Years ago, shortly after Thanksgiving, I learned my son had been horribly assaulted. Suddenly, all thoughts of a joyful holiday vanished. The last thing on my mind was giving thanks.
Though the trees displayed the colors of autumn, my heart was the shade of deepest sorrow.
I remember two specific things about the holidays that year:
- It was the first holiday season my husband and I had shared as a married couple. With our new blended family of five kids, I wanted to make it super special . . . until I found out about my son’s assault. What timing!
- The deluge of police reports, doctor’s exams, new diagnoses of PTSD, moderate traumatic brain injury, tics, flashbacks, and nightmares smothered my ability to do more than show up and breathe.
My most beloved holiday season became scarred by an irreversible, deep wound that affected my whole family.
How Do We Move Forward?
How do we move forward when life hurts? That’s a question we all ask when life forces us to find a “new normal.” Some of us want to wait out the hard times because we’d like to believe that time heals all wounds.
Unfortunately, that’s a huge lie. Another way we try to move forward is by glossing over the pain with a thick coat of denial. We varnish over our pain by presenting behavior that appears happy and well-adjusted. Sometimes that looks like . . .
- Adorning our houses with the biggest and brightest decorations
- Pinning photos on Pinterest boards of our extravagant meals
- Mailing embellished family Christmas letters outlining our award-worthy accomplishments
- Dressing like models on magazine covers for church services or holiday celebrations
Let me say, in and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with beautiful decorations, delicious meals, family letters, and fabulous clothing—especially if it includes a fantastic pair of heels.
However, there is everything wrong with believing external things can fill our empty hearts and hurting souls. Using stuff to hide our wounds is like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship: it isn’t worth the effort and never ends well.
So what do we do when the unexpected alters our lives? How do we move forward with hope? Here are three vital steps:
- Engage your head: Paul writes in Romans 12:2 (NLT):
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
When creating a “new normal,” we must rest on the truths of Scripture. In this passage, Paul calls us to establish our will, affections, understanding, and devotion under the lordship of God.
We are to cultivate an attachment to Christ our Savior and not this world. Jesus calls us to trust that God is good, and what He allows has a greater purpose we may not see now.
It is also a call to surrender our wills, wishes, and ways and place them under the authority of our sovereign Lord. Trusting in His perfect character enables us to move forward on paths that we have not yet walked.
- Engaging our hearts: Proverbs 4:23 (NASB) says:
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Every heartbeat affects the entire body. Physically, a compromised heart leads to countless complications and possibly death. Spiritually, the heart represents the seat of our values, affections, and desires.
We are called to observe our emotions and actions, to nourish our souls with truth, to exercise discipline with our words and actions, and to be consistently aware of our heart’s condition.
We cannot move forward in spiritual strength if our hearts are compromised. Placing our trust in Christ, accepting what He allows, believing God has a purpose for all things are foundational in establishing a new normal.
- Engaging our habits: Examine behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and actions. John 15:1–4 (NIV) says:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Clearly, when establishing a “new normal” we need unshakable strength. Supernatural strength comes only through our being rooted and connected to the strength-giver, Christ Jesus.
If you have ever had a garden, you know pruning—cutting back—is required every year. While pruning strips away much of the plant, it forces the roots to go deeper into richer soil.
As spring approaches, the plant is more firmly established and produces more beautiful fruit. Yes, it is painful to be pruned; it is also essential. To survive, we must be attached and nourished on God’s Word which then changes the way we live each day.
Healing from that one Thanksgiving season years ago has taken time. There is no shortcut. If you want to experience a difference this holiday season, begin by engaging your head, heart, and habits.
Let Me Hear from You
Ask these simple questions:
- Am I allowing Jesus to renew my mind through this?
- Am I guarding my heart daily?
- How do my actions and attitudes reveal that I’m committed and connected to Christ as my Lord?
Let’s connect on this as we enter the holiday season together.
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