Note: This is the eighth in a series of posts on Healing for the Holidays. Read Part 1: A Promise, Part 2: Give Sorrow Words, Part 3: Q/A About Holiday Honesty, Part 4: A Lament for Your Loss, Part 5: Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Part 6: All I Want for Christmas Is Hope, and Part 7: Clinging to God’s Rope of Hope.
What About the Three Easy Steps?
I often counsel grieving people. I read a lot about grief. Articles that offer a few quick quips, three steps, or secrets to survival rarely provide lasting help for profoundly hurting people. Healing for the holidays requires God’s curing truth for our troubled souls. True grief recovery demands Truth from the Author of life. Nothing is more relevant because only the Creator and Lover of the soul knows what cures the soul
Nowhere is this truer than with holiday healing. God’s Word shows us how to stay alive to life even when it tries to crush us to death. Through the Bible, God speaks to our wounded souls with words of life. As the great Soul Physician, Christ treats our labor pains by encouraging us to remain pregnant with hope. He teaches us to: Long fervently for heaven and live passionately for God and others while still on earth.
Loving Hope, Hope That Loves
Paul personifies hope that loves in Philippians 1:23-25.
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.”
Paul neither deadens his longing for heaven nor minimizes his calling on earth. Paul grieves the “not yet.” He hungers and thirsts; he longs and wants what is promised, but what he does not possess. As he writes, he’s jailed. Separated from all who love him. If anyone has an excuse to give up hope and to give up loving, it is the Apostle Paul.
But he chooses to remain pregnant with hope, to participate in loving hope, in hope that loves. He says, “I want to go home. This world is messed up. I ache for heaven, for Paradise. But I’m pulling weeds until the day I die! My grief is not excuse to ignore your growth. I’m living for your joy and spiritual progress.”
My Problem with Typical Grief “Remedies”
That’s other-centered grieving and groaning. And that’s why I have a boatload of problems with typical grief remedies, especially related to the holidays. In a desire to express empathy, writers on grief seem to start and stop with what we might call “self-care.” “Take care of yourself. Nurture yourself. Be good to yourself. Be patient with yourself.”
In perspective, there’s biblical wisdom in such cautions. I’ve tried to convey the same empathy throughout this series. But there are two pointed reasons not to stop with or focus on self.
1. The Bible teaches us to focus on others.
While the Bible never minimizes our hurt, it always maximizes hopeful loving. While Christ identifies with, feels, and even experiences our suffering, loss, and grief, He always encourages and empowers us to take the comfort we receive from Him and comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
Do you long for profound healing for the holidays? Offer Christ’s healing hope to others.
2. Life teaches us to focus on others.
Research study after research study comes to the same conclusion. Healing comes when we start focusing on others.
History teaches us the same lesson. In my book Beyond the Suffering, I trace the amazing and inspiring legacy of the heroes of the black church. Despite horrific suffering and agonizing grief, men and women of the black church not only endured the suffering of enslavement, they moved beyond the suffering. How? By hoping in God and by loving one another—hope that loves.
Thriving — In God’s Love
Where does hope that love come from? It comes from the God of love. In Romans 8:28-39, Paul insists that even in the midst of trouble, hardship, persecution, and suffering, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul teaches that in all our suffering we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so.
“More than conquerors” comes from the Greek word nikao from which we gain our word “Nike”—victors, winners, Olympic champions. Being pregnant with hope empowers us to long ardently for heaven and to live victoriously on earth. Loving hope, hope that loves, moves us from victims to victors in Christ.
On the Road to Hope
You’ve just encountered another choice point on the road to hope. At this fork in the road, you can turn one direction and choose the journey of living for self. Taking that route, your pain never goes away; it’s just buried beneath any number of self-centered diversions.
Or, you can choose the route of being pregnant with hope. You’ll feel the pain — the deep pain of grief, of being out of the nest, of living east of Eden, of longing fervently for heaven but living in our fallen world. However, you’ll experience the profound joy that accompanies living passionately for God and others. God’s Spirit will empower your spirit so that you can be more than a conqueror — now!
The Rest of the Story
Where do we find the faith to pursue love that hopes? We find it when we weave God’s eternal story into our earthly story of suffering. Join me in our next post for God’s wisdom from before the dawn of time.
Join the Conversation
Do you believe that in Christ you are more than a conqueror—able to offer others hopeful love even in the midst of your painful grief?
Help for Your Healing Journey
For additional help on your healing journey, learn more about God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting.