We are now right in the middle of the holidays of Christmas and New Years. The sparkle and excitement of Christmas is already starting to fade and the uncertainty of a new year awaits us in just a few days. Most schools are on vacation and even some employers have given their employees time off for the holidays. I hope you had a wonderful, Christ-filled Christmas and that you are looking forward to the challenges of a new year! I never use the term, “Happy holidays”. I don’t like to take away from the meaning of Christmas by saying, “Happy holidays” when I could be saying, “Merry Christmas”. And I said it to a lot of people over the past few weeks. Many times it caused a smile to come to the face of the one I wished a Merry Christmas to, but not to everybody. There are always those “Scrooges” who may not actually say, “Bah humbug”, but you can tell that’s the way they feel. But then there are those to whom it just plain hurts to smile. The holidays have been rough on them. This might be the first one with a precious loved one missing, either because of death or of them moving to the other side of the country. Or perhaps a family feud has left them not talking to you. Or maybe you were one of those who spent Christmas in the hospital, or your holiday cheer has been dampened by something the doctor had to tell you last week. Or perhaps last week you were given a pink slip and told we won’t need you at work anymore. Some Christmas present, huh? Or you fill in the blank. There are all kinds of things that can happen to us that can make it hurt to smile this week. If you are one of those then I feel for you and I hope and pray that the next few weeks will bring better news than what this holiday season did. I hope you know the Lord and have Him to lean on and to get you through these rough days that are making it hard to smile. But even many people that do know the Lord are tempted to ask, “Where is God at while all this bad stuff is going on in my life?” The answer, of course, is that He’s right where He was when all the good things were happening in your life. He’s there to lean upon, even if it seems like He isn’t. I got some bad news just three days before Christmas. My PSA numbers for my prostate cancer took a pretty good jump last week. My urologist, Dr. Klinko, wants to send me on to an oncologist in Chambersburg, but I’m not going to be able to go to him because my Obama-care health insurance just got cancelled again. I was forced to take a new policy with UPMC, but none of the doctors I’ve been dealing with will accept UPMC, so over Christmas I’ve been forced to try and figure out who I’m going to go to. So I know what it means to hurt to smile when someone without a care in the world says, “Happy holidays, preacher”. I know God is there and I know He will see me through. He’s seen me through a lot in the past, and I have no doubt that He will continue to be there in the days ahead. But sometimes when you’re going through something hard you can wonder where God is. When that happens to me instead of getting depressed or discouraged, I always try to remind myself of something I learned from being in school. When I took a test back in school, the teacher was always quiet during the test, but the teacher was always there! If God seems like He’s being quiet as you tackle this test you’re going through, that doesn’t mean He’s not there! He is, and He will be there for you if you will just trust in Him. I hope that thought may help someone, especially if it seems like you’re facing a big test right now. Yes, the holidays can be rough on some folk and a lot of people can find them to be a depressing time instead of a time to smile. If you’ve had trouble smiling these days, or trouble dealing with whatever you’re up against, hang in there! Don’t ever give up! Call upon the Lord. He loves you and cares for you. And before you do something stupid, or something you will regret, talk to somebody. Don’t keep it all bottled up. There are probably more people around you that care than what you realize. I hope that all the readers of my column had a merry Christmas, and that the coming year will bring you better days than what you’ve been dealing with, if it’s been hard! A little chorus we sometimes sing around our church says, “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, all I have to do is follow.” My prayer for you as 2017 is upon us would be that you will do just that!