For many people, Christmas is a joyful occasion, where they celebrate the excitement of opening presents with their children, cherish the closeness of friends and family, take exotic vacations or rekindle the romance of a special love.
Those might be the storybook lives of some people, but they're not true for everyone.
Here are the reasons why:
1. The holidays are not always easy.
The holidays are not always an easy or happy time for many people. There are those who may be suffering from loads of stress for a number of reasons.
Those reasons may not be apparent on the outside.
These people may be sad, lonely and in need of help.
They might need to find ways to relieve their stress, or maybe they just need someone to talk to.
2. People may be going through personal struggles or difficulties.
We all know life can be challenging and hard at times, but it can be even harder when the holidays roll around.
There are situations in life that can make it difficult for anyone to think about being joyful.
Find out who needs help.
There are the empty nesters whose children may be grown and living in another state. There are many widows who have lost their spouses and live alone.
There are families who have been through recent traumas, such as losing their children in a car accident. There are couples who have lost babies.
There are parents of military servicemen or women who have died in combat in recent years.
There are those in the hospital suffering from life-threatening illnesses. There are people who have been recently divorced from long-term marriages, so they are alone for the first time in years.
There are many people who have recently lost their jobs or places to live.
There are many recent divorcees or single people who are hurting over broken relationships.
3. Some people feel sadness and fear for the holidays.
All the commercial hype about holiday warmth and cheer might be hard for those having a tough time.
In fact, the holidays may even cause them to feel worse because of their personal situations.
Some people may not feel like celebrating Christmas or New Year’s at all. Maybe they don’t have anywhere to go for Christmas dinner.
Maybe they are stressed out because don’t have the money for Christmas gifts, or maybe being alone makes them fearful. Maybe they feel like no one is going to buy them a present.
There are many people who get seriously downhearted during the holidays. They may be in danger of falling into the emotional pits of isolation, loneliness, depression and uncertainty.
They may even be on the edge of suicide. You never know.
No one may know until it’s too late.
The holiday season, for some people, might just be a painful reminder that the lives they once knew are no longer the same. This is especially true if they've recently suffered a loss of someone they were close to, like a parent, child or spouse.
They could be feeling angry, alone, empty, confused or lost. This could be the worst time of their lives.
4. There are silent sufferers.
People who are stressed and needing help are easy to find because they are everywhere: in every city, every family and every workplace environment. These are the silent sufferers who don’t reach out for help.
These are the people who don’t always talk about what is wrong or why they are overcome with sadness, grief or emotional pain. They may not feel like anyone cares about them, so they carry their pain locked up inside.
I know because I have been there. I know how terrible it feels to be sad, lonely and without hope.
Think beyond your family.
This Christmas, make it a goal of yours to think about someone else instead of focusing mainly on your own life and your own family. You could think on a larger scale.
Think about how you can bring Jesus’ message of love and hope to those who are suffering and need it the most.
Maybe you can make yourself available for whatever kind of help or comfort someone needs. You can live your faith and demonstrate your love in your daily life, even to those you do not know personally.
What can you do?
Try to be more aware of other people around you: anyone and everyone you meet and come in contact with.
Pay more attention to everyone you know. Try tuning in more closely to how your friends and family feel. You can always find people who need a little extra love at Christmas.
You may need to ask around to find out more about how you can help. The best thing you can do is just be aware, and watch for signs of depression in people you know.
Reach out and make yourself emotionally available. Pray for strength, be willing to offer your help and see what happens next.
The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to do things outside your comfort zone and give help to others in need. You could make some phone calls to find out where you can help.
Volunteer your time at your school, church, nearby hospital or nursing home. You might be surprised at all the ways you can be helpful to people you don’t even know.
Practice random acts of kindness. Demonstrate your faith.
Reach out more to those closest to you, like your siblings, family members and friends. Maybe a coworker would like to meet for coffee and talk about her divorce.
Maybe your girlfriend needs to talk about how her heart is broken. Perhaps you know someone who is out of work, and would appreciate being invited to Christmas dinner.
Be ready to listen and help in any way when your son or daughter reaches out. You can comfort someone who is in pain or has suffered a loss just by showing him or her you care and spending time with him or her.
If you know someone who lives alone, do what you can to check on him or her. Perhaps you could help your elderly neighbor install a bird bath in his backyard. Watching birds is good therapy for the lonely.
This is your chance to help.
This holiday season can be your chance to make a difference for someone else. If you know someone who is experiencing difficulties for any reason, try reaching out to him or her.
Invite someone into your home for holiday cookies and coffee. Remind him or her of the limitless love of God.
Love is strong.
You can make a difference to someone just because of the love inside of you. Your faith in God can bring comfort to those who are suffering.
Just remember how powerful and strong love is, and you can help anyone around you.
Believe you can help and let the power of love work through you.
Love is limitless. Just believe in it.
Have faith. Be strong so your strength can comfort others and give them courage.
Be willing to help.
You can help someone who is facing pain realize his or her life is not over. It's just changed.
Show him or her there is hope by your hopefulness. Cheer someone up with your cheerfulness.
Let the love in your heart bring comfort to others.
Let someone know you are willing to help him or her get through the tough times because you have faith in this person. Support people with your kindness and prayers over the holidays.
Make a difference to someone else this holiday season. Do what you can to help.
When you do, the miracle of love that the holidays are supposed to be focused on will bring more love back to you.
The love of God will fill your mind and heart with an undying warmth whenever you do things to help others.
You will have a more joyful holiday season because of it.