There is something about the holiday season that amplifies our feelings. When we are having a good year, we see God’s joy and blessing around every corner.
But then there are the years of loss. This season, there will be people in your church who are grieving deeply. In fact, that person might be you.
Grief has many causes; from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a job. The holiday season seems to also bring out the loss of dreams, and desperation of what might never be.
In this article, I won’t be able to help you make people feel better. Grief is a deep valley that must be traversed at different times of life. However, you should find some new tools here that will help you love the people you walk with in tangible ways and give you the insight to share God’s perspective.
Family Grief—Everyone grieves in different ways. There are five stages of grief, but they are non-linear, and people pop in and out of them. During the holiday season, families could wonder why John is so angry, and Sue is withdrawn—yet the whole family feels the heaviness of loss.
Here is an illustration that might help: Remember shadow puppets? When you look at the shadow on the wall, you see a bird, or a duck. However, when you look closely, you find that the source of the shadow is a hand.
Similarly, people who are grieving might display very different behavior. We are tempted to believe (especially when we are grieving ourselves) that this person has changed. In reality, we are seeing a shadow. Grief has scrunched them up, and they are displaying a withdrawn, angry, depressed or manic person. Focus on the person you know and show love.
Experience Grief—Imagine a river flowing into a deep canyon. Wouldn’t it be fun to raft one of those rivers that laze along the bottom of some of the world’s deepest canyons? As you float into the shadows of the canyon, what is your natural response? Without fail, we look up. We look toward the light at the top of the steep walls.
However, if you take the time on your journey, and look around you, you will discover that there are flowers and wildlife that are unique to the deep canyons. If you spend your whole time looking at the rim, you will miss the beauty of the ride.
Grief is a dark valley. We are tempted to keep our eyes on the rim, remembering times when things weren’t so tough. As a pastor, you have the privilege of helping people experience true joy in the valley of grief. God walks with us into the valley, and He has new things to teach us along the way. As a guide of sorts, you can help people really take the time to experience God’s provision and joy as they walk through times of grief.
Take care of yourself. Sometimes the person in grief is you. What does the healer do when he himself is wounded?
The valleys of life are inevitable, but they are also what will make you a powerful, insightful, joyful person of God. David was one who felt the depths of life fully, and because of it, we rely on his (and others) Psalms to help us in times of stress.
When you are in the middle of grief, you are running on emotion. You don’t live in the
land of the tangible. Know this: God is not surprised, and He won’t leave you. He will guide you. You can rest in the comfort that He will protect you and help you. The most important thing is to remember to ask Him for guidance and help and not try to do it alone.
Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a Masters of Theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach, and can be found online at www.deepimprints.com.