Advent | Week Two
Grief at Christmas
December 2, 2022
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
Dear Friends and Family,
In God's providence, I was given the opportunity yesterday share the purpose of Christmas with a client whose life story is fraught with 60+ years of heartache and struggle. From broken family of origin relationships, to multiple children's death, to poor choices and mistakes leading to guilt, shame and loneliness that pervade the heart with a troublesome weight.
For some, Christmas is bound-up with painful memories, not pleasant ones.
Until we encounter the One who not only invites us to come near to him, but assures us with an everlasting promise of rest for our soul, which is forever sealed and secured by his own blood, our painful memories will inevitably be bound-up and tied to a perpetual state of grief with no hope in sight.
Such was the case for this poor man. And I assume you know someone who doesn’t know Jesus, and struggles with hopelessness and fear of what happens after death.
Thank God for Advent.
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How is your first week of Advent coming?
What themes circulate in your soul?
How is your heart?
Whatever is going on, I am praying the Holy Spirit brings to your recollection and that you confidently believe that Jesus, who was a little baby at one point in history, who grew to be a man; suffered, died and rose again on the third day…yes this Jesus…He is the shepherd of your soul.
For "you were like sheep going astray," but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25 (NIV)
The article below is a longer piece which I will share in two parts - The first half today and the other half next Friday.
If you can't wait until Friday, set a reminder to check out this link HERE on Tuesday (12/6) morning.
The article addresses 3 ways to deal with grief during Christmas. The three headings include:
(1) Understanding the course of grief
(2) Accepting grief by grieving with integrity
(3) Coming to Jesus
It will be published on a the Servants of Grace website next Tuesday. I've published a few other pieces, two of note are titled, The Death of a Spouse Part I and Part II. Feel free to check them out :-)
I pray you are drawing nearer and nearer to Jesus in ever increasing ways this week.
Looking to the risen Christ
How to Deal with Grief at Christmas
Introduction - A Brief Story:
Christmas was our favorite time of year and this second time around without her seems slightly more grievous than last year’s. During this time last year, I had just resigned my job, my Connecticut home was empty because my moving truck was loaded and my new (temporary) home in Maryland awaited me. The window between March 28th and December 3rd, 2021 was jam-packed with busyness, flurry, and other stressors that, for the most part, kept grief at bay. In reality, many parts of me had not allowed grief to run its course.
I settled into my new (more permanent) home and started my new job late February ’22 (in the same week I will add). But by this point, I had grown to feel comforted by seeing God’s hand guiding my steps. In the ensuing months, I slowly settled into my new church, my new community, my new home and developing new routines. In some ways, the old had gone and the new had come.
Yet, in late August, as seminary started, I felt a lag in my spirit. I didn’t really want to begin because it represented another layer of separation from my old life with Heidi. You see, I was already planning to start seminary on April 1, 2021, but she went to be with Jesus just a few days prior. So all the reading and writing that comes along with seminary became a chore and not a joy. But I pressed on because I knew that God was with me, and I didn’t need to feel better in order to trust God in the day-to-day.
The Course of Grief:
The course of grief is like other aspects of our lives: Guided like a water course by God himself (Cf. Pro 16:9, Pro 21:1). And to the extent we understand the bigger point that a person’s steps are directed by God, we can grow to accept the adjacent point: We will not always understand it.
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"A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?"
Proverbs 20:24 (NIV)
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We did not wake up one day, randomly, in a state of grief. God brought us here. He brought us to embark on a journey which we don’t fully understand but because of our core and innate trust in the One who brought us here, we walk forward by faith. But we do so not in order to understand inasmuch as to demonstrate trust and obedience in the One who does, because he brought us here.
With each step, we demonstrate the faith God gifted us. For those in Christ, the direction of the course of our lives (including the grief) is always heavenward (Cf. Phil 3:14) and the object of our faith is always Christ (Cf. Phil 3:10).
Think for a moment…our grief is pressing heavenward.
The course of grief invariably leads us through seasons, like Christmas and it invariably crosses thresholds of painful memories. We lap our lives, year to year, remembering things we loved about the one who is now with Jesus. The pangs of loss can surface when the stages of life develop and new things appear. The course of grief has parts that rush more heavily while others are tamer and milder.
But the realization that grief is like a watercourse directed by God which we need not fully grasp or understand will help us move toward accepting the grief when it comes.
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In Part 2, I will cover the two remaining areas: Accepting grief by grieving with integrity & Come to Jesus.