“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayer, letting God know your concern. Before your know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG
November is upon us and the holidays are fast approaching. ‘Tis the season to be jolly’? Not necessarily. For many people the trilogy of the holiday season which kicks off with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s, is a challenging time. We are told that this should be one of the happiest times of the year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and co-workers. Yet according to the National Institute of Health, this holiday season is a time when people experience a high incidence of physical, emotional and spiritual stress.It is the time of year that can trigger a bout of blues or ignite a depression that has been festering under the surface. This may be the first holidays without a beloved family member who has died, or facing life after divorce or separation. Individuals may be coping with the loss of a job, infertility, addiction, physical or mental illness, care-giving or loneliness. Dark winter weather can increase the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Or, it may be a time of the year that has always been difficult. Certainly these are some reasons, but it also may have to do with unrealistic expectations and excessive self-reflection for many people.Working in health ministry, we are called to provide support to those we serve during this approaching holiday season. I implore you to be intentional to respond to this call. If each of us is committed to using our professional expertise, our personal life experiences and our spiritual beliefs, we can help to weave a path to a more sound mental health perspective for those we serve. We believe that regardless of one’s faith perspective, the spiritual component of a person’s life (in which the deeper issues and meaning of life are considered) needs to be addressed to help individuals cope with emotional pain. And at the same time, we cannot overshadow the need to also refer someone for sound mental health support.There are many opportunities to respond to the “blue holidays”. It may be an article or series of articles in a church bulletin heightening awareness on the topic of coping with the holiday. It could be a Blue Christmas Service to help those searching for healing and hope during the season. It may be inviting an agency to provide information on community support for grief, loss or mental health during the holidays. Arranging for volunteer opportunities to help those in need in your community can be a positive activity to offer as sometimes altruism can be very good medicine. Or, maybe it is as simple as using the holidays to make sure that after services, you and those in your faith community are intentionally smiling and engaging to those sitting next to them. You never know when just-the-right word at just-the-right time might be the grace-filled experience a person needs to have their hope reawakened.Let’s move toward this holiday season with an awareness of those in our in our communities who may be suffering, as we offer our support and affirmation. May we frequently pray both with and for these individuals. And though prayer does not miraculously remove life’s challenges, may it help others gain new insight and meaning into their circumstances. Perhaps what they have seen as a crisis may be transformed into an opportunity for God’s creative work and let them be open to God’s Spirit, so that he can work through them and in them. May prayer bring all of us peace during this holiday season!