Keep up a fitness regime. I know from personal experience how hard it is to be consistent in this area over the holidays. There’s so much sitting around, and so, so much food. But it’s so important for your physical, mental, and spiritual health to maintain your discipline here. If my experience is anything to go by, you won’t keep it perfectly. But do what you can. Even if you can’t get to the gym, try to get outside and walk in the daylight for 20-30 minutes a day.
Preach to Yourself
You have an internal narrative, the story that you are telling yourself. You’ve done a great job of rewriting that story over the past few months. The dark chapters that were so full of what you lost with these painful family bereavements have now given way to many bright paragraphs of how much your loved one has gained in heaven and of your hope of eventual and eternal reunion. You’ve also managed by God’s grace to expand that part of the story which focuses on how much you still have in your life. Keep writing these chapters in your mind and heart—the longer the better.
Now, you’re going to be tempted in the next few weeks to write a chapter that dwells on the present estrangement with your daughter and how much you miss her at family occasions. While we can’t deny the reality of this, and we continue to pray and work toward reconciliation, can I suggest that you write another chapter in parallel with it? Write a chapter on the way God has reconciled you to his Son through his death on the cross (Eph. 2:14–18; 2 Cor. 5:18–21). Fixing your mind on this greatest estrangement and reconciliation story will help you to balance a bitter experience with the sweetest experience, and will also give you hope in God’s reconciling power. It’s amazing how the gospel can turn the greatest pain into the greatest therapy.
You can also preach to yourself by singing the Gospel to yourself. Remember how much you enjoyed Handel’s “Messiah” last year? Why don’t we go again? Attend your church’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Sing these Gospel-rich songs and make melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
Preach to Others
I don’t want to lay a heavy burden on you here, but why not look for and take opportunities to witness to others? The unbelievers in your family will be looking to see how you react to your recent losses and how you are responding to your depression. They will see you are sad and they will ask how you are doing. How about this for an answer: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). That should startle them! But is will also start some profitable conversations that give you an opportunity to testify to God’s grace to you in these days. Sometimes, for those with depression at christmastime, ministering to others is the best way to minister to yourself.
Content on depression at christmastime was adapted from Reset by David Murray. This article first appeared at Crossway.org; used with permission.