Hope for the Holidays?

As we enter Thanksgiving week and another holiday season, are you feeling some sadness? Perhaps, the sadness smacks you right in the face or maybe you find it lurking around the edges of your awareness. For me, having lost my mom to cancer sixteen years ago and my father to covid two years ago, just one week before Christmas, this time of year can feel quite lonely. Many of the memories that have shaped my life are now empty reminders. Certainly, I hold deep hope that I will see mom and dad again at the resurrection, and yet it is a hope that is laced with the lingering desire that I could pick up the phone and call on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve, or really any day. Perhaps, the desire is more of a “muscle memory” that has no place to go. Nevertheless, the feelings of being a little lost in this world take shape in the absence.

Maybe you can relate on some level? When a time of the year called “the most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t feel so wonderful, what do you do? How does one navigate?

It can be easy to think: lots of people have lost their parents or experience grief so move on past these feelings. Or, they’re in heaven so find joy in that. However, I am trying to pay attention to what I feel and not push it aside with theological platitudes or even logic. I do have so much to be thankful for and it is not hard for me to go there but I am realizing that holding those unpleasant emotional responses actually leads to deeper joy rather than hindering it. 

We are wise to consider that embracing gratitude at this time of year can actually be used as a defense mechanism, a way to stuff down or deny the pain. Thankfulness, or gratitude, is an important, transformative spiritual practice but perhaps not so transformative when it isn’t accompanied by the spiritual practice of lament. Lament is the prayer that cries out to God and says, everything is not alright. Things are not as they should. I feel abandoned, I feel loss. Will I ever feel different? For me, I don’t want to ignore the reality that my soul, the very core of who I am, feels loss. I feel it throughout the year, and the “holiday” season intensifies it. 

So, I practice lament. I enter into prayers in which I express the longing of my heart for what has been lost. I find that God holds those prayers with me and laments with me. As I become more and more aware of His gentle presence, I also find gratitude emerge. This gratitude doesn’t appear quickly or predictably, but slowly and unexpectedly. Gratitude and thanksgiving are present, but they appear as we watch and wait in hope. The joy that walks alongside gratitude is deepened when it comes out of lament because this joy is stripped of shallow, circumstantial gratitude.

I find gratitude for the gift of what was lost but still is with me in so many ways. Gratitude for the gifts right in front of me. Gratitude for a God who meets me right where I am. He doesn’t seem interested in pushing me out of my lament but is content to sit with me in it for as long as that is where my soul needs to be … for as long as it takes for me to also be aware of the gifts. There is no hurry but there is hope.

So, sit prayerfully with grief and loss (also known as lament) and watch and wait for gratitude to emerge. It will. It’s there. We discover gratitude once again as we let God hold our grief with us.

About Ted Wueste

I live at the foothills of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve (in Arizona) with my incredible wife and our golden doodle (Fergus). We have two young adult children. I desire to live in the conscious awareness of the goodness and love of God every moment of my life.

Posted on November 21, 2022, in blog, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you, Ted. Immensely.

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