Finding Joy in a Sorrow-filled Christmas

Maybe your Christmas season is filled with illness, divorce, conflict, or death? Perhaps, like many others, you find the cheery “Merry Christmas” greeting hard to return, as you fight the unforgiving lump growing in your throat? For lots of people, the months have been hard and the year is ending with disappointment, betrayal, or sorrow. The holiday season dawns difficult and joy is hard to find.

How can Christmas be joy-filled when grief is real and ever-present?

Back when our girls were little, the pleasures of Christmas were found within the stockings under the tree, in the delightful squeals of children unwrapping presents, and tucked inside the delectable treats and goodies scattered around the kitchen. Christmas meant family and family meant peace, happiness, and unity.

Scattered in those years, life happened and heartache entered the picture. Divorce, dysfunction, disease, and death crept in and Christmas became a juggle of emotions; reality of loss overlaid our day of happiness. Yearning for the past, it became easy to wish for simpler years, for holidays that felt alive with anticipation and wonder; when Christmas was truly the most wonderful time of the year, and all felt right in the world.


In seasons of hardship, our propensity can be to run and hide. Avoid the cheerfully decorated shopping malls. Skip the company Christmas party. Spend Christmas Eve at home instead of in a candle-laden church pew. Occasionally these practices are best. Honestly, sometimes we need to protect our hearts in these fragile moments. You may be in this fresh season of grief. Cut yourself some slack. It is okay. For a season.

For the rest of us, where can we find Christmas joy when our hearts hurt with the things of this world? How can we engage with the people around us and see the gladness of Jesus when our hearts don’t feel happy, our families have conflict, and our circumstances are complicated? Unlike a faucet, we can’t turn off our emotions at the leisure or convenience of others. We shouldn’t have to pretend, feel guilty, or ignore the pain within us. Acknowledging the hard, while still experiencing peace and joy, can be our anthem this year.

It comes down to seeing the gift of Jesus for who He really is in our life.

The Old Testament book of Isaiah was written over 700 years before the birth of Christ, yet it perfectly describes the coming of our Messiah. The following are just a few of the prophecies fulfilled:

He will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)

He will come from the line of King David (Isaiah 9:7)

He will be beaten and struck with a willing spirit (Isaiah 50:6)

He will make a blood sacrifice (Isaiah 53:5)

He will take our place (Isaiah 53:6)

He will heal our broken hearts (Isaiah 61:1-2)

“Instead of their shame, my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Isaiah 61:7)

Thankfully for us, Jesus didn’t stay a baby in that manger. Growing in God’s likeness – being fully man, yet fully divine – He lived a perfect, sinless life. Suffering on the cross, He bore the punishment for our sins, dying the criminals death that you, I, and the world deserve. Bursting from the grave three days later, He conquered death and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of our Father. He made eternal life available to all who call on His name. Death, disease, heartache, conflict, and grief were conquered once and for all.


Because of Jesus’ journey from manger to cross to heaven, our weary world can rejoice. Our hearts can feel heavy, yet hopeful; sorrow-filled, yet alive. We can grieve, yet be in gladness. Joy can still be found this Christmas season, no matter what our circumstances bring.

All because our true Hope was born this Christmas Day.


I’d love to hear what is hard for you this Christmas season and where you find joy in the midst of your current circumstances? And know, dear reader, I will be lifting you up as this season unfolds.

*For practical advice in how to best love someone who is hurting this Christmas season, I highly recommend reading this article by Desiring God. What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas

22 thoughts on “Finding Joy in a Sorrow-filled Christmas

  1. We do indeed have to try our very best to overcome hardships with the unspeakable JOY that God gives us. Beautiful post!

  2. Thank you for this post! Many are struggling around the Holidays and it’s important to remember them in our prayers! Sharing this!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I will be praying it will be an encouragement to anyone who is struggling this Christmas season.

  3. Great post! Christmas can seem so superficial at times, but posts like these remind me of the song “I heard the bells on Christmas day” and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s a classic meditation. This is why traditions keep their significance. Thank you for your insights!

    1. I will be praying you find the space and energy to still celebrate Christ’s birth, even amidst the hustle and bustle of a move.

  4. “Because of Jesus’ journey from manger to cross to heaven, our weary world can rejoice. Our hearts can feel heavy, yet hopeful; sorrow-filled, yet alive.“ Amen, amen! Such uplifting and real truth in this post. The more I think about Christ coming the more I am amazed and joyful.

    1. I am with you, Dani. The older I get and the more I journey with Jesus, the more in awe I am of His coming. Thanks for your encouragement!

  5. As with all suffering, if we are able to focus on Jesus and His sacrifice for us, our ability to push through becomes greater because we are given His strength. We have to try not to let the extras around us, whether holidays or everyday life lead us astray from those truths.

    1. Very true, Melissa. It is hard to stay focused sometimes, especially with all the extras at Christmas – extra activities, extra shopping, extra cooking, etc. But He is truly what makes this season all that we need!

  6. This is a difficult Christmas for me and my family. My mom passed away in September and now, less than 3 months later my dad is seriously ill in hospital. I am focussing on how blessed I am to spend time with him, visiting in hospital and that I am able to do things around his house to help him out. The drive is about 2 hours to the hospital where he is and his home, last weekend I went and decorated his house for Christmas, it is a surprise for when he gets to go home. Jesus holds me up and when I pray, He comes and fills my heart to overfill so I can bless others.

    1. Oh Lisa, I am so sorry you find yourself facing a difficult year. I love that you were able to decorate your dad’s home for him; those acts can bring us joy in these really hard situations. I will be praying for him to gain strength to enjoy this season alongside your family. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  7. It’s been a tough year. My nephew died of an overdose Thanksgiving 2016, Mom passed away in June after a terrible end of life experience, my dad is failing and we had to move him in with my sister and now I’m back at the oncologist two and a half years after Breast cancer trying to see what two suspicious looking lymph nodes behind my breast bone are doing there. Yes, life can be really hard a lot of the time!
    I hold tight to all the joyful times and all the family , friends & love in my life, especially my love of Jesus and his love for me. EVERYTHING will be fine because I am tucked safely in his arms❤️

    1. Dear Cindy….my heart is heavy to hear all that your family has gone through. One of these trials alone would be enough to cause worry, anxiety, and heartache; so many back to back makes it an extra heavy load. Know that I care about you so much and am praying for you as you walk into this Christmas season, and that I am praying specifically for these lymph nodes turn out to be nothing to worry about. May Christ’s presence being ever-present and palpable in an increasing measure. Sending my love to you.

  8. Sarah, I love your post! It eloquently says what my heart is feeling! Two messages since Mike died have really spoken to me the first was, “It’s Not our Story” and the second one was,”🙃It’s not about me.” I needed to hear those words and be reminded of how blessed, loved and the hope I have as a child of God!Thank you for taking the time to share! You and your sweet family will be in my prayers. Joy to the World!!!!!

    1. Oh Mrs. Gable…I was just thinking about you guys the other day. Mr. Gable was such a genuine man of God, and there is no doubt you are missing him extra as the holidays come and go. Your two messages are so wise and true. We don’t always understand why things happen the way they do or why some people get to heaven before we are ready, but we can trust our God has a plan and sees beyond what is in front of us. Sending a big hug from our family to yours. The Lord has come!!

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