In a Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown was having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, so Linus said, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”
I have always been an odd combination of Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt; and, to be honest, have always had a problem with holidays.
I never feel what its seems like I am supposed to feel. I work on it, I do, but it never quite seems to work. Of course, part of that is decades of undiagnosed and untreated emotional issues—it was the ’70s and ’80s after all, and “walk it off” was the cure for everything—and part of that is just me.
So, every year I run into a problem. The third Sunday of Advent is “Joy!” and I have to preach a sermon.
I’m not good at Joy.
This is where, if I had an associate pastor or youth minister or the like, I would say to someone, “You haven’t preached in a while! Why don’t you take it?” That’s an old pastor trick, in case you don’t know. The last church where I was a member, the pastor did it to me all the time. Difficult passage coming up in the lectionary? Ask Scott to preach.
Anyway, I struggle a lot with Joy.
Mirth, excitement, occasional glee… but Joy seems like it is supposed to be deeper than that, more substantial.
I’m not here to offer any answers about this, either.
Instead, I am going to ask you to be sensitive to the Charlie Browns in your life. They are not trying to ruin Christmas. They are not doing it on purpose. They are not unappreciative. They are just struggling.
A lot of people who can function perfectly fine week to week have real problems with a disruption in schedule. The scripts they have written for living are suddenly not applicable. They don’t know what to do with themselves. And, when you look around and everyone is acting joyous and telling you how great you should feel but you really don’t? That only makes it worse.
So I am asking you to cut them, or us, some slack.
This year especially.
Check on them. Include them to the best of your ability given the circumstances. But respect their feelings.
You cannot force Joy. Not on someone else and not on yourself.
And if you are, like me, someone who struggles a bit with Joy, don’t try to force yourself either. Be willing to stretch and grow and accommodate a little bit, but don’t hurt yourself. Don’t fall into the hole either. Yeah, it can be a rough couple of weeks, but there is another side. Remember what a good day is like, what your normal looks like. It will come back. Just be patient.
And if you are really struggling, talk to someone. Anyone. Me even.
If substance abuse is part of the problem: SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
If you are considering harming yourself (or someone else): The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255.
If you or a loved one are serving in the military and are experiencing mental health concerns: Military OneSource is a free service provided by the Department of Defense to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns, including possible mental health problems. Call and talk anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-342-9647. If you are a veteran, you can also text 838255.
If you are looking for long term help, consider these recommendations from the Mayo Clinic on how to choose the right service for you.
Just remember, hopelessness is not real. It is just a state of mind, it is temporary. It will get better with help.
Everyone, just try to be a little more aware of your own mental health, and that of those around you.