I loved my Advent calendar when I was a kid. It was a lovely, whimsical outdoor scene with all sorts of interesting people, critters, and activities. I loved how the scene changed as Christmas grew closer. My brother’s was Santa’s workshop.
With each raised flap we knew Christmas was one day closer. Which meant we were one day closer to presents!
Our excitement grew. The day arrived! And then it was over.
Though I knew that Advent was the time leading up to Christmas, I really didn’t know what Advent was.
What is Advent?
Unlike my childish Advent-calendar anticipation of Christmas morning, the Advent I’m learning about as an adult is meaningful.
Advent is the celebrated through the four Sundays before Christmas. It began as a means to prepare hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming to earth as a baby. It reminds us He came. It reminds us He’s coming again.
Instead of giddiness, there is longing.
It’s not about me.
Years of Silence
God’s people waited for years. Hundreds of years. They waited for God to speak. They waited for Him to save them.
He had Promised.
Four hundred years is a long time to wait. Generations died without receiving the promise.
But how can understanding Advent help us get through depression and anxiety in the holiday season?
Advent and Depression
Something bouts of depression and anxiety have in common with Advent is… waiting.
Knowing that I have survived the darkness steals some power from the darkness. Even when I can’t believe it, the truth exists; I have never been abandoned. Even if I can’t feel it, grace is a fact, and it holds me. Hopelessness cannot coexist with grace. I may believe there is no hope, but that doesn’t make it true. I can’t see the light, but it still shines; if I just hold on, I will see it again.
To survive is to wait.
The Themes of Advent
On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit. In most traditions it is the candle of Hope. We have hope because God Promised. Jesus came. He died. He rose again. He’s coming again.
The sun always rises. Spring always returns. God keeps His Promises.
Do I believe God’s Promises? If a promise has been fulfilled, I don’t need faith to believe it will come to pass. Do I believe He is who He has said He is?
If we have faith in God and His Promises, we always have hope.
We could not save ourselves. From the beginning, God had a plan to save us from the wrong choice He knew we’d make in the Garden and until time ends.
Our redemption required sacrifice of incomprehensible price Jesus made to call us His own.
Life brings loss, big and small, to everyone. But in it and through it, God waits for us to understand He is all we truly need. Praise does not require a smile.
We don’t need to feel happy to have joy.
I can’t always control my brain or my circumstances. God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. In fact, the Bible is pretty blunt about the fact we will have trouble in this world. But God has overcome it.
Peace can reign in us despite the chaos of a fallen world.
Like the kid who goes snooping because he can’t wait for the surprise under the tree Christmas morning, we’re not good at waiting for what we want. We want good stuff that make us make us feel good, and we want it on our schedule. I wasn’t one of those snoopy kids, but I resent not getting what I think I need when I think I need it. Most years, I wanted Christmas to come, but I wanted what it would bring to be a surprise. I could wait happily because I knew Christmas would come. It was right there on the calendar. We were counting down the days in eager anticipation.
I struggle to believe God will follow through on making all things work out for my good as I love Him. I don’t always want to rest in an unimaginable Promise I’ll receive at an unknown time. I want things to be easier. Now.
There’s a powerlessness in waiting.
No one enjoys feeling powerless.
But when we’re brought to the end of our own strength we remember we are finite. We’re forced to remember that we need God.
It’s easy to lose hope when darkness threatens to swallow us whole. There are things I must do to give my brain its best chance and minimize the negative impact on my loved ones. I have tools to minimize the severity of my crashes.
But I can’t fix the glitch in my brain. I can’t heal myself.
What is required of me is faithfulness in the waiting.
Because God is Who He says He is, hope exists whether I can feel it or not.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9, NASB
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