Overcoming Christmas Disappointment


Long ago, in a land far away (or so it seems) when I was just a little girl there was this thing called the Sears Catalog. Every Autumn when it arrived at our house, my brother and I would be filled with expectation as we turned each page looking at all of the new toys displayed in the big wonderful book.

At some point in the season, my Mom would sit with us in the living room next to our cozy fireplace and with the treasured catalog in hand she’d help us write our letters to Santa Claus. (Yes, we believed in Santa---deal with it)

I remember each year we’d start at the beginning of the toy section (I mean seriously, what little kids want to put underwear and socks on their Christmas list?) Meticulously we’d scour each page making sure we didn’t miss anything that we might possibly want to add to the list. As our lists grew longer and longer (because there was so much to choose from as we went over the catalog again and again), eventually my Mom would say it was time to “send” the letters.

But before we actually shipped them off to the North Pole (via the smoke from the fireplace if I recall correctly), there was one last thing we had to do. We needed to put an “X” by the five things we wanted most---just to help Santa know which things were most important.

What things did we REALLY want for Christmas?

What were the things we’d been hoping for all year and what just seemed like a good idea when we saw an advertisement?

After we’d decided what we REALLY wanted, Mom would disappear into the kitchen (for an unknown errand) and then we’d ship our letters off to the North Pole. All that was left to do was wait for Christmas morning and hope that Santa would deliver all that we wanted.

The happy ending: Most of the time, he did.

Christmas morning would come, and my brother and I would awake to a bounty of toys and games (with some underwear and socks thrown in) waiting for us underneath the tree. To the best of my memory, I don’t ever remember a Christmas when I didn’t get the thing that I REALLY wanted. Even in 1984, the year of the great Cabbage Patch Kid Craze, I was the happy recipient of a brand new doll. Once again, Mom and Dad had come through and I got what I really wanted for Christmas.

Fast forward 30+ years (seriously, how did that happen???) and it’s Christmas time again. Even though I no longer believe in Santa Claus and I’m pretty sure there’s no longer a Sears Catalog, I find that there’s still a tendency inside of all of us to want to make a Christmas list.

For the most part it starts off with the things that seem possible---a new purse, a pair of earrings, a sweater or a special treat---yet, as the season progresses there’s a pull deep inside of us to hope that this could be the year that we get what we REALLY want.

This is where it gets tricky.

Because as adults, most of the things that we REALLY want cannot be purchased in a store or online. Because we’re all different, the things that we desire in the deepest parts of our heart are all different.

Some people wish for…

….the job they’ve always wanted

…a child

…a spouse

…a healing

…the reconciliation of a damaged relationship

…a financial miracle

…peace

…forgiveness

…a painful, difficult circumstance to change.

And yet, even as we wish for these things, hope for these things, and whisper silent prayers begging Heaven to answer, we all know that deep inside that God’s will and His timing are still at His discretion. He isn’t working on a Christmas morning deadline, and there’s the very real possibility that Christmas will come and go and we will still be waiting for the thing that we really want.

In a world that’s conditioned that you’re supposed to get what you want for Christmas, how do we deal with this disappointment?

Well, let me start by saying that I don’t have all the answers to this very difficult question. All I can do is share with you some of the choices that I make to overcome Christmas disappointment whenever it tries to come around and spoil my holidays.

Without sounding super-spiritual (because believe me, I’m NOT) one of the first things that I choose to do whenever I feel myself starting to fall into this hole of darkness is to CHOOSE WHAT I REALLY WANT MOST.

There are times when I feel myself starting to slip into the pit of “Why won’t God give me what I really believe I want and need?” that I have to literally slap myself back into reality spiritually and say, “Stop.”

In that moment when my emotions might be screaming, “But I want this more than anything else!!!!”, my free will needs to take control, be the boss and say, “Do you really want your own way more than anything else or do you want God’s way more than anything else?”

I know it’s a tough question, but some days we need to be tough on ourselves.

On my worst days when I’d like to sit down and make a Christmas list of all the things I don’t have and put checkmarks by the things that I think I need the most---demanding like a spoiled child that God come through and play Santa Claus NOW---I need to choose a different road. Instead, I need to choose to surrender to God’s ways and God’s plans not in the hopes that someday I’ll get what I want, but simply because HE IS WHAT I REALLY WANT.

After I’ve made this decision, the next thing I need to do is resurrender my will to God’s will. In a time of prayer I get real with God and confess that even though my wish list may be long and at times I may be impatient, what I really want more than anything else is His will. I ask Him to forgive me for any bad attitudes or sinful actions I may have committed during my pity party and once again surrender my life to God’s plan.

The final way that I choose to overcome is to Reflect on What God Has Done.

One of the best ways to combat the desire to make a list of all of the things that you want is begin making a list of all of the things God has given.

Psalm 103:1-5 says, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

What has God done for you?

What has He provided?

What do you have that you don’t deserve?

When disappointment comes knocking at your door, these are the things we need to focus on.

Just the other day I had to make the decision to do this. It was late at night and I wasn’t feeling well at all when my mind started feeling the pull toward a pity-party. Only instead of deciding to attend, I chose to take a good, hard, realistic look at my life and all that God had done.

Looking at life through those lenses, I had to admit that God’s blessings, provisions, and perfectly designed plans far outweighed the list of things that were lacking in my life. And even though I may not have everything I ever wanted, my life is still pretty good. Okay, forget good, my life is miraculous. When I stopped to count all of God’s benefits, the darkness of self-pity had to melt away.

Here’s one last way that I’ve learned to conquer Christmas disappoint: Get Up and Do Something.

Turn on some praise music.

Read your Bible.

Call a friend and have a chat.

Go for a walk.

Clean your house.

Bake some Christmas cookies.

Do something to help someone else.

Don’t just sit around wishing, hoping, and dreaming about how life could be different. Instead, choose to get up and start enjoying the life that you have right now.

The more you wallow the worse you are going to feel. So don’t dwell there. Move on and live your current life to the fullest and choose to have a Merry Christmas.

Reality is that whether or not you and I have a Merry Christmas is really determined by our choices. We can choose to focus on the wish list of things that we want or we can choose to trust that God knows what is best for us and enjoy what we have and where we are.

This is the key to having a very Merry Christmas. The question is: What will you choose?

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