Rick Warren: 3 Lessons You Can Learn From a Difficult Christmas Season

Don't give up on your relationships during the holidays. You need them. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

I know the Christmas season isn't particularly merry for many people. When December rolls around, you're not thinking of Christmas carols, holiday gatherings and Christmas Eve worship services.

Instead, your mind is on family members who are gone and on holiday disappointments. Many also live in places where it's cold and dark in December, which likely makes the problem worse.

Pain is a part of life, and holiday lights and eggnog can't always push it away. I don't know what the source of your holiday pain is, but I know it's real and it hurts.

I also know God can turn your pain this holiday season into benefits. Re-read that last sentence. Your pain hurts—badly, but it doesn't need to have the last word.

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Paul writes about the benefits of our struggles in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. No, he wasn't facing a difficult Christmas season. Paul was facing persecution for his commitment to preach the Good News about Jesus regardless of the consequences. Here are three benefits of our struggles, according to Paul in that passage:

  1. God will use your pain to teach you to trust Him. You'll never know God is all you need until He is all you have. The holiday season may be painful for you. Perhaps you've lost a job, a relationship, a loved one, your health, or even your hope and joy. Now all you have is God.

I want you to know—and more importantly, God wants you to know—He's enough for you. He is all you need. Paul discovered this firsthand and wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 1:9 (NLT): "In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead."

  1. God will use your pain to give you a ministry to others. Your pain often reveals God's purpose for your life. God never wastes a hurt. He doesn't want you to hold on to the pain you're feeling this Christmas; He wants you to use it to help others. What does that look like? I don't know. Maybe it means that you minister to people who are struggling this season—ministry that may help stop the pain from being repeated in the lives of others.

Paul reminds us of God's promise: "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others" (2 Cor. 1:4). Paul says that as God comforted him, he could comfort others.

We can do the same. Take a look at what causes you pain this Christmas. Ask yourself how God can use that pain to help comfort others. If you're struggling through this pain, I guarantee that others are, too.

That's what many of you in Celebrate Recovery® have learned firsthand. It's no accident that the final step in the Celebrate Recovery journey is "Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs."

That principle isn't just true for your hurts, hang-ups,and habits. It's true for whatever you're struggling with this Christmas. Let God heal you, so He can use you to heal others.

  1. God will use your pain to draw you closer to other believers. This is another truth you've seen through Celebrate Recovery. God wired humans for community. You weren't meant to go through a painful Christmas season all alone. That's why you need your church family and your friends from Celebrate Recovery to come alongside you.

In fact, one of the reasons we tend to go through particularly tough holiday seasons is because we get so busy that we neglect our relationships. We miss church. We choose to wait until after the holidays to head back to our Celebrate Recovery meetings.

Paul writes, "You can help us with your prayers. Then many people will give thanks for us—that God blessed us because of their many prayers" (2 Cor. 1:11, NCV). Pain reveals how much we need one another.

You can't get to the deepest level of relationships in your church family without opening up about your pain. If you are struggling with the holiday blues, the Christmas season isn't the time to neglect your Christian relationships. It's the time to dive into them.

I don't know what you're going through this Christmas season, but I do know that God wants to use your pain—to teach you to trust Him, to show you how to help others and to draw you closer to other believers.

I pray this Christmas, as you face whatever pain is in your path, that you will have the greatest Christmas of your life and learn to worship the God who came to earth to make a way for you to be right with Him.

Have a very merry Christmas!

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.

For the original article, visit Pastors.com.

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