Hard Candy

Christmas can be one of the most stressful and crushing times of the year for those of us with depression. Family gatherings can seem overwhelming. Each missed opportunity for a decoration or get-together can induce feelings of extreme guilt. Jealousy rears its ugly head as we see others who seemingly glide through shopping, wrapping, cooking and crafting, reminding us that everyday life can, and should, come easy. Even a Christmas carol can cause a crying jag. It’s not always the most wonderful time of the year. Not everyone sleeps in heavenly peace.

My Christmas mixtape is miles long, but the past few years, “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton has been at the top of my list. It was originally written by composer Carol Hall for the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and while I don’t know the original context of the song, it perfectly describes the indecision, despair, and defiant will to make it that characterizes depression. Dolly’s voice is as twangy and bitter as a black licorice drop as she contemplates running away, bettering herself, or just getting drunk in order to make it through the holidays.

“I’ll be fine and dandy! Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas. I’m barely getting through tomorrow, but still I won’t let sorrow bring me way down,” she sings.

How many Christmases will we have that are as jarring and painful as biting down on hard candy? How will we get through a season wholly focused on happiness and joy when we have none to give? How will we keep ourselves from the depths of sorrow? Lord knows. It may be a thoughtless coincidence that Dolly addresses the chorus of the song to Jesus, but it couldn’t be more right. God knows our pain, even when we convince others how fine we are. He hears our prayers, no matter how flippant or brief we might be in addressing Him. He could care less about the culture of Christmas cheer that allows for no dissent or depression.

In fact, Jesus himself was born in a stable, surrounded by the filth of animals. His parents were rejected, turned out in the bitter cold with a baby on the way. His Mother gave birth to the King of Kings with no fanfare and no medical assistance. Joseph’s first experience as a foster father was the inability to provide for his family. The baby was laid in a manger, for there was no bed. If that doesn’t sound like a hard candy Christmas, I don’t know what does.

The Lord knows our pain—He has felt it all before, both through His own experience and ours. So this Christmas season, focus on Him, and forget the rest. Like even the hardest of candy, everything else will eventually melt away or be crushed underfoot.

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