What To Do With Grief During Christmas?

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A short christmas reflection from TJ Johnson, Pastor of Tri-County Baptist Church and MMBA Moderator.

“The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Psalm 145:14–18

Tina’s eyes wandered the room, a half-hearted smile creasing her face as she listened absently to another story. It was the families annual Christmas party, one she used to look forward to for months, this year was different. This year, there was an emptiness, a vast void devouring every bit of joy and hope in the season. It wasn’t a secret, what caused this feeling, though it also wasn’t discussed or I should say Alex wasn’t discussed. Could everyone else possibly be as happy as they look? Do their hearts not ache with the absence of one they love. Does their breathing seem to be failing to fill their lungs with air?
A brief break in the conversation allowed Tina to quietly excuse herself. She made her way quietly out the door to the back deck, eyes fixed on the floor in front of her. The sliding glass door rolled into place with a thud muffling the cacophony of laughter and noise within. She shivered as the light breeze cut through her Christmas sweater, the smiling snowman on the front masking the sorrow that filled her heart. How do people smile, how could they ever think things will be okay again? Tina’s knuckles turned white as her hands clenched the rough wooden railing. She swallowed, a feeble attempt at constraining the flood of tears threatening to overflow from her heart. How can we celebrate when our whole world has collapsed?
Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, but for many, who are like Tina, it is also a time of sorrow and heartbreak. During the holidays we feel the tangible absence of those we have lost. Sometimes we can get stuck in our grief, we wonder how we can move forward. Years pass, but the same feelings of emptiness and hopelessness return. Can we ever have the joy and peace of the years past? Sometimes we aren’t even sure we want the joy, for in our pain, we also have a greater sense of our love for those we have lost.   
So what do we do with this grief? God gives us encouragement in Psalm 145. First, we don’t have to try and hold ourselves up. With every plastered on smile and scripted response, “I’m doing great” our heart seems to grow darker.  Psalm 145 does not say, “God raises up those who lift themselves up”. It says, “God raises up all who are bowed down”. God understands our grief and respects it. He knows what it is to be grieved and he has compassion for us.
Second, we must not hinder God from lifting us up. Often times, in our grief, we reject any thoughts or encouragement from God or others. It is good to grieve, but it is not good to refuse to heal. When we take our grief to God, He will lift us up. The Holy Spirit will remind us of the promises of God, of God’s faithful love, of the resurrection, and eternal life. Embrace these truths and allow them to soothe your pain. Then, when we call out to Him, He draws near to us and comforts us as only our Heavenly Father can. Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. Don’t allow your grief to overwhelm you, but let your grief turn your heart to God and He will raise you up.

Father, help me in my grief. This season is hard and I miss those who I love. Help me to receive and trust in your promises. Draw near to me and comfort me as I draw near to you. Hear my prayer, do not forget me in my sorrow, but lift me up with your everlasting arms.

Take five minutes and write out a prayer to God. Share your heart with Him and ask Him to bring healing. Then write down the truths He encourages you with, as you listen to Him in prayer.

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