How to Deal with Being Far From Family

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

“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, “that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” and we went.

Going to Macedonia meant Paul was even further from home.

If you are in Chicago and your family is in Tulsa, OK. Or you live in Oakland, CA 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.

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 its 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. He intends to capitalize on his vulnerability.

Satan is exponentially craftier and exponentially more evil than the NFL. His goal? Is 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. 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:

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.

Build a fresh holiday history.

So grandma’s house and homemade donuts 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?

Embrace others who are vulnerable.

Others are in similar positions for different reasons. Gather with them. Easter was always a meal at the Ferguson home 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.

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 new-found pain will create a missional platform of understanding and insight. (Hint-God wants to use our losses for good.)

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, sisters. He will meet you in your losses with a peace that passes understanding.

In your Macedonia, how do you handle holiday vulnerabilities?

Published December 7, 2015

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Send Network voices.

Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.