The Collision of Grief and Hope

Thanksgiving is upon us, and for many, there is an internal fight to summon a celebrating heart.

I can relate. There is a familiar weight sitting in my chest when I wake up lately, and it’s been a struggle to peel back the covers and look the challenges of my days in the face. One of the things I have to be thankful for is the absence of the immobilizing weight of depression, but there is a sadness that comes with grief which feels very similar. And although I am already a year removed from the fresh wounds of my most recent losses, the grief that has landed in layers feels thick and difficult to sift my way through.

I know I am not alone. Holidays are rough for the hearts that have borne griefs and sorrows. And I want to validate that reality for you today. I want to declare permission for that to be a struggle you can own without feeling ashamed. There is a God-given space for pain even during a season that’s supposed to be characterized by feasting and celebration.

For some reason, we have trouble holding both in the same container. As humans, we tend to hide in our pain, and show up in our celebration. I don’t think this is wrong, but I do think Jesus came to merge those two experiences and create for us the rich opportunity to know a unity and an authentic connection which invite hope into our grieving.

Before Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter were holidays to celebrate, God ordained for times of feasting for His people. He has always loved a good party, and bringing people together around occasions meant for seeing the beauty and sacredness of life is a part of His grand design for our often hurting hearts.

He knows the reality of the world we live in and the lives we have that are full of all kinds of suffering. And into this equation He installed appointed times of celebration. Why? I believe it was because He wanted to give us built-in opportunities to be reminded of and to fix our focus on the bigger picture – on the things that exist beyond our loss, pain and suffering. He wanted us to remain aware of the reality that there is more to our lives than what hurts. And He wanted us to do this together.

Healing and comfort are multiplied in community, quite contrary to what our emotions would tell us – especially when they are capsized by grief.

So, especially when we’re overwhelmed by grief, celebrating will have to be an intentional choice, rather than an automatic response. If we are going to gain the gift of multiplied healing and comfort which God has intended for us, we will have to lean into the aspect of our humanity that God has made capable of communion with Him. We will have to reach beyond what feels natural and automatic, and trust Him to meet us with the strength and courage to embrace something more than we might feel ready and willing to settle for.

We are spiritual beings, equipped with both a body and a soul. But so often, we function as physical or soulish beings, led by our senses or our emotions. This is understandable, but not beneficial. We have the capability to feel and to experience many things, but we were created by and in the image of the God Who has made us able, through His Son and His Spirit, to choose what liberates rather than what enslaves.

When the birth of Jesus was announced, joy was proclaimed to all the earth (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A10-11&version=NLT). This wasn’t just a generic blanket to throw over someone’s difficulties and pain. This was the announcement that we would never again be alone in our suffering, and that eventually all our suffering would come to an end. Hope became a present reality, and a new reason to gather and celebrate was given.

This Jesus stepped into our broken reality and became the God Who Himself literally bore our pains and carried our sorrows (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2053%3A4-6&version=NKJV). Thus, He opened a space into which we could come, just as we are, and receive the comfort of good food, good fellowship, and an encouraging reminder that our pain will not last forever. He prepared a table at which we could, by faith, come and receive strength and hope.

I understand why holidays are hard for the grieving. For some, it is a reminder of what’s been lost. For others, it is too hard to lift their hearts out of the suffocating sadness, and to put on a happy face for the crowd. Nursing pain in a bed with no expectations feels safer and seems more appealing. I can identify with all of this. I’ve grieved during many celebrations, and it hasn’t always been a fun or easy thing to do. But I’ve never regretted it. And I will do it again this year, because loss is a fact I cannot change, but hope and joy are gifts I can’t help but receive as I come together with the ones I love.

So, despite the reality of grief, rather than recluse, I am choosing and learning to love. Love means trusting others with my pain. It means being honest and vulnerable, and opening my life to the ones God has given me. It means being my authentic self, and learning to be okay wherever I’m at emotionally. It means choosing connection, and believing in the gift that being together was meant to be.

I can step into this holiday season, even with all the chaos and limitations slapped over it, with a heart that is heavy but hopeful. Because of Jesus, Who is ever present with us, grief collides with hope and yields an incredible opportunity for moments that add depth and richness to the fabric of my vulnerable life.

I need those moments right now. And Dear Woman of Breakthrough, so do you.

I lovingly challenge you to embrace your life as it is, to face the raw reality of griefs and sorrows that you’re stewarding, and to choose connection and celebration in the midst of it.

It doesn’t mean every moment will be filled with laughter. Tears are okay. Moving slowly is acceptable. Feeling overwhelmed and wearing jammies to the table is just fine. Maybe it won’t look or feel like previous years, but still you can choose togetherness. Still you can choose connection. Please, don’t refuse an amazing opportunity to step into Heaven’s permission to see the other side of sorrow. It was intentionally placed in your life to keep your life laced with joy.

May your Thanksgiving be one you can look back upon with gladness, knowing you make the choice to participate in and be touched by the gift of feasting and fellowship, even in the valley of the shadows of death. Our God is ever inviting us to this table, and longs to fill us up with fresh hope as we come.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}


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