Christmas, Love and Grief…
Do you remember making Christmas lists when you were younger? Maybe you still do with your family’s gift exchange? Isn’t it interesting how your “wish list” changes as you age?
Giving and receiving gifts changes as you age and as you experience the highs and lows of life. I also believe that your “wish list” changes when you walk through deep loss and grief. As you navigate holiday seasons and celebrations you come to realize that time is precious and fleeting. You want nothing more than to soak up every moment possible with the people that mean the most to you because you understand on a different level why time is precious.
Often when walking through loss and grief you come to realize that giving and receiving gifts can feel clunky, awkward or even tough. Over the last two years I have learned that while I once had giving gifts at the top of my love language list, now it hovers near the bottom. It has been replaced with quality time and physical touch, two of the important things I lost when I lost my husband.
So how do you overcome this while still making space to grieve well and honor the empty space in your family gatherings? To be honest I am not sure. I am still working to find that happy balance. We are intentional to say his name, to honor what he would have been doing or saying and more than anything else we do not ignore that it really stinks that he isn’t there with us. We have started some new traditions and yet we still hold tightly to some of the ones we shared while he was still with us. For me personally, I have come to accept that when we are celebrating or at a family gathering it will always feel different. There will always be that tangible tension between joy and sorrow as we walk through this life because we loved.
Love is something that isn’t often talked about in grief and yet it is the driving force behind why we grieve so deeply. What I love most about the concept of love is that it is not just a feeling, it is a gift and we are the recipients. As a believer it is centered around giving. At the core, true love gave, in John 3:16 ESV we read:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
So, wrapped in that gift is not only a deep love for God’s Son and us but also grief. God had to knowingly send His Son to live a life of love and example on this earth and then die as atonement for our sins and sickness. Alongside this beautiful picture of love we have also been given a beautiful picture of grieving. John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”, is the shortest verse and yet the deep meaning of it is often overlooked. You see, Jesus had been away and was notified of Lazarus being sick. He chose to stay where he was for a couple of more days before making the trip to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Once He arrived, Martha went out to meet Him while Mary stayed in the house. Lazarus had been dead for four days. It was at this point that Jesus wept. He wept because Lazarus was a friend and He was emotional over his death. He wept knowing full well that His next move was going to be raising Lazarus from the dead. When I think about this, I cannot help but to recognize that Jesus was giving us a beautiful picture of love and grief, of that tension of joy and sorrow that accompanies love and grief. He was sad, He expressed sorrow and yet there was joy and love. We have permission to grieve yet we have hope that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones. See, joy and sorrow, love and grief all wrapped up beautifully in those two scriptures.
So how do you give gifts during this season when it seems like you have nothing to give? You give your time. You give love. You give the gift of your presence. What you have to offer is unique, no one else is just like you. Just like Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” You have been given specific gifts and talents that perfectly compliment your personality and strengths. See, even when God was creating you, He was knitting love into every fiber of your being.
This Christmas season, let’s be generous with our resources, giving cheerfully and without reservation, trusting that God will provide for our needs and bless us abundantly as we seek to do His will. Not only will we see God’s provision in our life, but we will also experience the joy that comes from giving.
Samantha Stewart values her unique sense of humor and vulnerability in her role. She finds value in helping widows and other women connect with others in their communities through laughter and deep love for God. Her desire is to remind everyone that they have a purpose and that they can create a ripple effect of encouragement and support throughout our communities.