I love this time of year. I love Thanksgiving. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I love the change in season. I love the lights and decorations that go up. I love the music, the food, the cheesy movies, and family and friends coming together over a celebration and a meal. I love that people all over the world acknowledge in some way that our world was interrupted by God incarnate 2000 years ago.
But for some people, the Holidays are a difficult season. It’s a season that amplifies their loneliness. It’s a season that amplifies the memories of loved ones who are no longer with them. For some, the Holidays amplify strained relationships, bitter feelings, depression, and anxiety.
Now we need to realize that these aren’t people we have to go out and look for. These are people in our neighborhoods. These are people in our local churches. I promise you these people are already in your life. You have to open your eyes and reach out.
So how can we reach out in friendship to those who are hurting during the Holiday season? I want to offer five suggestions.
1. Be Hospitable.
It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to do this. Invite someone over to your home during the holidays and share a meal with them. You don’t have to plan some serious discussion about their hurts. Just feed them at your dinner table and enjoy their company.
2. Listen to them.
Please don’t assume you know how they feel or what they’re going through. If they are willing to open up to you, be a safe place for them to struggle. Be a safe place for them to mourn. Be a safe place for them to ask for advice or counsel about how to persevere through this challenging season for them.
3. Sit with them at church.
More than likely, those who struggle during the holidays come to the local church alone (although not always). Please pay attention to this and ask them to sit with you. Invite them to your small group. They may not be a part of your biological family, but they are a part of your spiritual family. They are your sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus.
4. Please encourage them to serve others.
Our joy is increased when we serve others. As you build a relationship with this person, encourage them to reach out and serve others. God does not intend anyone to be a consumer. He saved us so that we might continue Jesus’ mission on earth. Sufferers are not exempt from this. It is for their spiritual good and joy that they serve.
5. Pray for them.
I keep a prayer journal of the people God has brought into my life and pray for them on different days of the week. This increases my awareness of these people, my love and compassion for them, and my commitment to them. This is perhaps the most good you can do for them. Pray for these sufferers in your life.
These are not the only ways to reach out in friendship to those who are suffering this holiday season, but they are five very tangible ways to reach out.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.