Note: This is the fifth 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, and Part 4: A Lament for Your Loss.
When we lament to God and cry out to Him when we’re experiencing holiday loss, what does God promise? Does He promise to remove all grief? No, for this side of heaven that would require removing all memory of our loved one — something none of us would want. Does he promise to change or “fix” everything? No, that’s not what God promises either.
When we cry out to God, here’s His promise: He comes. He comes in His comforting presence.
In God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I defined comfort like this:
“Comfort experiences the presence of God in the presence of suffering — a presence that empowers me to survive scars and plants the seed of hope that I will yet thrive.
My Personal Comfort Journey
My Father passed away on my 21stbirthday. It was a year later, on my 22ndbirthday, that I began to experience God’s comforting presence.
For me, comfort reflected itself in my decision not to give up on God and not to give up on ministry. I was in seminary, preparing for ministry, and secretly doubting God — doubting His goodness, His trustworthiness, His ability, or at least His desire, to protect me and care for me. As comfort came, I came face-to-face with God. We had some wild talks. We had some fierce wrestling matches.
God won. I surrendered. I was still confused about the details of life, but committed to the Author of Life. More than that, I surrendered to Him and was dependent upon Him. My attitude was like Peter’s when Jesus asked His disciples, “Will you, too, leave me?” Remember Peter’s reply? “To whom else could we go? You alone have the Words of life.”
I was surviving again, surviving though scarred. I was not and never again would be that same naïve young Christian who assumed that if I prayed and worked hard enough, God would grant me my every expectation. My faith was not a naïve faith, it was now a deeper faith—a faith that could walk in the dark.
Asaph’s Personal Comfort Journey
According to Psalm 73:21-28, suffering is an opportunity for God to divulge more of Himself and to release more of His strength. When Asaph’s heart was grieved, and his spirit embittered, God brought him to his senses. Listen to his prayer. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26).
In grieving we say with Asaph, “My flesh may be scarred, my heart may be scared, but with God I can survive — forever.”
Thus faith perceives that God feels our pain, joins us in our pain, and even shares our pain. In fact, faith believes that, “in all their distress he too was distressed” (Isaiah 63:9). His sharing of our sorrow makes our sorrow endurable.
Faith does not demand the removal of suffering; faith desires endurance in suffering, temptation, and persecution (1 Corinthians 10:13). Faith understands that what can’t be cured, can be endured. Faith delights in weakness, because when we are weak, then God is strong, and we are strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Grieving is a normal response to loss. However, God does not abandon us in our dark, dank casket. God, who is Light, shines His light of comfort into our hurting hearts.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
The traditional Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen beautifully communicates the comfort we find in God’s presence. The carol is about the incarnation of Christ — Christ’s being born in the flesh so that He could be present with, dwell with us.
Like all true and faithful Christmas carols, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen tells a story in stanzas—a story that progresses from Christ’s birth to His death and resurrection on our behalf. The final stanza captures our Christmas comfort, our holiday hope:
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Our “tiding” at Christmas is “Merry Christmas!”
The holy “tiding” of Christmas is “Comfort and joy!”
At Christmas, you may not feel “merry.” But in and with Christ, you can experience comfort (God’s comforting presence). And you can experience joy. Joy is not happiness or merriment. Joy is a settled, quiet peace and confidence that God is good even when life is bad and sad.
My tiding for you this holiday season is more than “Blessed Thanksgiving,” or “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy New Years.” My tiding to you through Christ is, “Comfort and joy.”
The Rest of the Story
Surviving the holidays is, for many, a pretty major goal. But…is it possible that even more could occur? Could we move from surviving to thriving? We’ll discuss that journey beginning in our next post.
Join the Conversation
How could you experience God’s presence in order to experience His comfort and joy this holiday season?
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.
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