By Dr. Deb Waterbury
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Well, it should be, and for the most part, it often is. However, people are people, no matter where you go, and that includes us. Consequently, we have to deal with each other, and Thomas Wolfe’s classic novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, becomes more of a work of non-fiction rather than fiction in the lives of some.
For Christians it is doubly sad that some of us dread this blessed holiday because of tension and feuding with family members. As Christmas draws ever closer, knots in stomachs draw ever tighter, and instead of toys and gifts flying off of the shelves at Walmart, it’s Tums and Rolaids that are being re-stocked daily. That’s truly sad because for us Christians, this really is our holiday. This is our celebration, the day of the year where we celebrate the moment in time when our very salvation was born.
And yet, some of us dread it with all that is in us. My friends, this simply should not be. It should not be because it replaces the joy that we by all rights should be feeling at this time above all times. The devil knows this, which is why he loves to take this the time of year to torment us most of all. Shouldn’t this, then, be the time of year we fight back most of all?
If you are dreading Christmas this year because you know there is someone you are going to have to see that you know pushes all of your buttons or with whom you have a long standing feud or argument, be the author of peace. Be the one who stops this cycle, because believe it or not, you can do that. It really isn’t complicated, but it will take some forethought and preparation. Below are five very practical and straightforward steps that you can follow to avoid a family feud this Christmas.
ONE: Pray for the offending party. (Luke 6:28)
Truly amazing things happen in the spiritual realm when we pray for those who mistreat us. It is a powerful thing. However, it is also a powerful thing for us. So much healing occurs in our own spirits when we humble ourselves to pray for those who have hurt us. We take great strides toward laying self aside and instead placing the good of others in front of ourselves. This is the truest form of becoming more Christlike.
Jesus said in Luke 6:28 to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you,” and then he went on for many verses to explain why this is the way of the believer. If we don’t, what separates us from anyone else? It’s easy to love those who treat us well, but loving those who don’t is much more difficult. Truly, that takes a supernatural love, and we have that indwelling love in us in the Holy Spirit.
TWO: Don’t dwell on past wrongs, but if possible, think only on the good times or good things involving that person. (Philippians 4:8)
The human brain is an interesting organ. When we think of what someone does or says, the brain can’t discriminate between the feelings of a memory and an actual occurrence. As far as your hypothalamus is concerned, every time you remember the occurrence, it happened. So, if you remember your uncle calling you stupid 326 times, then you will feel like he called you stupid 326 times.
You see, God gives us directives in His Word for our good because He knows what is best for us. When He told us in Philippians 4:8 to think on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely, He did so because He knew we would react to those thoughts. You will react to the thoughts you have about your family member, too. That’s why thinking only on whatever good things you can leading up to Christmas will greatly benefit the outcome of the occasion.
THREE: Sit down and make an actual list of positive qualities about this person and then spend some time meditating on them. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Another interesting thing about the brain is how well it retains information when we physically write things down. Something almost magical happens when our hand writes things down on paper.
The brain works on what has been described as a sort of filing system. We create files for every piece of information that we take in from the moment we are born. Depending on the way you take information in and the number of times you take that information in, it will determine the number of files you have, the kind of files you create, and then the ease with which you will be able to access those files in order to remember said information.
It has been scientifically proven that not only do we create more files for information when we physically write things down, but we also create bigger files in that act alone. Why do you think your teachers in school were constantly making you take notes? I know it seemed like we were simply trying to torture you, and sometimes we were, but mostly we knew it would help you remember the information.
The act of writing down a list of positive qualities about the person with whom you are offended before you see them and then meditating on those qualities will help you recall them when you are confronted with painful or hurtful feelings when you see them. Believe me, you will be better able to deal with those feelings if your mind is conditioned beforehand.
FOUR: Ask God to put a guard over your mouth. (Psalm 141:3)
When someone baits us with horrible words, it is a difficult thing not to answer back. I could not understand that struggle more. Something inside of us rises to the occasion to defend not only ourselves, but to stand for justice and righteousness and liberty, and well, any other tremendous word we can think of in the moment. It just seems like the right thing to do, and it seems like the wrong thing to let them get away with saying horrible things.
In a word, it’s our pride. It’s our sense of justice and our need, our desire to dispense it. I am constantly reminded in those moments of James 4:12, “There is only one law-giver and judge; he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
It is so much easier to prepare for those instances by asking God to put that guard over our mouths before we go. We cannot do it in our own strength. Our flesh will surely take over when we are in those situations, but with God and His strength, it is possible. Pray Psalm 141:3 every day leading up to Christmas and the confrontation with the family member you dread seeing. God is faithful. He will not fail you.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth,
keep watch over the door of my lips!
FIVE: Dwell every day, every morning if possible, on what was made possible for you because of what you are actually celebrating on this day. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The battle is in our minds. Satan would have you think on anything and everything other than Jesus. He wants you to set your mind on this world and the cares therein, but take that battle back! You are the author of what occurs in your head! And the weapons of that warfare are the very words of our Father. Speak truth where there are lies. Meditate every single day on the reality of what we celebrate, and do so by speaking the Word of God. Satan cannot stand against that mighty Sword.
The key is preparation, as with any battle, and believe me, my friend, this is war. The enemy wants us disillusioned and disenchanted, because if we, the ones who know the truth, are disillusioned during this blessed holiday, then the world will continue to see it as a marketing, pagan ploy.
Instead, be merry this Christmas. Be joyful. And be at peace. Our Savior has come.