Do the holidays find you trying to be a savior to someone dear to you?

Most of us who are Christ-followers would immediately recognize the folly in our attempt to try to be a savior to anyone. We know that there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. As Christmas approaches, however, many face this season with a sense of anxiety and resentfulness as we think of family members who will allow their unresolved issues of hurt or bitterness to ruin the time we spend together.

Recently, a friend of mine confided to me that her deepest pain as a mother occurred several years ago surrounding a Christmas gathering she was hosting for her family. She had raised three boys who, by God’s grace, had grown into productive, godly young men. She confessed that she felt a great deal of pride over the way her boys had turned out. Her sons truly loved one another, but two of her sons were married to women who made no effort to get along with each other. One of her daughters-in-law had just become a mother. Even though the other daughter-in-law spent time in the same room with the new mom and baby, she acted as though neither one were present. My friend’s eyes filled with tears as she pulled one son, and then the other, aside to encourage each one to talk to his wife about her behavior. My friend was stunned to discover that, not only was her request vehemently denied by both sons, but that she had forced each man to feel the need to defend his wife. Christmas Day as a family ended prematurely as the two couples angrily left her home. My friend sank into a depression that lasted for weeks.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)

If we are trying to be a savior to others, most of us will not see the truth of our actions easily. We are only baffled by the behavior of ourselves and others while the problem remains hidden from our understanding. We may wrestle with feelings of depression, anxiety, and resentment as the holidays approach, but not understand the root problem behind those emotions.

The sad truth for many families, including those who claim to be Christ followers, is that the picture perfect holiday season only exists on a Currier and Ives Christmas greeting. Along with the gifts we may give to one another often comes the baggage of past hurts and unresolved issues that often boil over in a situation of family togetherness.

So how can we know if we are trying to be a savior to others? The following beliefs may indicate if this is a problem for us:

1)  I must do all in my power to bring my estranged family members together in one place because Christmas would not be Christmas unless we were all together.

2)  I must host, cook, clean, and entertain all guests, even though these efforts go unappreciated by my family members and I am on edge all day emotionally.

3)  I must be a referee to the inevitable disagreements which will arise because keeping  a false sense of peace is the most important goal of the day.

4)  I feel resentful and depressed long after my family members leave my home.

It is a great temptation to rely on ourselves to be the answer to these problems. As we may have sadly discovered, however, we are powerless to provide any long-lasting help or healing. The result of our good intentions and desire for peace is often more chaos and bitterness.

My friend with the daughters-in-law who refuse to get along may not need to invite all of her sons at the same time to her home this Christmas. The Lord may use the absence of missing family members to convict the hearts of all involved without my friend having to be in the middle of the chaos. The Lord is boundless in His creativity in working in our pain.

As this holiday approaches, we need to ask ourselves a penetrating question before the Lord: Are my attempts in being a savior to my family hindering the only Savior’s ability to work healing and forgiveness among those who need to see His power the most in those areas?

We may need to get out of the way and let Christmas togetherness be neglected for a time so that God may work out healthy boundaries and realistic expectations in our families. Only by asking God for wisdom as to what those will look like for our families will we be able to see long-lasting change and healing.

This Christmas season, may our Savior, Jesus Christ, be the only Savior to our families.

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Shawn Lantz is a speaker and author whose most recent work is the popular women’s bible study, Encountering the Healing Power of Forgiveness (Living with Unmet Desires Series).  Lantz is on the women’s ministry team of her home church in Nashville and has been involved in women’s ministry for nearly a decade. Her previous books include Exposing the Many Faces of Jealousy (Living with Unmet Desires Series) bible study as well as Congo Vignettes, a biography chronicling three generations of Lantz’ family as missionaries to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  For more information, visit www.ShawnLantz.com.

Publication date: December 6, 2012