family resides in Kansas City, Missouri, and are part of the International House of Prayer.

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