By Sheri Ellington
If you’ve followed my story thus far, you know that my family has experienced much loss over the past year. Reaching out to our extended families, I can count nine who have died. The closest to me was my mom. The closest to my husband was his brother. Both sides of our family are grieving, but not like those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Praise the Lord for the hope we have in Jesus Christ! Still, dealing with the grief is a daily battle, and our first holiday without these two proved to be a tougher battle than I reckoned it would be.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with a larger-than-usual group of extended family members and friends this year. Of course, no one can replace my mom, but having a jovial crowd around us softened the blow of her absence. Everyone brought food to share – we had a lovely assortment of casseroles and veggies to complement the turkey and ham, and no shortage of desserts.
But two things were missing that Mom usually contributed: gravy and sectional plates.
Gravy is delicious in its place, drizzled over mashed potatoes, turkey and dressing; but without those sectional plates, it has a way of oozing onto other foods where it is unwelcome (I like gravy, but not on my sweet potatoes and corn pudding!). Sectional plates protect the other foods so that I can enjoy the unique flavors of every morsel.
Grief is like gravy.
It has a way of “oozing” into every aspect of my life. It can taint every situation with melancholy. Jokes aren’t as funny as usual. Sleep isn’t as peaceful. It can be hard to muster up the energy required to take care of ordinary daily tasks. I need a “sectional plate” for my grief, a way to keep it in its proper place.
I found the answer in God’s Word: Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a season for everything, and a time for every matter under heaven. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” In a manner of speaking, there is a proper place, a “compartment,” in my life for weeping and mourning. I need to deal with my grief by acknowledging and processing it (for me, this happens through time in prayer and reading God’s Word, and I’ve shed more than a few tears too). These steps will help me compartmentalize the grief so I can also enjoy the times of laughing and dancing.
One of our holiday traditions that usually involves a lot of laughter is Christmas shopping with the girls on Thanksgiving weekend. I enjoy the fellowship more than the shopping, but still manage to buy a few things. This year, as we were wrapping the first gift with glittery tissue paper, the glitter spilled off the paper and stuck to everything – the table, the floor, my hands, etc. And it sparkled.
The glitter reminds me of God’s Word.
Its truths spill over into very part of my life. It sticks (I meditate on it). It sparkles (it encourages me and gives me hope). It makes me smile.
I love reading the Bible because it is relevant to my life, no matter what I am going through. It was written “for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). I have hope! The Scriptures encourage me! My part is to endure.
The fact is, I cannot endure the grief in my own strength.
And I don’t have to. Romans 15:5 tells me that God is the “God of endurance and encouragement.” He promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is with me at my lowest times in grief and at my silliest, happiest times. He is the reason I can endure.
Not only is God the God of endurance and encouragement, but He is also the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). If I had never experienced this extent of grief, I could never have experienced the corresponding depths of His comfort. I’ve never needed this much comfort before, so I have never received this much before. True to His tendency to dole out grace and mercy in abundance, He continues to pour out His unrelenting comfort. So far, I have not been able to grieve beyond His ability to comfort me. And I don’t expect I ever will.
This comfort I am receiving is not just for me. It is for you!
He “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). I know God has good reasons for allowing me to lose my mom, brother-in-law, and other family members this year. One reason is so that I can share His comfort with others, and that is my prayer for you: That you would be comforted this holiday season!