By Karen Friday
Is it possible to enjoy Christmas despite difficult family members? My answer is Yes, with God’s help.
My Difficult Situation
She refused to speak to me or smile in my direction. Even after my cheery greeting, “Hello, Merry Christmas.”
While Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, broken and troubled relationships put a damper on family gatherings and events.
And our hearts take a beating. Seriously, don’t difficult family members make your heart ache, especially on holidays?
One of my extended family members is a troubled soul and a difficult person. For the last four Christmases, I strapped myself in and tried to prepare for a ride where my heart turns flips, plummets from soaring heights and comes to a screeching halt.
Struggling to Make it Through
I cannot fully describe how disheartening it all is after another year of her blocking me from her life. Another Christmas gathering that I’m praying to just make it through.
This is someone who is supposed to love and care about me and my heart. This makes it the most unsettling! My thoughts turn to second guessing: Why did I even come?
But I deeply want to not only see my sisters and their families, but to also find some glimmer of hope to enjoy the celebration.
Finding Hope in a Difficult Family
The good Lord never intended it to be this way for family. He does not want a celebration about his Son to become this unpleasant.
The first two years, I held back tears and swallowed a few sighs. I’d end up in the bathroom trying to get myself together and shake it off for the sake of the rest of my family and the celebration.
But the past two years, I had a difficult-family-member-at-Christmas breakthrough.
Perhaps you relate to this situation. Maybe you have one or more difficult family members to see over Christmas.
4 Steps for Breakthrough in Your Difficult Family
Here are the steps I took for my breakthrough that I hope encourage you.
1. I not only changed how I prepared my heart, but I also changed who prepared it.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV) We not only guard our hearts against the enemy’s tactics, but we also set boundaries around our hearts. Yet, we don’t over-guard or we may jeopardize the Lord’s work.
The Lord helps us with all this and more. Because: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 ESV)
2. I set my heart on God, the purpose of Christmas and life itself.
We seek God and his heart for us, asking him to reveal how much he loves us and cares for us and our heart. “With my whole heart I seek you….” (Psalm 119:10a ESV)
Here’s one of the most comforting scriptures in the Bible when we are brokenhearted and simply crushed by difficult relationships: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he delivers those whose spirit has been crushed.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV)
3. I meditated on the Lord’s promises about who I am in him.
We can meditate on these “I am” declarations:
- I am loved. Love lays down his life for us (John 15:13). Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). The Lord quiets us with his love, singing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Christ crowns us with love (Psalm 103:4). God’s love stands firm forever (Psalm 89:2).
- I am chosen. God chose us as his treasured possession (Psalm 50:15). We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s people (1 Peter 2:9).
- I am redeemed. Christ redeems us by his blood and forgives our sins by God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7). We know the Lord is our full redemption (Psalm 130:7). Our redeemer lives (Job 19:25).
- I am free. Real freedom is when the Son sets us free (John 8:26). True freedom means nothing masters us (1 Corinthians 6:12). God’s precepts help us walk in freedom (Psalm 119:45).
4. I supercharged my prayers for this person.
Some things in the spiritual world never make sense to our limited minds. To my surprise, praying more intentionally and consistently for this person blessed me and changed how I saw her.
Now, instead of always being sad for myself, I’m sad for her. I live loved by the Savior and walk in freedom. And I want this for her.
Wife Step: How will you follow these four steps to allow the Lord to prepare your heart for seeing difficult loved ones this Christmas?
Karen lives in Madison, Alabama with her husband and three children. Karen has served as Preschool and Children’s Pastor and has been involved in women’s ministry for many years leading small groups, making hospital visits, organizing retreats, and encouraging the hearts of women. What started out as a way to communicate medical facts has become a place where Karen uses life experiences to encourage others in their life journey. When she’s not busy caring for her family or writing, you might find her cooking or crafting.