The holidays are a difficult time for many people. Everyone knows that. There are myriad reasons for the difficulty – missing loved ones that have died tops my list. Watching others who are suffering because of illness, rejection, financial difficulty, poor relationships, a troubled marriage – all are causes for stress. Maybe someone you brush shoulders with everyday is one of those who suffer, and you don’t even know it.

I don’t claim to be a philosopher or a theologian, but I believe that in both good seasons and hard seasons of life, God walks with us. And even though I may not understand the reasons, I believe he has a purpose in the plan.

Psalms 84:11 says that “…no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly.” So if we are in pain, there must be a purpose in the pain. That’s where faith comes in — believing what we can’t see. Pain doesn’t come because God doesn’t love us or he has forgotten us. Although he doesn’t cause difficulties, sometimes he allows them because he loves us too much to leave us as we are, for reasons we may not see. He can use the difficult things we walk through to refine us and to transform us to be closer to his heart. Not many understand pain better than Jesus — physical, mental, and spiritual. He’s been there. And he goes before you to make the way through yours (Deuteronomy 31:8). You do not walk alone today, or any day. Whether you feel like it or not, God’s love is holding you so that you can make it through.

We get to choose. In our pain and distress, we can turn our back on God. We can question, get mad, or doubt his goodness. We can even walk away in our pain. And please don’t misunderstand: God is okay with our questions and doubt and even anger. He waits for us to bring those things to him. We can also choose to trust him. We can believe what he has said in his Word. He has said that he works ALL things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). He won’t waste our pain; he will somehow use it for good, either now or eventually. If we allow him to, he can use our pain and difficulties to transform us from the inside out and grow our character: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2)

I’ve had to look really hard to see the joy in some of the difficult circumstances of my life and the lives of those I love. I have questioned this verse over and over again through the years. How can I rejoice in the middle of madness? How can there be joy in the darkest night of the soul? But it’s there, just under the surface of the wound. There is a purpose greater than what we can see. Somehow we will grow because of this pain. Somehow we will be stronger. Somehow we will make it through to the other side. But we have a choice as to how we will get there. Will we limp through it, and suffer the whole while? Or will we choose to allow God’s grace to comfort and uphold us through it? Will we emerge on the other side a victor? We get to choose.

I have to tell you, this is difficult for me to write. I was in the midst of praying for friends and loved ones, some of whom are suffering greatly, before receiving the inspiration to write this article. I don’t understand why healing hasn’t come yet. I don’t understand why some things have to be so incredibly difficult. I don’t understand so many things. And the pain goes so deep. Psalm 18:6 says, “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”

Holiday survival is all about faith and being thankful, in my opinion. We are grateful for good memories, for the positive things in life, but also for what we can’t yet see. We are glad for what we have received and hopeful for what we haven’t yet obtained. We rejoice in the midst of whatever life has brought to us today. And we ask God to help us maintain a grateful heart in the midst of circumstances we wouldn’t choose.

So having done all we can, we will stand (Ephesians 6:13).

My prayers are with you today, friends. If you’re reading this, God is with you; I know it. He may feel far away, but he is not. I’ve asked him to meet you where you are today and to give you the courage to face the day… and the next day, and the next. He grants fresh mercy every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and there is enough to last for each day. I hope you choose to go with God.

2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”