Today’s broken culture leaves many men in a desperate fight for their lives during the holidays. When there’s supposed to be cheer in the air, warmth in our hearts and glad tidings on our lips, unfortunately the holidays also usher in the most dangerous time of the year.
Holidays can bring cherished moments with loved ones, special traditions and memories that last a lifetime. Holidays also bring an opportunity to bring hope to the hurting, love to the loveless and compassion to the lonely.
As we enter the holiday season, keep your eyes and heart open to the fact that many men need help, and need Jesus. Broken families can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Financial pressures can undo our facades. Failed marriages and relationships can create discomfort and loneliness despite being surrounded by people. Men are like icebergs – you only see the tip. Below the waterlines this Holiday season are some sharks of the season that seek to devour them.
Although depression may occur at any time of the year, the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—from November through Valentine’s Day—may exacerbate a lack of fulfillment. One study showed the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and “being without a family.”
For many people, holidays are a painful reminder of what once was. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss such as the death of a spouse or a break-up.
The season also brings the deadliest time of the year for the heart. According to one of “America’s Top Doctors” Dennis Goodman, more people will suffer a heart attack in the coming weeks than the rest of the year combined. Thousands of people will visit emergency rooms this season with arrhythmia — often a warning sign of stroke or heart attack — a diagnosis Dr. Goodman coined: “Holiday Heart” syndrome.
Many individuals suffering from the holiday blues will cope with the bottle or substance abuse. Research shows the holiday season is the most dangerous time of year for anyone trying to maintain sobriety from an addiction. And, more alcohol-related traffic fatalities are reported between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year.
There is a significant uptick in suicide rates following Christmas—a 40 percent increase, according to one large Danish study. If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, call 911, immediately proceed to a hospital emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
There’s a new season coming. A season filled with hope, love and peace. If you, or another man, are at risk this year, take to heart these practical ways to get right and get ready for what can be the best holidays ever.
1. Get your eyes right.
Surrender your life to Jesus, and focus on Him. By taking your eyes off your circumstances and onto the most amazing love available, your life can be transformed in one step. The Bible says to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these (good) things will be given to you as well.” Call on Jesus, and He will answer. He promises.
2. Get your mind right.
Next, cast your cares on Jesus. In Psalms 55:22 it says “Cast your cares on the Lordand he will sustain you;” and in 1 Peter 5:7, we read the truth “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Isn’t it comforting to know God cares about us?
Next, think about Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
It may take a little effort, but if you cast your cares on the Lord and think about good things, your heart and mind will be grateful.
Avoid overeating and get moving. Too much sugar and too little exercise create a chemical imbalance in the brain. Experts advise a regimen of self-care during the holidays, which includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, andexercise. As little as 30-minutes of cardiovascular exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medications.
- 4. Get with others.
Fight loneliness by hanging out with other men, or loved ones. Or invite friends over. Go to church, go to a Bible study or go talk with a counselor or therapist. Be intentional about avoiding isolation.
- 5. Get into the mood.
The Bible, particularly in Psalms, continually suggests we “sing unto the Lord,” “sing a new song” and “worship” God. Music can be calming, and when you put energy behind it with focus on our Savior, music can lift our spirits. Additionally, giving is more rewarding that getting, so decide early on to be a giver, not a taker. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful. Give the gift of time, if money is an issue. Volunteer at church, at a soup kitchen, organize a gift drive or simply help the neighbor dig the snow out of his driveway. God loves a cheerful giver, and you will feel the joy that comes with a generous heart.
- 6. Get ready.
Plan to begin a new tradition. Take a family outing or vacation instead of spending the holidays at home, or try any of these traditions I’ve written about. Holidays can be a great time to reflect on what’s important to you. Establish a new plan for the New Year, submit your plan to God, and he will guide you. In Proverbs 3:5-6, we receive the key “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
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Kenny Luck is the president and founder of Every Man Ministries. As the former men’s pastor at Saddleback Church in California and current leadership pastor at Crossline Community Church, Kenny has found the proven way to improve men’s ministries around the world. Sleeping Giant is this blueprint, and gives men the tools they need to lead and understand their own men’s ministry. Watch Kenny’s teachings atEveryManMinistries.com and start your men’s group today!