Traveling from grief to growth is a long, winding road. Healing for the holidays is not a series of steps or some secret plan. More than anything, healing is relational — our relationship with Christ and the Body of Christ.
As we begin our tenth and final post about healing for the holidays, I want us to focus on the two options we have for healing: Christ or self.
Path # 1: Digging Cisterns — Pursuing False Lovers
If we follow the beaten path, the way of the world, then our holiday hurt guides us to false lovers. Idols of the heart. Digging cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Something or someone who will rescue us from agony’s clutches, or so we imagine.
God describes digging cisterns in Jeremiah 2:13. “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
In the Ancient Near East, you had two choices for life-giving water. You could settle near a clear, pure, bubbling spring of fresh underground water, or you could dig a cistern which captured run-off water and held it in a stagnant well that often cracked leaking in more filth and leaking out water.
Spiritual cistern digging involves rejecting God as our Spring of Living Water because we see Him as unsatisfying, unholy, and unloving (Jeremiah 2:5, 19, 31). Once we reject the only Being in the universe who could ever satisfy the last aching abyss of our souls, we choose to turn to substitutes—worthless, putrid, empty, futile substitutes—cisterns.
Now what? Is that all there is?
Not at all. God offers us so much more, infinitely more — because He offers Himself.
Path # 2: Worshipping God — Glimpsing the Face of God
Rather than turning to false lovers who tame your soul, you now turn to your untamed God who captures your soul. You worship God. In the midst of life’s losses, yes you can choose worship — engaging God with love, which leads to ministry — engaging others with God’s love.
“Worship” is such a common word. But what is worship really? Specifically, in the midst of grief, what does worship look like?
- Worship is wanting God more than wanting relief.
- Worship is finding God even when you don’t find answers.
- Worship is walking with God in the dark and having Him as the light of your soul.
We must understand the truth that every problem is an opportunity to know God better and our primary battle is to know God well. Thus, if we want our holiday hurts to lead to worship, we have to ask ourselves a primary question, “How is my grief influencing my relationship to God?” Grief can either shove us far from God or drag us kicking and screaming closer to Him.
Whom Have I in Heaven but You?
The Bible consistently invites us to worship God in the midst of suffering. Worship as the end result of suffering has always been the testimony of God’s people.
Asaph, reflecting on his suffering, concludes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
David concurs, as his suffering creates a God-thirst. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).
Paul looks back upon a lifetime of suffering and says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:8, 10).
What these biblical writers present, the hymn writer, Katharina von Schlegel poetical states:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: the best thy heavenly Friend,
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Grief’s ultimate goal is worship: exalting and enjoying God as our Spring of Living Water—our only satisfaction and our greatest joy.
The Rest of the Story
We’re at the end of our blogging journey, but our healing journey continues ever onward until heaven. My prayer for you is that you will not only survive the holidays, you will, in time and through Christ, thrive in the holidays as you walk with God in the dark and find Him to be the light of your soul.
Join the Conversation
How is Christ leading you through a thorny path to a joyful end?
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.