By Joni Shankles

Christmas is a season of celebration.

But when you are hurting, Christmas is also a season that can magnify pain or loss.

An empty chair.
An empty bank account.
An empty soul.

Celebrating is hard when your heart is breaking or your world is falling apart.

When you are rooted to the present moment by pain, it is difficult to plan ahead for family gatherings or to remember things weren’t always this way.

If you are hurting this Christmas, you might need these to help navigate the season.

You need the whole story.

When you are hurting, you need more than the Christmas story as we normally tell it.

You need to know that the baby in the manger wasn’t just born to die.

He was born to live.

Jesus came to live in the very world you and I know, a world broken by sin.
The Savior of the world became one of us.
He is Immanuel, God with us.

What does this mean?

It means He understands everything you are going through.

Jesus experienced life as you and I do.

He got tired.
He experienced hunger.
He worked hard in the family business.
He celebrated special occasions.

He is Immanuel.
He is with you.

Jesus felt the pain of living on this fallen planet.

He was misunderstood by His family.
He was grieved by death, weeping at the graveside of a friend.
He was outraged by hypocrisy and injustice.
He was betrayed by His friends, by religious leaders, and by governmental authorities.
He was beaten and tortured, though He had done nothing wrong.

He is Immanuel.
He is with you.

Jesus did only what His Father told Him to do.
Even taking the weight of sin and today’s pain to the cross.

And in the face of suffering, Jesus did not look away.
He looked for His Father.

He invites you to do the same.

He has given you everything you need.

You need a Companion.

When you are hurting, you need a Companion, someone who sees your pain and chooses to stay.

Jesus will not leave you alone.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
– Isaiah 41:10 –

I will be with you when you pass through the waters,
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.
– Isaiah 43:2 –

I will never leave you or abandon you.
– Hebrews 13:5b –

He is Immanuel.
He is still with you.

You need a Comforter.

When you are hurting, you need a Comforter, someone to remind you of the truth of who you really are.

Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit, a Comforter and Counselor for your journey home (John 14:16-17; John 14:26).

When you are confused, the Spirit will remind you of the truth.

When you feel alone, the Spirit will remind you that you belong to the Father.

When you are tempted to give up hope, the Spirit gives you the power to resist.

The Spirit is your deposit, a sign you belong to the Father, and a promise of the future you long for – a time when the Father makes all things right, when He wipes away all tears, when death and grief and pain will be no more (Romans 8:14-17; Revelation 21:4).

Until then, Jesus will send others your way when you are hurting, those who have walked through similar pain with the comfort only a Father can give.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 –

You need an Advocate.

When you are hurting, you also need an Advocate, someone who will speak for you when you have no words.

When you are weak and don’t know how to pray, the Spirit helps, praying for you and groaning with you when you have no words of your own.

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
– Romans 8:26-27 –

And not only does the Spirit pray for you, Jesus is praying for you now.

Having lived a human life with its pain and suffering, and having conquered sin and death on the cross, Jesus is now at the Father’s right hand, interceding for you until you’re home.

Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:34-35, 37-39 –

He is your Advocate (1 John 2:1).
Nothing can separate you from His love.

And in His love, Jesus offers you the very thing you may need most this Christmas season.

You need rest.

When you are hurting, you need rest for your body and rest for your soul.

When you are hurting, everything is harder.

So this Christmas, simplify.
Shorten your to-do list. Invest your limited energy in those things that are most meaningful to you, not in satisfying the expectations of others. Go slow. Let others volunteer this year. Ask for help. Take a nap. Remind yourself that this is now, not forever.

Pain is difficult to carry.
Let Jesus lift your burden.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
Matthew 11:28-29 –

He is Immanuel.
He is right beside you.
He is the rest your soul needs.

So when you are hurting during the Christmas season, remember what you need.

You need the whole story.
The manger is only a moment in the story. You need the life of Immanuel as much as His birth.

You need a Companion.
Jesus is with you. You are never alone.

You need a Comforter.
You have the Spirit. Others will show up to help.

You need an Advocate.
The Spirit groans with you. Jesus is praying for you. The Father is listening.

You need rest.
Let go of expectations. Take care of your body and your soul. True rest is found in Jesus.

When you are hurting, you need Immanuel.
And He is with you always.

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