It is December 13th as I write this. Our daughter-in-law Shelly has had their Christmas tree up since the end of October. She just loves Christmas or at least loves trees in her living room.
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.
Since 2009, we have had the privilege of hosting about 1800 people through 119 Grief Recovery Retreats. These 1800 have come from 46 states, Nigeria, Australia, Puerto Rico, England, South Africa, Mexico, 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.
Sunday, December 11, 2022 – We said goodbye to 15 new heroes of ours. Their losses are too deep and personal and tragic and horrific to describe specifically – Thursday as they shared their stories, hopelessness reared its ugly head.
By Sunday, as we hugged and hugged each other saying our goodbyes, hope reared its life-giving heart. Smiles and laughter rang loudly – signifying that even with intense pain – hope can emerge.
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, and to dream with us. So many came forth – from all around the world.
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 (or so it seems) – 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.