The holidays are almost here, with Thanksgiving just 10 days away! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year as I get together with my extended family and catch up on how things are going with them. But, like everyone else, I know one thing about the holidays: they are stressful! You'll have multiple Christmas parties to attend and time spent on the busy roads or at the airport visiting family and friends. Your have presents to buy and wrap before placing them under the recently-decorated tree. And then all the Christmas calories will begin to show on our waistline. Yes, the holidays can be stressful but I'd like to offer some suggestions on how you can reduce your stress this holiday season.
Don't Keep Up with the Jones-es
Every year, we learn about the hottest shopping items for Christmas. Sunday papers are filled with Toy Guides and other circulars so parents can learn about the "must have" items this year. But, I'd like to encourage you to have a "not have" instead of a "must have" list. Too often, we spend money we don't have to buy presents people don't really need. And, when the bill comes in January, our stress level hits the roof. Yes, we should enjoy the holiday season but not at the expense of keeping a reasonable budget. It is estimated that Americans will spend an average of $700 this Christmas and most people tend to buy now and pay later. Keeping up with the Jones-es creates an endless cycle of stress that we need to avoid.
Be Responsible to But Not For People
Something Jesus has been teaching me lately, especially with my kids, is that I can't control people. My two boys are now away at college and I want to keep them from making bad choices--like staying up until 2 am playing video games--but I have to let them make their own decisions. In other words, I am responsible to them without being responsible for them. You might run into a friend or family member this holiday season who has a habit of making bad decisions and you could be tempted to rescue them from themselves--something I'm tempted to do. But we have to let people live their own lives. When you get together with people during the holidays who want to bring you into their drama, be responsible to and not for them.
Let Jesus Teach you Through it
When we're stressed out, we want to get out of it as soon as possible, and that's natural. But Jesus wants to use our circumstances supernaturally to mold us into His image. Pastor, before the holidays begin, ask Jesus this question: what do You want to teach me through the holidays this year? Last year, my family experienced one of the toughest Christmases ever. We traveled a long distance to visit an aging relative and it was a pretty stressful situation. We were staying with family so we really couldn't go anywhere to get away from the stress. Looking back, I think Jesus was teaching me to trust Him during a tough situation. I Thessalonians 5:18 says,
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Notice it doesn't say "for" all circumstances but "in" all circumstances. All circumstances are not good but God can teach us things through bad circumstances we couldn't learn any other way.
What does Jesus want to teach you this year, pastor? He is always in control and knows what He is doing and sometimes the best lessons we learn are through the most stressful situations.