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Ron McManus: Leadership center launched (December 30, 2001)

Norman Arnesen: History's supreme event (December 23, 2001)

Dr. Everett Bartholf: Help for the holidays (December 16, 2001)

"Auntie" Anne Beiler: God has a plan (December 9, 2001)

Mary Inman: Raising seven sons for Christ (November 25, 2001)

Tony Hall: Feeding the hungry, one person at a time (Novemer 18, 2001)

John Maracle: A growing Native American Fellowship (November 11, 2001)

Al Peterson: Praying for national leaders (October 28, 2001)

Beverly LaHaye: The family is God's gift (October 21, 2001)

Terry Meeuwsen: Putting family first (October 14, 2001)

Dennis Gaylor: Changing the world, one student at a time (September 30, 2001)

Nate Cole: You are not alone (September 16, 2001)

George Cope: Training pastors, missionaries and evangelists (September 9, 2001)

Thomas E. Trask: Breaking down the barriers (August 26, 2001)

John Kilpatrick: The blessings and challenges of revival (August 19, 2001)

Marie Colwill: A passion for evangelism (August 12, 2001)

Lottie Riekehof: The Joy of Signing (July 22, 2001)

John Castellani: Teen Challenge: The Jesus factor (July 15, 2001)

Mike and John Tompkins: Publishing newspapers and proclaiming the Good News (July 8, 2001)

Chuck Girard: Music, marriage and ministry (June 24, 2001)

Stanley Burgess: The value of a godly father (June 17, 2001)

Dennis Franck: Single Adult Ministries Agency (June 10, 2001)

Thomas E. Trask: The work of the Holy Spirit (May 27, 2001)

Stephen Tourville: The changing church in America (May 20, 2001)

Margaret Columbia: Raising 17 children for Christ (May 13, 2001)

Donna Fahrenkopf: Wanted: a life change (April 29, 2001)

Sean Smith: Spiritual attacks on young people (April 22, 2001)

Josh McDowell: Is the Bible true? (April 15, 2001)

Joyce Meyer: Being a practical Christain (April 8, 2001)

Paul Drost: Multiplication (March 18, 2001)

Bill Bright: Fasting for 40 days (March 11, 2001)

Beth Grant: Women in ministry (February 25, 2001)

Alicia Chole: His people and His presence (February 18, 2001)

Cris Carter: Playing on God's team (January 28, 2001)

Randall K. O'Bannon: The value of life (January 21, 2001)

Dennis Gaylor: Secular colleges: a vital mission field (January 14, 2001)

Help for the holidays

(December 16, 2001)

Dr. Everett Bartholf, a Christian counselor in St. Louis, Mo., is also an Assemblies of God minister with 22 years of ministerial experience. He spoke recently with Scott Harrup, associate editor, about some of the emotional challenges of the holiday season.

Evangel: During the holidays, many people experience difficult emotions. What are some common life circumstances that create these feelings?

Bartholf: Around the holidays four basic issues arise. First, the holidays create busy schedules. People feel pulled to attend family, business and church functions and this creates stress and tension. Second, financial stress arises when one feels obligated to buy gifts or attend functions where people can easily spend more money than they have. Third, family interaction may not be pleasant. Around the holidays people expect family differences to somehow be set aside. The truth is that the family functions no better during the holidays than they do during the rest of the year, and often the family functions less well than at other times. Fourth, personal loss creates holiday anxiety, particularly when a loved one has died. The holidays are especially difficult the first time you go through them without that person.

Evangel: What counsel do you offer to someone struggling to get through the holidays?

Bartholf: I focus on three primary issues. First, what is the holiday season really about? It’s about God’s gift of life to us. Christ came that we could have life and have it more abundantly. We need to recognize that the holidays are not just times to think about family or gifts or social functions, but are times to reflect on God’s intervention in human history. Second, are our expectations unrealistic? As I mentioned, particularly in regard to family interaction, expectations can be too high. Third, are you setting limits during the holiday season? This can be in regard to time commitments and, even more critically, money.

Evangel: So there is definitely hope?

Bartholf: One of the things I stress is that depression, anxiety or grief — some of the typical yet unexpected emotions of the holidays — really are treatable situations. Whether we’re talking about something we might dub the "holiday blues," or we’re really talking about a clinical depression, people need to know they can get beyond those negative emotions.

Stress redirects and reshapes our thinking so that we come up with a lot of perceptions that simply aren’t true. So, the first step to move beyond the problem is to come back and focus on what is true. As we focus on what the truth is, we begin to experience freedom from depression. The situation is not hopeless. There are always other alternatives. We need to recognize the truth about ourselves, seeing ourselves as God sees us. We need to recognize the truth about our circumstances and look at them as God looks at them. As we focus on and exercise the truth, we begin to experience freedom from depression.

Evangel: How is the deeper meaning of Christmas connected to life’s pain?

Bartholf: Christmas causes us to look at the difference between what God’s ideal is and what our real situation is. The distance we perceive between God’s ideal and our real situation has everything to do with the amount of negative emotions we experience. Christmas is the good news. Christmas is the celebration of God’s intervention in history. Yet, our real experience can look very different. If we focus on our perspective, we tend to focus in a much more negative way. We need to look at Christmas from God’s perspective, as a celebration of Christ’s coming that we might have more abundant life. Jesus Christ promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. He promised that nothing would come our way that He would not give us the strength to bear up under.

Evangel: Anything else?

Bartholf: If people experience depression, anxiety or grief during the holidays, there is help available. I would encourage someone struggling with negative emotions to do one of three things: talk with a pastor, confide in a trusted friend, or talk with a professional counselor.

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