The holiday season has officially descended on the Coleman household and our kids are living at the speed of a full Christmas sprint fueled by hot chocolate, Christmas movies and wish lists. In less than 24 hours of our return from a Thanksgiving trip, the Christmas decorations some how found their way out of the attic. So, Sunday afternoon turned into our own version of “hanging of the green” filled with Christmas music, snacks and decorating every room with Christmas
In all honesty, Megan and I enjoyed it too…for a bit. The next morning, we were both struck with a new wave of grief. When I woke up with deep sadness, I went to a quiet place and asked God why such fresh grief was hitting me.
Me: Lord, where is this coming from? I knew the holiday season would be hard, but I didn’t expect this!
Jesus: It’s so fresh and strong because it is a first.
Me: But Bennett died seven months ago…I’ve been grieving for seven months already.
Jesus: You have been grieving that he died. You’ve never grieved that he got sick.
It was a year ago that Bennett got sick. He had his first mystery fever at Thanksgiving, the tumor was growing during December and then we discovered it right before Christmas. As I began to realize the truth of this new wave of grief, I shared it with Megan. We reminded ourselves to make room for things that fill our emotional tanks to keep us from approaching this season completely empty and ill-equipped to handle it. For me…that’s a life-giving project at work. For Megan…that was a good long nap!
As I continue to process this all, I am being reminded of the tension we must all deal with in this life. The tension I am living with is the Biblical command to give thanks at all times versus the Biblical understanding that this world has nothing to give thanks for. This world is broken and as Caedmon’s Call so eloquently put it, “this world has nothing for me and this world has everything…all that I could want and nothing that I need.”
But at the same time, this world is home to God’s handiwork…His marvelous creation. Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” As the great theologian, Chris Tomlin, sings, ” from the highest of heights to the depths of the sea, creation’s revealing Your majesty.”
So who is right? Is there nothing of value in this world or this world filled with the revelation of God’s glory? Do I pray for a speeding exit off this rock and into heaven where Bennett and an eternity of wholeness awaits? Or do I pray from a heart that loves what God has given us on this earth?
Well…both are right. This is the tension we live in and when we embrace it, we share in knowing Jesus even more. He is the embodiment of tension. I love how C.S. Lewis put it in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. When the children learn about Aslan (the Christ figure) they ask a great question.
Is he safe?
Is he safe?! Of course not…he’s a lion! But he is good!
Jesus is not safe, but He is good. He is a just King who deals with sin and also gives grace. This world is painful but also reveals the glory of The Healer. I want to be in the physical presence of both Bennett and Jesus, but while I wait I’m comforted by the spiritual presence of Jesus each day. I’m learning to live in the tension.
Do you avoid tension? Do you run from stress? If so, you’re not alone…I used to as well. But tension is a good thing. The word shares the same root as the word tenacity. Tension holds up bridges and healthy amounts of stress keep us energized. I pray that anyone who is grieving this Christmas can find the strength to live with the tension of letting grief and gratitude coexist. Here are a few things that have helped Megan and I move forward in this…
- Grief Share: Find a group near you!
- When People Grieve by Paula D’arcy
- Streams In The Desert Devotional
- Heaven by Randy Alcorn
I’ll wrap this up and leave you also with one of my favorite verses that describes what Jesus would accomplish in His first coming. As we ride this new wave of grief, I’m asking God to remind us of the truth of this passage. The days are hard…and often…the nights are harder. Experiencing this tension is not easy and Megan and I are only making it because of the hope we have from this verse. I pray that you experience this in your life as well.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
– Isaiah 61:1-3