Hope for the Holiday Season and Beyond

By R.L. Witter

As the end of 2023 draws near, some of us may be feeling our holiday spirit dampened by current happenings in the world. There’s war between Israel and Hamas, and here in America, mass shootings are still taking place. Inflation is taking a bite out of holiday gift giving, and even stealing bites from our holiday meals with the price of food so high.

A few weeks before Christmas I found myself battling a stomach flu. For 72 hours I was miserable. I was exhausted, weak, unable to eat anything, and feeling hopeless. Beyond lacking the strength to sit at my computer and write, I also lacked the spirit. I felt down and dark, consumed by my own suffering. Regardless of how it began, anything I attempted to write quickly turned sour before my weakness and wooziness caused me to abandon all efforts and retreat to my bed. Thankfully, my editor told me, “Don’t worry about us; just feel better. Get some rest; take care of yourself.” And hearing those words allowed me the grace to surrender to the reality of my illness and begin earnestly taking care of myself.

After three days of illness, I awoke on the fourth morning still feeling tired and weak, but nonetheless feeling better. After thanking God for the ability to hold down liquids and the strength to begin moving around again, I noticed the daylight that hadn’t seemed to be there the past few days. After a long, hot shower that soothed my physical aches and pains, I was finally able to get on my knees and pray.

This was not the same “Lord, please take this sickness from my body” type of prayer I’d been repeating. Rather, this was a return to my usual daily prayers where I pray for others, instead of myself. I prayed for peace, mercy, and healing for those in Israel, Gaza, and Ukraine; I prayed for those experiencing loneliness and depression as the holidays neared; I prayed for the hungry and unhoused; I prayed for the sick and shut-in, etc. And despite my knees being sore and my head still a little woozy, I felt even better.

I realized that during my illness I hadn’t thought once about the shopping and decorating I wasn’t doing. I hadn’t felt guilty for not attending a holiday gathering or mailing parcels to loved ones across the country. I was reminded of something my mother used to say when we were children: “If you ever get lost, stop moving and stay in one place. I can’t find you if you’re moving from place to place, but if you stay still, I promise I’ll get to you.” And I realized, in those days of illness, I had stopped moving. I stayed in one place. And sure enough, The Lord found me and healed both my body and my spirit. I feel hopeful again!

If you can do nothing else this holiday season and every day afterward, remain hopeful. I know I will, and I wish you the season’s best.