Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. Since I’m a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning to my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday. We are calling the series, “His Encouragement.”
It is my prayer that these words of encouragement inspired by scripture will help to carry you through the rest of your week My prayer is that this weekly series will be a much needed reminder that God loves you.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:4-7, NIV
I have been thinking a great deal about grief lately. Grief is complex and universal. We are united in the fact that we all feel grief. Throughout this life, we will all know what it is to mourn. We will all experience suffering and loss.
Whether we mourn for the passing of a loved one, the death of a dream, or the loss of a deeply treasured hope, we are all united in our suffering. Suffering is part of the universal human experience. The first thing a child does when it comes into this world is to cry.
However, despite the fact that we all suffer, grief is one of the most isolating feelings we will ever experience. No one can truly say, “I know how you feel,” because no one can truly know what it is like to be someone else. We can empathize with another person, but we can never know what it is like to look through another person’s eyes or to see with another person’s heart.
When my grandfather passed away, no one could truly know how I felt because no one had loved my grandfather in the same way that I had loved him. Even the other grandchildren could not understand my unique loss; nor could I understand theirs. All of us had a special relationship with my grandfather and the grief of each and every one of us was poignant and unique.
The Isolation of Grief
When my grandmother lost her son to pancreatic cancer, well meaning people approached her and said, “I’m so sorry, I know how you feel.”
These words felt like a shard of glass in her eyeball.
No one could know exactly how she felt because no one on this earth had loved her son in the unique way that she had loved him.
During the holidays, it is easy to feel alone and isolated in our grief. Every holiday season, when we gather around the table for Christmas dinner, I cannot help but be acutely aware of all of those who are missing.
Every Christmas, I have a choice: I can choose to come and face those empty seats at the table, or I can choose not to come to the table at all.
In order to honor all of those who are hurting during the holiday season, we place a blue Christmas tree in the back of my sanctuary at my church. This serves as a visual reminder that our prayers are with all of those who mourn during the holiday season.
The Longest Night
On the fourth Sunday of advent, we will light the fourth candle on the advent wreath to represent PEACE. The four advent candles represent HOPE, LOVE, JOY, and PEACE.
In the midst of our suffering, the only place we can truly find peace and comfort is in the arms of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many people do not wish to come to worship during the holiday season. The joyous music and the laughter of children can sometimes be too much for a grieving heart to bear.
Troubling statistics show that rates of suicide and depression increase during the holiday season. Amidst all the holiday cheer, it can be hard for those who are grieving to find comfort. That is why several churches in the area have joined together in order to offer a “Longest Night Service,”
This Longest Night Service is designed in order to provide hope and comfort for those who are sad, lonely, or grieving during this Christmas season. I believe that this is an important ministry to offer the community because I have personally always found such services to be greatly comforting.
Although my grandfather passed away over seven years ago, I always feel the loss most acutely during the holiday time.
It just doesn’t seem right to have his seat empty at the table on Thanksgiving. It makes my heart sad when I do my Christmas shopping because I no longer get to choose a present for him.
I know that there are many in our community and our congregations who are dealing with similar feelings of loss. I hope that you will join me in taking some time this holiday season to allow space for mourning and lament. Let us gather together and find hope in Christ.
The Peace of Christ
The nature of grief is not that it gets easier to bear. The nature of grief is that we learn to live with those empty chairs at the table. Every time we partake in holy communion, God invites us to have a seat at His table. Every time we gather for worship, we are seeking God’s peace.
My friends, even in the midst of our grief, we must continue to come to the table. We must continue to seek God. We must continue to worship, pray for one another, and serve God to the best of our ability until Christ comes once more.
If you are suffering this advent season, I pray that you will find the most precious gift of all: The Peace of Jesus Christ.
Until next time-
May the Peace of Christ Be With You
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!