Most Americans know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. In this story, Ebenezer Scrooge encounters three ghosts that make him realize the he was living a life teeming with hatred, resentment and bitterness and he needed to change his lifestyle and his heart. Some people criticize the story, saying that no one can change their heart overnight. While people do not change overnight, love still changes people nonetheless.
In the Muppet adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Marley’s ghost sings, “So freedom comes with giving love, so prison comes with hate.” While the Muppets is a goofy adaptation of the story, there’s a lot of truth in this statement. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge remained bitter and resentful because of the mistreatment of his father, the death of his sister and his lost love. He had reason to be angry. He should not have been mistreated by his father, it was a deep loss when his sister died and he felt unbearably guilty for his fiancée’ leaving him. Instead of working through his grief and pain, he turned to material possessions and work for gratification. When money didn’t satisfy him, it further stoked his harsh worldview. Maybe you’re dealing with pain this holiday season. It may seem easy to stuff away the hurt, pain, bitterness and resentment. However, in the long run, holding onto this pain, even if you’re not actively acknowledging it, hurts your emotional and spiritual growth.
Finding love for those who dislike you, treat you badly and make life difficult for you is a challenge. It’s a long journey, and the first step is to choose love over resentment. Because of the ghosts’ visits, Scrooge chose to remember the joy of imagination, the love of his sister, the kindness of his first employer, the diligence of his clerk and the joy of his nephew. He began to let go of all of that pent up resentment, bitterness, anger and hatred. Then when he took it a step further and gave love back to the people around him, his heart began to change. Love’s more than just an emotion; it’s a lifestyle, a frame of mind and a choice. If you’re having difficulty this holiday season, it’s important to acknowledge and work through your hurt, but it’s also vital to actively choose forgiveness and love.
It’s easy to put off the healing that can only come from love until after the holiday season. But when you hold on to hatred, hurt and pain, you become calloused to it, like Scrooge. You may not actually realize how intense the hurt is because you’re used to it. Overtime you become good at carrying that extra burden. Unless you release the hurt, it may one day overwhelm you, making you bitter. You never hoped for bitterness, nor did God desire that for your life.
Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness and love. He was constantly choosing to love people, even when it was difficult. He was gentle when Martha blamed him for the death of her brother (John 11:21-23). He answered Nicodemus’ questions, even though he was a Pharisee and was hiding his search (John 3:1-21). He called Judas, the betrayer, “friend” (Matthew 26:50). He warned Peter of his denial (Luke 22:31) and then still forgave him (John 21:15-19). Love does not come easy for many.
For those of you who are struggling this holiday season, whether from tense friendships, stressful academics, divorce or death of a loved one, showing love can be hard. However, you don’t have to do it alone. Look to Jesus for examples of unconditional love, and remember that His unconditional love also extends to you.
We want to encourage you to show love to the people around you! Tweet us a relationship where you want to show more love to @niNeMag with #9encourages. Or if you want to reach out to us in private, email us at email@example.com. We hope and pray that you experience the love of Jesus this holiday season in the midst of hardship.