And though many of us love this time of year, many we know simply dread it. As families gather to be together in the next few weeks, many will have an empty chair or two around the table. And sadness and grief often take those places, and they are not very good dinner companions.
Since 2009, we have had the privilege of hosting about 1200 people through 85 Grief Recovery Retreats. These 1200 have come from 41 states, Nigeria, Australia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. They come in all sizes and shapes, accents, religious or non-religious backgrounds, and all kinds of losses. There is one common thread – they all have grief – sometimes so overwhelming that life at times appears to be hopeless. Actually, they have another commonality – none of them have given up on hope, though they certainly feel hopeless at times.
Hope is what we all need. It is difficult to live a day without it. And here is the good news – hope IS always available. Sometimes we need people who care to help us see hope, when we simply cannot see hope ourselves.
I have felt hopeless at times. Have you? When Debbie and I were dreaming and praying about Spark of Life, we did not know if we could do it and keep our sanity. Seriously. How could we handle all the stories of loss, and all the tears and pain of those hurting so deeply? We were not capable of doing it, and almost gave up often.
But then the ‘spark’ came. A realization of a truth so simple, yet so necessary and profound. We were not alone.
Did you get that? We were NOT alone. Others came on board to help, to pray, to give, to encourage, to dream with us. So many came forth – from all around the world. The message became clear – David and Deb, you are not alone.
The message came from friends and family. The message came from people we had never met, from those grieving and not grieving, from Democrats and Republicans, black, white, Asian, Hispanic. From those down under and out yonder, from atheists, agnostics, and theists, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, from those rich and poor.
The message was and is clear – You are not alone. We are in this together.
Christmas to me has one profound message – My God – who I do not always understand, my God – who confuses me and angers me at times, my God – who appears to ignore my prayers at times – who does not intervene when I want him to– who appears not to care – this God, who I have yelled at and often thought didn’t hear me – my God has not left us alone.
He appeared – he came – he saw the heartbreak – he responded. God came down.
And in that – we have hope.