I know Christmas is usually a time of cheer but maybe it's just not for you right now. If you come from a broken family, it can be especially hard. The holidays might be a reminder of how happy you DON'T feel or of how lonely or hurt or hopeless you feel.
And you know what? That's okay. You're allowed to feel that way. But before you get stuck there, I want to tell you something: You are not alone.
I can't tell you how many of my girls have emailed me with stories of hurt, pain, and brokenness that seem to skyrocket through their heart during the holidays. Personally, I really don't feel qualified to speak into the pain of a broken family. I've been blessed with a strong family unit. Although that doesn't make my life perfect by any means, I chose to let someone else speak into this a bit more than I can.
One of my lifelong friends, Sarah, shared a piece of her story with me and I think — I know — it will resonate with you today if you come from a broken family.
“I remember lying in my bed, the sounds of their yelling echoing inside the house. I wondered when it would end as I rolled over and buried my head in my pillow. Tomorrow we would pretend like it didn’t happen. We always did. And then one day, everything changed. My parents did the best they could but the person that was supposed to be there for me always ended up hurting me the most and next thing I knew, everything crumbled and that person was gone. Just like that my story changed forever.
How I viewed love, family, marriage changed.
My trust in God wavered. My soul desired fulfillment my family could not offer.
Deep down, I knew there was One who could offer me that fulfillment for eternity but my head was so full of resentment, blame, anger and sadness that I believed I couldn't step into that fulfillment.
The heartbreak and the pain deterred me from trusting the One who works all things out according to His purpose. How was THIS his purpose? Surely other families didn’t fight like mine. Surely other kids had both of their parents.
Why was I different?
I cried at school, I cried at home, I cried on holidays…I cried a lot. Most of all, I was angry. SO angry at God. You see, my biggest mistake was associating the “love” demonstrated by someone who hurt me with the love God has to offer.
Maybe you’ve experienced similar heartbreak or hurt from someone who was supposed to love you but who didn’t love you too well. And as a result, your heart has naturally associated that love with the love Jesus offers us…broken and untrustworthy. I’m with you – I get it. I did it, too.
I began to look for validation and love from what I could (kind of) control achievements, friendships, and feelings. My achievements were the currency by which I measured my self-worth. But on holidays and during special times that I really needed to feel the warmth of an embrace, the trophies and accomplishments didn't seem so shiny — they didn't understand me…they couldn't LOVE me, either.
Over time I realized everything I was doing to fill myself up was nothing in comparison for what God wanted for me. Our self-worth and our value doesn’t come from circumstances, spouses, family orfriends. It comes from our relationship with Jesus and the promise of his love. Even if we were the only ones on the planet, God would still send his Son to die for us. He is enough. I am enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
So how do you forgive someone who’s not sorry for hurting you? I guess you can’t really move forward and live the life you were called to or live IN joy when you’re holding on to past transgressions.
How do you forgive when you know you’re not ready to? Holding grudges is a lot easier than forgiving someone who hurt you deeply. But holding on to these hurts is harms your sanity and your soul. Forgiveness is a choice and not always a fun one. When I forgave my family hurting me, it wasn’t because I was ready. It’s because I realized that forgiveness was in my best interest. Harboring hurt or wishing things in the past had gone differently was effecting my livelihood. It’s hard to love others when you’re holding on to bitterness. You have to let it go.
Sometimes forgiveness comes before reconciliation. You see, we don’t always forgive for our wrong-doers for their peace of mind. We forgive because holding on to hurt damages our souls and isolates us. It holds us back from reaching our maximum potential that we’re called to. It holds us back from REAL love. It holds us back from the joy and hope we get to experience. It holds us back from God.
Sometimes forgiveness comes before reconciliation.
We forgive because we don’t have to walk in the same footsteps as those who hurt us. If you’re broken and angry, PRAY. Pray for those who hurt you. God is still working in your heart and in your life just like he’s working in the hearts of those who hurt us so badly. It’s ok to be angry with Him, He can take the heat. He knows every tear we cry. But for your soul and for your heart, I urge you to forgive, EVEN when you feel you’re not ready…”
Wow. What a good word, huh?
You know, I don't know your story. I don't know the loss or tragedy or brokenness that has plagued your Christmas. But I do know that you're not alone. I'd be willing to argue that you have through this pain.
Think about Buddy the Elf for a second. He felt like that, too. He didn't have much to celebrate on the outside at Christmas time. He was the weirdo. The loner whose own father rejected. The guy no one understood, the misfit that got hit by a cab when crossing the street. But he gave grace, he smiled anyway, and he celebrated beyond the rejection, the loneliness, and all of his circumstances. I mean, He poured syrup on everything for heavens sakes. and he saved Christmas.
And you know what? There was someone else that understands you even more. Someone else that everyone thought was a weirdo. A loner whose Father poured His wrath out on for your sake. A misfit that wasn't hit by a cab but nailed to a cross. He poured His Spirit on everything and He saved YOU.
So when you start believe the lie that you aren't worthy enough or loved enough or allowed to experience the cheer, the joy, and the love that the loner, misfit, Savior of the world brings, I want you to dig deep and allow yourself to forgive those who hurt you. And I want you to look the enemy straight in the eye and say, YOU ARE A COTTON HEADED NINNY MUGGINS AND YOU SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES. YOU CAN'T STEAL MY CHEER THIS YEAR.
Because that's Christmas – Christmas is hope in who Jesus is when we are not. Christmas is cheer beyond the enemy's beatings. And Christmas gave us the Best Buddy we could ever ask for…He doesn't wear elf shoes. He doesn't wear a Santa hat. He wore nails in his feet and thorns on His head – for you. And He goes by Jesus.