Newlyweds are often convinced no other couple quite shares their level of passion, their inside jokes, their certainty that they’re soul mates.

And then you meet someone married 30, 40, 50 years—or more. And they tell you that pulse-racing early love is just the tip of the ice berg. The deeper, more enduring, and even more passionate love they know is the result of what they’ve been through together.

The broken washing machines, the buried pets, the bills, the health setbacks, the wayward children, the in-laws, caring for elderly parents of their own, and then the joys, the triumphs, and the laughter along the way as well—all of it combines to make their hearts one as they work together on the challenges of life. So many happy couples have learned to rely on Priesthood blessings, seek solace and inspiration in the temple, support one another in callings, grow together spiritually, and become more than they ever could have become alone. Their love has magnified and become richer from every struggle they’ve shared. And their problems seem to knit them together more tightly than the easy times.

So it is with people who’ve endured a rough period together—in the military, in the hospital, serving missions, in all kinds of settings where you learn to trust others and count on their help. Tight bonds form from shared suffering. Lifelong friendships develop.

So what has this to do with Christmas? The key to really loving someone is not to admire them from afar, or have fun with them, or socialize with them now and then. The key is to share our burdens, to give and to receive. Too many people believe in all that Christ did, and find it genuinely amazing, but don’t feel that closeness they long for. And it’s often because they aren’t coming to him with their problems, and letting him share their journey. You’ve got to go through things with Christ.

When we try to handle our setbacks alone, we not only choose wrong solutions, but we block ourselves from the very sweetest, most loving relationship we could ever know. To truly take your troubles to the Lord, enlist his help, beg him to guide you, and then really rely on him with as much faith as you can muster— this is how to break through and actually know him. This is how to love the Lord so much that you honestly can’t describe the intensity of your feelings. It transcends mortal words.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom and being desperate. But why wait for an all-out emergency? Why not take him your heartaches, your fears and doubts? Ask him to share the pain you hold inside, and watch what happens. You will feel closer to him than you ever dreamed possible (and this is also why Satan wants us to believe in our own logical, intelligent abilities to handle every difficulty by ourselves).

Older people who have a close, intimate relationship with the Lord have it because they’ve spent a lifetime sharing their trials with him. They’ve allowed him to walk alongside them as they’ve navigated otherwise insurmountable setbacks. They’ve turned to him every time a crisis has arisen, and he has never let them down. When it was tempting to turn away, they did the opposite: They turned toward Christ. And, drop by drop, their understanding of him grew. Their faith swelled. Their joy deepened.

Christmas is the perfect time to give ourselves to Christ. It’s the time to see beyond the baby in the manger, to the Living Water he offers us, the Atonement he made for us. Christmas is the time to take his hand and commit not to let it go again.

People who do this, and do it all their lives, can tell you Christ is their greatest friend. And they really mean it. Because, as Thurber said years ago, “love is what you’ve been through with somebody.”

Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.