I woke to a light dusting of snow with flakes still falling. In the still-dark morning, it was a lovely awakening. The day seemed promising and full of anticipation.
But a shadow clouded my sleepy thoughts. My sweet William and I would go and share a great loss with dear friends this morning – a loss that cannot be explained, a grief that surely seems unfair.
As I sat in a small chapel crowded with friends and family, I thought, “We cannot take their grief away. We can only share it.” And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “God does not take our grief away either. But He did come to share it.”
My mind went back to another December in 1982 when I waited in a hospital room while my dear mother endured a treatment on her lungs, by now infested with cancer. The treatment was simply temporary relief to her breathing. The doctor had told us she only had three months to live. His diagnosis/prediction was very accurate.
It was Christmas time but there was no Christmas spirit in me. Thankfully, my extended family took my nine-year-old son with them so he could enjoy the holiday festivities. I certainly was not interested in shopping, baking cookies, or putting up a Christmas tree. My mother lay dying in a hospital bed.
She wanted me with her while the treatment was being administered. I sang to her, quoted Scripture, held her hand, and tried to appear strong for her sake. I was anything but. I was falling apart on the inside.
While she rested awhile after the treatment, I looked out of the hospital window and wondered where God was in all of this. How could people be celebrating the joyous season, how could I? The sweet whisper of the Spirit spoke to my heart, reminding me that Jesus came to the earth in human flesh for just such a reason as this, because of sin, sickness, and death. He came to share in my humanity with all of its joys and sorrows.
I am comforted to know the prophet Isaiah called Jesus a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with my grief (Isaiah 53). While Jesus lived on this green and blue planet, He purposely clothed Himself in blood cells, nerve endings, human emotions and skin just like mine. He subjected himself to life and death, to friendship and betrayal, to joy and sorrow.
And He did it all without sinning. I cannot say the same.
This is what makes my Savior the Great High Priest that He is, the One who entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain on my behalf; the One who lives to intercede for me, the One who runs to my cry when I am tempted, tried, and suffering. (Hebrews 7:25, 6:19-20; 2:18)
Don’t we anticipate the days leading to Christmas as being joy-filled and happy? It is just not so for countless fellow travelers on this road called life. Even Mary the mother of Jesus, in the midst of her joyful moment of dedicating her precious baby at the temple, was given a grave prophecy by Simeon. “A sword will pierce your soul, too,” he told Mary.
Sorrow is part of life just as much as happiness and joy and peace and celebrations. The final Word on it all for me comes from Hebrews 13: 5b . . .
” . . . for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you — assuredly not!” (Amplified Bible)