By: Lizanne F. Espina
Holidays are special every year as it is a time of family and friends. It is a time of distinctive memories and traditions. As these days come upon us, one tends to look forward to those things that trigger fond recollections. We look forward to sharing days of special dinners, gift giving and traditions unique to each family. One example is potato salad. Sounds so simple, but to my family, potato salad has a great significance in this Christmas time.
Every year, each member of the family is responsible to prepare a food dish. It is not unusual that a person is always expected to bring the same dish every year because of their special touch. The day would not be the same without Yvette’s cheesecake or Grandma Olga’s rice. In our case, it was understood that potato salad was my sister’s jurisdiction. But, Christmas, 2011 will be very different. My sister passed away in the summertime as a result of cancer. She was loved by many and she is very missed. So, this holiday seems to hold a painful void in our celebrations. There are many families preparing to face Christmas with the absence of a dear loved one. To some, the effects of the loss are apparent but to others, the strategy of remaining busy conceals great sadness. Others cannot find the strength to celebrate Christmas with a broken heart. In either case, the void is deep and painful.
How can a person face such festive holidays with such a real pain lurking within the heart? I have found it especially hard as I am the youngest of my sisters. This Christmas, I am the only sister as both of my sisters have passed away with cancer. There are moments that I am good but there are times, I feel a loneliness that I cannot put into words. It is marked with reluctance to the approaching holiday with a hidden desire to just skip it all. But, I can’t. Neither can many others who are facing this Christmas, 2011 without the presence of a child, spouse of many years, or other beloved person. How can I find the peace I need to celebrate a time which is marked by so much evidence that things are not the same? Who can understand the void in my life and the sense of loss? I have found a source of peace and consolation in the compassion and promises that only Jesus can give. Although many friends and family members have expressed sympathy and consolation in this time, I have come to find that there is only one who can carry me especially in the moments that I find myself alone with my thoughts.
One person in the Bible who understood the pain of loss was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Mary had once wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair. But, she found herself in a place of grief at the loss of her brother, Lazarus. She and her sister, Martha, had sent word to the Lord in hopes that her brother would be healed.But, Jesus knew that Lazarus would pass away but his death would not be in vain. When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). Jesus did arrive four days after the death of Lazarus. In the eyes of Mary, He had come too late. But in the sovereign plan of God, Jesus arrived just in time. As Jesus moved forward to reveal Himself through a powerful miracle, He saw Mary and Martha weeping for their brother. It is true that Jesus had a plan to accomplish with a specific purpose. But, the passage included two verses that touched my heart. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus wept. (John 11:33, 35).
Why did Jesus weep?
He wept because He loved Mary and Martha. He wept because His love was so profound that He felt their pain and He was troubled. He cried because He connected with their pain. Sometimes, when I think about my sisters, I feel at such a loss of words due to the fact that I cannot share these days with them. I will not be able to call them, spend time with them or even eat potato salad. But, I am not pressing through this time alone. Jesus has a love for me that assures me that I am not alone. He understands my pain with a love and compassion that no other can have for me. I know this to be true as his drops of sweat became drops of blood. I know this because there is no love greater than one that lays His life for His friends. But, not only is His love understanding of the things that trouble us, He has given us promises. One that I hold on to is–He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:6).
This Christmas, I will miss the company of my sisters very much. But, it is the presence of a Savior who loves me and understands my heart that will see me through this time of the year. Because of His unfailing promises, I have the strength to see all the blessings that surround me this Christmas, 2011. I have family and friends that surround me with much love. I have a treasure box of beautiful memories of times I have shared with my sisters. I can open this box with great joy knowing, like Lazarus, their lives had purpose which has impacted many others. I cannot share Christmas dinner with them but I have a Father who catches every tear and turns them to laughter. I am looking forward to Christmas because weeping may endure for a night but joy really does come in the morning.
As we go about our Christmas season, remember to Just Breathe!
1. Is this Christmas an especially difficult one because you have lost a loved one? Take one day at a time, choose one of the many promises God has given us and hold on to it by meditating on it and believing that it is yours.
2. In this passage, Jesus wept. In what other passages, do we learn more of God’s compassion and love for us? He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow so that compassion and love is true for us today.
3. Do you know someone who is experiencing a difficult time in coping with grief? How are ways that you can provide the support he/she needs to get through the loss.