Christmas has come and gone. But, there is yet an atmosphere of joy. The Christmas tree and decorations are present everywhere. Strangers who would pass by you without a word at any other time of the year had been briefly smiling and wishing everyone a merry Christmas- or, happy holidays, to be politically correct; and, they are now inviting everyone they meet to have a happy new year. Ask them why this is so before January 2 when they retreat behind an invisible wall of self-seeking and mistrust; and, they will tell you it’s the holiday spirit. And, why, you ask, could we not be this sanguine throughout the year?

For some of us, it is not the season to be jolly. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes or intensifies depression because of reduced light. Nights are longer; days are cloudier; and there is the temptation to stay inside out of the cold.

Arthritis, colds, and influenza hinder susceptible individuals from enjoying the season.

At holiday time we are less than happy when we remember friends and family with whom we cannot enjoy fellowship because of death, distance, or estrangement.

Since 1999, there have been depressing news stories: Y2K, 9/11, America’s longest war, the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, impeachment, mass murders, and natural disasters.

Everyone becomes sad occasionally, which is normal. A melancholy mood that is allowed to linger can become clinical depression. It can result from an overwhelming negative event or combination of events, and may require medical intervention.

There are tactics that can prevent or overcome despair. We can confess our faults to one another. (James 5:16) Keeping it bottled up inside is like keeping the lid on a pressure cooker with no release valve. If you don’t know anyone you can trust with your negative thoughts and feelings, take it to the Lord in prayer. Give it to Jesus. And,.don’t take it back. (1 Peter 5:7)

Since Christ is the Light of the World, looking to Him who is our Blessed Hope can brighten our cloudiest days. (John 8:12) Bright colors, sunlight- even artificial light- can brighten one’s mood.

If you are estranged from others, bless them in prayer and in tangible ways. (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20)

All of the news is not bad. We who trust in the finished work of Christ have a lot to look forward to. (Philippians 1:21; 4:4-8)

When we concern ourselves about the needs of others, we are sowing seeds for our own blessings. (Galatians 6:6-10). I am naturally self-centered. This may or may not apply to you; but, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I can pray more effectively when I pray for someone else, if I include myself. (Matthew 22:39) For example, I may be in the best of health, and the person I am praying for is afflicted by disease, I might say, “Father God, we are sick now; but, we are claiming your healing touch.” When I helped my wife distribute toys to underprivileged children, I felt an overflow of joy as I met their needs.

Sleep, food, exercise should all be done in moderation. The three parts of a human being: mind, body, and spirit, affect one another for good, or for evil. (Philippians 4:5; 3 John 1:2)

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, you have within you the potential to brighten your little corner of the world. (Matthew :16) The joy that dispels despair often comes with effort. For example, the late Mark Beardsley, religion clerk for the Herald Democrat, was a man who despite his health, was so cheerful that anyone’s depression withered away when he was around. Rest in peace, my brother.

Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.