God with “Skin On”

Thanksgiving offically kicks off the “Holiday Season” and sounds of the season surround us. Decorations abound, lists begin, shopping survives Black Friday.  For many this annual season recalls warm memories and anticipates new ones. I discovered this year a family Facebook picture that included the newest member sporting a tiny tee shirt with the words “I’m New Here.” That clever line brought a smile to my face.

However, for some, if not many, aspects of this season prove difficult.  Perhaps because of painful memories of seasons past or traversing a first season without a loved one gone, they struggle to enter into the celebration. It could be added stress financially or expanded “to do lists” steals the joy from “Joy to the World.” Loneliness creeps in and leaves the heart sad.

Possibly you (or other family members) struggle with such a cloud of discouragement while everyone expects you to embrace the joy of the season. Or you may bear the weight of such emotional heaviness year round.  Important to maintain the unity of the Body of Christ is learning to love one another, to truly “rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) 

Whatever the reason, thoughtfulness and sensitivity from other believers can provide support and love to those fighting a cloud of depression.   Historically the church has been slow to acknowledge the reality of this trial. They miss the many examples from scripture from Elijah after God’s great victory too David fleeing for his life, expressing his pain in psalms.  God’s tender care of Elijah reminds us we worship a God who sees and knows the reality of emotional pain.  A God whose presence means we are never truly alone.  Whether seasonal or long term, however, depression can be debilitating.  Additionally, mental illness is one malady rarely mentioned in prayer services, yet it affects many in our chaotic culture.  As a result many sufferers hesitate to share this personal struggle and feel even more isolated. 

Mature believers and those with personal experience offer hope and wisdom for walking with a friend (or yourself) facing such a trial.  Check out these resources: https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-42-43-dealing-depression,  https://bible.org/article/helping-friend-through-darkness-depression https://bible.org/article/mental-health-and-church.

This season if we allow God to prepare us to be alert to the emotional needs of others, we bring God’s presence into difficult situations and “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) I am reminded of a story I read in the Reader's Digest years ago: A mother was putting her two-year-old to bed and as she left the room he pleaded with her not to go. His mother tried to reassure him by telling him that God would be there with him all night. The boy replied, "But now I need God with skin on!"  We can bring “God with skin on” into this season for those who are hurting.

Gwynne Johnson currently serves on the Board of Entrust, Inc., an international education and training mission where she authored the Entrust curriculum, Developing a Discerning Heart. She recently served as Co-Chair of the training project, Christian Women in Partnership, Russia and as Senior Director of Women's Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Gwynne has a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband of 58 years, Don. She works part-time in her daughter and granddaughter's bakery "The Best Box Ever," where she gets paid in cookies.