When the Holidays Are Hard

by Cindy Bultema December 2, 2021
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)
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Five months before my wedding and two weeks before Christmas, I received a call while I was at my parents’ home. My fiancé, David, had been killed in a freak workplace accident.

Suddenly my life felt like a beautiful snow globe whipped upside down and then dropped — shattered into a million pieces.

My parents’ home quickly filled with friends from church, my pastor, neighbors and grief counselors, each trying to comfort me amid raw, suffocating pain. But in my immense grief, I pushed them away.

“Get out!”

Though every person in my parents' kitchen came just for me, it only took those two words to send them all away.

Alone on my parents' steps with the twinkling Christmas tree in the background, I remember thinking, God, this is not what Christmas is supposed to look like. This is painful; I feel all alone. God, where are You?

I wonder if you’ve ever had a Christmas where things were not as they should have been. Or maybe that describes this holiday season for you.

Perhaps you are:

  • Exhausted and overwhelmed by your overfull schedule.
  • Financially stretched.
  • Buried in bad news.
  • Stressed and sleepless because of relationship challenges. You can’t go to another festive dinner and pretend everything is OK when it’s not.

In other words, the holidays are a mess; you’re a mess. Friend, I get it. But skipping over the month of December isn’t an option, and even if it were, we’d only carry our old stresses and messes into a new season.

How do we make it through the “most wonderful time of the year” when we’ve lost our jolliness and we don’t want to “jingle all the way”?

Let’s cling to Truth. And God’s Truth reminds us that, no matter the size of our holiday mess, we are not alone.

From the beginning, Christmas has been messy. If scratch-and-sniff Bibles were a thing, we would smell the stench when we read about the first Christmas in Luke 2. Unlike the beautiful scenes from children’s story Bibles, Jesus’ birthplace was a dirty, stinky manger. Jesus was born in a mess.

Think about it: Jesus Christ, Immanuel, which literally means “God with us,” chose to be born in a mess. And now Jesus promises to be with us always, even in our mess.

One of the verses I clung to during my painful, messy Christmas was Hebrews 10:23, which says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

The Message Bible paraphrases it this way: “Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. [God] always keeps his word.”

I kept a firm grip on God's promise that I was not alone.

For a long time after David's accident, everything in me wanted to keep pushing people away — to hide, isolate, stay in my jammies forever and be all alone.

My dear mentor at the time said, “Cindy, you have a choice. You can let David's death make you better or bitter. You choose.”

That was the day I decided I was choosing better. In the midst of my painful grief, I drew near to God and others.

Will you do the same?

Friend, whatever you do, don’t sit in your loneliness. Ask God for the courage to remember that He’s with you, and then talk to someone. It’ll change everything for you.

Jesus, thank You for being Immanuel — God with us. In the midst of my holiday messes and stresses, help me to draw near to You and to others. I praise You for always being with me. In Your Name, Amen.


We need constant reminders we’re not alone and are so very loved. Read, wear or share one of the beautiful items available through the GEMS “LOVED.” line. Check it out here.

Today’s writer is the Executive Director of GEMS, the go-to ministry for girls’ spiritual growth. GEMS guides girls' faith development through mentoring relationships and Truth-filled resources. Learn more about GEMS here.

Get a firm grip on God's promises. Download five of God's promises here.


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Matthew 1:23, “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (NIV)

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© 2021 by Cindy Bultema. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks GEMS Girls’ Clubs for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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