“I’m really worried about my daughter!” The mother’s voice on the line was worried, but I could also hear some fear—maybe even panic. Before I could respond, she started to cry softly.
Thanksgiving had just ended. The more this mother shared her concerns, the more anxious she became. I calmly asked the mother to take a deep breath and start at the beginning.
Half an hour later I had learned that several years ago, when Danae (her daughter) was in middle-school, her grandfather died suddenly of a heart-attack. Mom noted that Danae’s biological father was inconsistent and didn’t really have a strong presence in Danae’s life, which made the death all the more difficult to deal with.
“Danae worshipped the ground that Pops [what she called him] walked on, and he was her world! When he died she immediately became a different person. It’s like she’s just shriveling up, like, right before my eyes and I can’t do anything to stop it.” Mom began crying again.
Mom said that the death shook Danae to her core; that before, she used to be outgoing, popular, with lots of friends and interests, and was doing well in school and successfully balancing a part time job, as well. Mom was concerned that not only was Danae presently failing all her classes, but she had gotten fired from her part-time job, due to being inconsistent, chronically late, and generally irresponsible. She had also given up all her interests and one-by-one broke off all her friendships—many that she had had since pre-school. Danae was sleeping in class and wasn’t eating much either. At this point, I was very concerned as well. It was clear to me that Danae was likely depressed.
I agreed to meet with Danae, and as she sat in front of me, she blankly looked right through me and then dropped her eyes, and, staring at her shoes.
“It doesn’t matter how many people are in the room—I always feel like I’m alone and that makes me feel lonely. I just keep to myself mostly, and the people who start talking to me, they like stop, real quick. I mean it’s like they realize that I don’t even care about me, so I guess they figure, why should they care, too? I guess I just stopped caring. I mean, why try? Right? I mean, why should I get to know people; they’re just going to leave me, like Pops did. Everybody just eventually leaves. I mean, what’s the point? We’re all just really alone, anyways…”
Happiest Season of All?
It’s not surprising to note that Christmastime is the time of year that people report feeling the most lonely. And when you’re lonely, you’re not happy. Lots of smart people have poured tons of money, time, energy, and effort into figuring out why people are extra lonely during the Christmas season, but my answer is simple: the devil is behind it.
Think about it: Christmas is a time when we’re supposed to have fun, give each other gifts, and generally celebrate being together with lots of family and friends. Christmas time is a time when we’re supposed to focus on community—on not being alone or feeling lonely, but what if Satan could just make us all forget that? Well, before we can figure out why Satan wants to shift our “other-centered” focus and put the focus on something else—anything else; on things like ourselves and what we want, have, or don’t have, we first need to figure out what Christmas is really about?
“He’s here!” Read the billboard, in bright red letters, on a green background. It was clearly visible from the highway (that I was stuck on for almost two hours). I wish I could say that I didn’t know or care about the billboard, but two hours, come on! Turned out that the local toy store now had a new (but limited) shipment of the latest craze: the “Tickle Me Elmo” doll. This doll was definitely hard to come by, and many a parent spent many a mile searching for it.
Now, if you knew that there was a holiday, specifically created to commemorate that God is here on planet Earth–and you hated God with everything in your being–wouldn’t you want to work the hardest you could during this same time, to make people just as miserable, sad, alone, and lonely as you possibly could?
People would then naturally come to associate Christmas time—and God, by extension—with dread. They would even hate it.
When I was in elementary school I went through a phase where I was into magic. I spent my hard-earned allowance money on card tricks and many other books about how to perfect my skills. The top skill to learn was called “misdirection”, in a nutshell, this meant that if I could get you looking at, or focused on what was happening in my left hand, I could totally fool you with my right hand.
Sometimes, however, the misdirection happened with something called “sleight of hand”, which was a type of misdirection, but it basically meant that you moved the hand so fast, that the eye couldn’t keep up with the reality and the brain would basically fill in the cracks of what was seen with their own reality, which was always an illusion. This is exactly what Satan is doing with Christmas. He’s flooding people with so much yuck that they can’t see through it all, to celebrate God’s yum.
Background before we look at an amazing truth: instead of offering love to people and serving God with humility, the nation of Judah created injustices throughout the nation. They turned their backs on God, and that created the need for Isaiah’s declarations– all made in the hope that God’s chosen people would return to Him.
“The Lord himself will give you the sign,” Isaiah says. “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7: 14, NLT).
Don’t miss it! This is exactly like God telling all of humanity: “I’m here!”
But how does Satan respond? As you’ve already seen, during this time of the year, there’s a serious epidemic of loneliness. No matter what God has done—and I can’t imagine that He could have done anything more, to ensure that we wouldn’t be alone and feel lonely– for many of us, that feeling is at it’s strongest during this time of the year. So what can we do to fix the problem?
Fixing the Problem
The biggest problem with us is that we’ve generally bought into the cultural mindset that our feelings are our guide. I mean how many times have you heard someone spout nonsense like this: “Just listen to your heart” or “live your truth”?
The problem is that our hearts are fickle and our feelings change from day to day—for many of us, they change moment to moment. God shared His perspective about our feelings:
“ ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?’ ” (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT).
So, if listening to our hearts is unwise, what should we use as our guide for life and truth?
“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge . . .” (Proverbs 1:7a, NLT). In other words, to fear God means that you take Him and what He says seriously. It holds first importance in your life. The simple truth is that for the majority of us, we treat our feelings as facts—and the only fact is that God is the final arbiter of truth, not our feelings.
“I’m Not Going Anywhere!”
God is permanent and unchanging. God reminds us all that “I am the LORD, and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6, NLT). God further promises that He will never fail us or abandon us—which means, in reality: He will never leave us alone! (Deuteronomy 31:8). I find it totally reassuring what Jesus told his disciples, as He was going away from guys who had spent every waking moment with him for almost four years, and who were probably freaked out that they weren’t ever going to see Jesus again. “ ‘And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ ” [emphasis mine] (Matthew 28: 20b, NLT).
Daily Positive Affirmation
When you’re feeling alone and lonely and sad and discouraged, this Christmas, take a moment to remind yourself that you–yes, you and me, and us all, were so important that God crossed the Universe to solve the sin problem by becoming one of us and being with us.
Let your mind dwell upon this reality: God thought that much of you! That makes you a pretty big deal. Today, take a moment and listen to this beautiful reminder that Jesus loved you, not just in word, but in action, and He is always with you.