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There are years when Christmas comes at trying personal times — the preceding year or years have brought things that weigh us down. Thoughtful and caring people will add the weight of chaotic and violent situations in our nation and world.

All of these times come when our inner life does not conform to the merriment around us. My pastoral experience has led me to believe that on any given Sunday, one-fourth of the worshippers are dealing with such matters.

Hence, a few thoughts for when Christmas or any time finds us feeling “off” with the climate around us:

Tell yourself that how you feel is normal and you are not alone: 25 percent of the people around you are probably in a similar boat. Don’t add self-pity, however understandable, to your burdens.

Tell yourself that you have not been singled out. God is good, loving, and forgiving, not a divine sadist or bully who is picking on you.

Tell yourself there are some things you can fix, some you can’t, and some you can’t fix now. This may be a time when your only choice is to flow. An old Quaker saying may apply: “Don’t run before you are sent.”

Tell yourself that you are probably doing better than you think. When facing trouble, we are often a poor judge of ourselves.

Stay steady and don’t give up your routines, even when your heart is not in them.

Talk to someone in whom you have confidence, who is non-judgmental, kind, wise, and will not rush to give you answers. Talking is better than fretting alone; a shared burden is a lighter burden.

Such practices are more than just talking to yourself or another trusted person. For a person of faith (even faith as a grain of “mustard seed”), self-talk and trusted conversations are forms of prayer. There is a seed of God within us.

“The human spirit is the candle of the Lord illuminating all our innermost parts.” Proverbs 20:27

There is no one prescribed way to pray, for “we do not know how to pray but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8-26

And this from William Temple: “Answers to prayer may seem like coincidences but coincidences come more often when we pray.”

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James Bortell is a retired United Methodist minister living in Normal. He may be reached at