For nearly thirty years, I would start praying around the first of November that God would provide the right weather for our college students (we both worked in the education world) to get home, first for Thanksgiving, then for Christmas. To be honest, once I got them home (well, God and me and you too) for Christmas, I would start praying that they would get back to school safely.
Now, I started early because, if you have noticed on the weather map, we seem to get a lot of our weather from the west. If God was going to change our weather so the kids could get home safely, he had to start out there, or maybe down south or even in Canada. The weather always originates somewhere else.
I have been thinking about the students traveling still, even if I left them four plus years ago. They still matter. And now that we are ministering in a new church, we know new families who have children who will be traveling, and lots of parents who will be traveling for the holidays. So I pray for the drivers to stay alert because sometimes the hazards on the highway come from other drivers: tired, careless, distracted or even lost. I pray for their passengers to help them stay awake, and for all of them to not do stupid, whatever that means. Tired kids can get silly. Anyway our students and our church people matter because they are part of the family, whether that is blood related or faith related.
Another thing I start praying about this time of year are the huge number of people going into the holidays who are carrying enormous pain and loss. Some have lost jobs. Some have lost homes. Some have lost beloved pets. Some have seen dreams go up in smoke. And some have buried loved ones. As much as we know God is good and can be trusted all the time, and as much as we know He hurts to when we hurt, our losses hurt. I think the enormity of the pain of losses often testify also to the greatness of the love involved.
So as I pray for those who have suffered great loss in the past year, I pray that they might remember the joy those relationships brought into their lives. I pray that they will be able to smile and laugh as they rehearse joyful times they shared, like the glories of Christmases past.
If we are not careful, we who have lost loved ones, we can get seduced into believing the lies of the evil one who would make us think that we must be mournful and miserable over the holidays. His lie would have us believe that any joy or happiness that might come our way would mark our unfaithfulness to the memory of our loved one, or even the other wonderful things God has blessed us with and that are now gone. Funny how that works, but it does. Satan wants to rob us of joy.
I am not saying the grieving should fake it so others are comfortable. But don’t you love Ecclesiastes 3 where it says “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
We can help those who are grieving by allowing them to talk about their loved one. For that matter, we can talk about the loved one. We can say things like, “Remember when she put mint flavoring into the oatmeal cookies instead of vanilla, and we ate them anyway even if they tasted a little funny.”
The point is the loved ones, even loved pets, are still there. Well, all the memories of them are, and we should celebrate them, not either shunt the memories into a dark closet or make anyone who wants to open the closet feel embarrassed.
Join me in praying big specific prayers in these weeks before the next holidays, before Christmas and New Years, prayers for our families, those by blood and those by faith. And as we are praying for those in the household of faith, we must never forget those who are grieving who have not found comfort in their relationship with God. We must pray that we recognize the many ways we can show the love of God to them in these days and weeks of pain.
notes from the desk of Carol Brennan King