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How to Deal with Being Far From Family

Kathy Ferguson Litton12.06.18

“Come over to Macedonia to help us.”

Macedonia? Let me translate that for you: “Far from family.”

In November of 1990, my late husband Rick Ferguson received a letter from a noted leader in the city of Denver who urged him to consider moving from our home state of Missouri to Colorado. In the letter he used this phrase from Acts 16, language from Paul’s vision, “Come over to Macedonia to help us.” And eventually we, like Paul, concluded, “the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” and we went.

Going to Macedonia meant Paul was even farther from home.

If you are in Chicago and your family is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Or you live in Oakland, California, and your family is in Fort Worth. Or you are in India and two of your kids are students at Liberty University. You get this, right?

God calls us often to leave comfort of family and friends for the sake of the gospel.

There may be a true personal cost to obeying God, a cost that many will refuse to pay or will not be asked to pay.

The holidays can exacerbate that loss.

And let me warn you: Satan will fire his darts right at that vulnerable place.

I am a sports fan and it’s football season. Sports announcers are quick to point out that one team is more than willing to take advantage of another teams’ weakness. If a defensive player has slight knee injury the quarterback will throw his way, expecting him to be weakened and to capitalize on his vulnerability.

Satan is exponentially craftier and exponentially more evil than the NFL. His goal? To stop the advance of the gospel, as it brings complete glory to God. If he sniffs out vulnerability in spiritual leaders, he will exploit it fully.

If you have been called to a far-flung place, the holidays may be a very vulnerable place in your life. Deep longings for the proximity of family and precious traditions will emerge. Nostalgia will arise from the familiar tunes of Christmas or recipes for homemade rolls. A simple smell can stir a deep memory that may illicit tears.

Here are five actions to take if you are feeling vulnerable this holiday season:

1. Grieve the loss

Sit down and have a big, blubbering cry. Yes, that’s my advice. We all want to be “brave little soldiers” but truly, it’s OK to grieve. Hand those losses over to Jesus. Create a private sacred place to mourn. He will enter into that moment. Pouring out these tears and releasing the grief can create space for joy to replace that sadness.

2. Build a fresh holiday history

So Grandma’s house and homemade doughnuts are out of the question? Do something else! Your children are making their own holiday tradition under your watch. Make their memories powerful and joy-filled. Find a unique, if not a crazy, substitute for old traditions. “Yes, we always went bowling on Christmas Eve mornings.”Can you hear your kids saying that in years to come?

3. Embrace others who are vulnerable

Others are in similar positions for different reasons. Gather with them. In the Ferguson home, Easter was always a meal where a large collection of disconnected lives would gather for the required ham. We needed them and they needed us. If the truth be told, we needed them worse.

4. Focus on the losses of others

Satan will be telling you “Everyone is in front of picturesque, cozy fireplaces with five generations in one room, opening elaborate presents, with the most amazing pumpkin pie and praying together while simultaneously having outrageously fun snowball fights.” Not true. Countless others will be without loved ones. Find them. Serve someone else. Your newfound pain will create a missional platform of understanding and insight. (Hint: God wants to use our losses for good.)

5. Be aware of Satan’s schemes

Rick and I began to identify a pattern during the holidays. Rick would battle guilt as the leader of our household. He would get in a funk, bearing the weight of a calling that removed us from our comfort near family. Eventually we saw this for what it was: hand-to-hand combat with a deceptive enemy of the gospel. Please recognize his tactics. Battle them in prayer. Don’t take them personally because his ultimate goal is to stop up the gospel.

Don’t let your vulnerabilities be ambushed during the holidays. Be prepared for an assault. Do not let Satan “steal, kill, and destroy” your joy and celebrations.

Get with Jesus. He will meet you in your losses with a peace that passes understanding.

In your Macedonia, how do you handle holiday vulnerabilities?

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