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No Thanks for Thanksgiving: Confession of a Former Lonely Man

No Thanks for Thanksgiving

As a former lonely man who dreaded the holidays, I know encouragement from a friend can make all the difference in the world. The holidays can amplify what we don’t have, and if a person is not relationally connected, this season intended for special memories becomes a nightmare to endure. Perhaps you can share your life with a struggling friend. Whom can you bless this holiday season?

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Inconvenient Isolation

The holiday season is a time of reflection and gratitude for the things the Lord has done in our lives. Though gratitude steadies our hearts throughout the year, the holidays have a particular way of stirring up reflective thoughts about God’s active goodness in our lives. There is an expectation of gratitude during special occasions.

I wish I could say it was that way for all our brothers and sisters. There is a darker side to the holidays as sin’s brokenness in our lives never takes a holiday. What is supposed to be a time for rejoicing is a time of sadness for some people. I’m not suggesting you’ve done anything wrong, but living in a fallen world means there will be seasons of sorrow for any image-bearer.

Some of our friends will endure their first holiday without someone they love. Divorce, separation, death, loneliness, and relational conflict are usually most acute during the holiday season. As you enjoy your families and friends during this time, there will be others doing all they can to muster a smile, hoping the season will quickly end. While we emote with joy, we want to remember those who are sorrowful.

Intentionally Intrusive

One of the worst years of my life was the first year I spent without my family. It was 1988. Our separation happened eight months earlier, which was painful enough. But when the holidays rolled around, the pain was nearly overwhelming. Loneliness and loss magnified themselves while pointing their fingers at me, reminding me of the shame and grief I carried.

Though that was many decades ago, the Lord always reminds me each year how it was back then and how it is for many people today. I did not see this season through the lens of God’s future redemptive purposes. My goal was to survive, counting the days until it was over. The loneliness was so intense, I could feel it.

If the Lord places someone in your mind, please do something for them. Let your care be practical and intrusive. Perhaps your lonely friend will say all is fine as they shuffle out the door of the church building on Sunday. Do not let their discretion influence you. Give them space in your life.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a).

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A Case Study

Here is a case study that is part of our Mastermind Training Course. Our students have to “counsel” forty-eight Case Studies throughout their training program. Read this case study, answer the questions, and share your thoughts with a friend. Perhaps it would make an excellent small group discussion. You can find all forty-eight of our case studies here.

No Thanks for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving is Biff’s first without his wife and children. Mable left him this past spring, the culmination of a mediocre marriage that muddled along for seventeen years. Biff has three teenage sons, all of whom live with their mom and blame him for the divorce. For the most part, Biff has repented of the sins that he brought into their marriage. He has been re-establishing himself in his local church, and most of the people have gotten used to his new lifestyle without Mable and the children.

But it has been hard for Biff to mesh with his old friends. He is too old for the singles and too single for the older couples. There has been a temptation to act as though he is worse off than he is, so people will remember his plight, hoping they’ll not lose interest in him. This weekend many of the church families are traveling or have made arrangements with family and friends locally. To date, no one has included Biff in their plans. Mable and the boys are going to another state to be with her parents. Biff calls you for help and encouragement.

Case Study Questions

  1. What would you tell Biff?
  2. How would you help him theologically?
  3. What would be your practical advice for Biff?
  4. If you have had a similar experience, what would you have liked to have happened to you or what others did for you that helped you through your difficult time?

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