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Praying Through Grief

10 Scriptures to encourage your heart this holiday season

Grief. A small word in stature, but enormous in its complexity.

Merriam-Webster defines grief as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.” I love that this definition specifies “as if by bereavement” and doesn’t limit grief to death. We can feel deep and poignant distress in our relationships and in our circumstances that are in fact living.

While the holidays are beautiful and magical, they can also be extremely difficult for those journeying through grief.

Holiday celebrations spotlight who’s absent from the table.

Holiday traditions remind us of the tasks and duties someone used to do.

Holiday get-togethers highlight our loneliness.

Holiday expectations expose the wounds of broken relationships.

The holidays can often be met with expectations and striving, and a very real pressure for things to be picture-perfect. But what happens when the holidays have never been perfect and never will be perfect because someone or something is missing? What happens when television commercials, movies, and even the social media reels of friends contribute to the grief the holiday season can bring?

Whether you’re grieving the loss of a loved one due to death, mourning the end of a relationship, lamenting life in this broken world, or navigating a painful season of relational discord, I pray these 10 scriptures will encourage your heart this holiday season.

He is Close

My parents divorced when I was 7. Before I even had time to appreciate our family unit, it was broken apart. From a very young age, I learned things would never be the same. Holidays would never be spent as a cohesive family again.

Surely this wasn’t how I planned it. I didn’t imagine the holidays without my dad and my brother. And surely some 30 years later, I never dreamed I’d be on the other end of the same heartache, arranging for my daughters to spend half their Christmases with their dad and consequently half of them away from me. But in this life between two gardens—the Garden of Eden and Eden Restored—this is where I find myself. And maybe you find yourself there too—standing in between the “I didn’t plan this” and the “I never imagined.”

Broken dreams and unfinished plans.

Empty stockings.

Vacant table settings.

Gaping holes in our souls.

But take heart, although a piece of us is missing, these 4 scriptures remind us the Lord is ever so near in our grief and in our suffering.

Psalm 34:18
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

In chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah, Jesus is referred to as a man of sorrows. Who better to comfort us than the One who is intimately acquainted with sorrow himself? When others want to fix us, fix us, or take away our pain with trite, well-meaning platitudes, the Lord quietly sits with us. He tenderly speaks through His Word providing comfort, delivering hope, and enveloping us in peace. When we are sitting alone in the depths of our despair as those around us are singing carols and celebrating—the Lord is close enough to graciously extend His hand to pull us out of the muck and save our crushed spirits.

Psalm 56:8
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

In order to wipe the tears that fall from someone’s eyes, you have to be close. Whether you sit across from them holding their hands in yours, or whether you hold them in your embrace—to catch the tears of another requires proximity and intimacy. What a comfort it is to know that regardless of our age, our Father is so close He catches our every tear. How humbling to know that they matter to Him, too. How touching to know our feelings are of such importance to Him that He notes them down. He doesn’t jot them down on a whiteboard only to be erased later. He doesn’t scribble them on a post-it with the intention of later throwing it away. He records them in His book. This season, this sorrow, this hardship—He is with us in it, and it matters to Him.

Matthew 1:23
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).”

Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of a name? The name an individual is given is spoken over them multiple times a day and potentially millions of billions of times over the course of a lifetime. We know from scripture that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and names can certainly be used to lift, encourage, and edify.

The name Immanuel (God with us) was perfectly chosen by God, not just in that moment, but for all of time. Though we can’t see Him, His Word and His very name whisper the promise that He is with us. He is with us in the moments of celebration and joy, and He is with us in the moments of heartbreak and debilitating grief. Though we may feel alone this holiday season, may the name given to our Savior, Immanuel, be a fresh revelation that we are anything but alone.

John 14:16
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—”

Grief can feel like a blizzard, a flurry of snowflakes so intense that it prevents us from seeing the hand in front of our face that we know is there. It’s disorienting and difficult to navigate. But just as high beams help us to see through the darkness, the Light of the World can also help us to navigate through grief.

Within each believer lives the third member of our triune God. The Holy Spirit is also called The Advocate, The Helper, The Comforter, The Counselor, and The Spirit of Truth. God has equipped us with the indwelling of His Spirit, and thereby promises to help us and to never leave us.

If you’re grieving the passing of a loved one, The Comforter is near and holds you close.

If you’re navigating a broken relationship, The Counselor is at hand ready to provide wisdom and guidance.

If you’re experiencing relational discord, The Advocate is by your side to support you.

And if you’re lamenting the brokenness that comes with this world, The Spirit of Truth is within you poised to encourage.

In those moments when we feel like we’re standing alone as the world moves on around us, find comfort knowing the truth—the Lord inhabits our every cell, our every thought, our every square inch with His holy presence. We are anything but alone.

Romans 8:26
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

When we just don’t want to celebrate, when we can’t seem to drag ourselves out of bed, when we would rather avoid the crowded holiday get-togethers, and when we can’t possibly imagine a future without them, be reminded that God isn’t just close, He dwells within us.

The Spirit that lives inside us helps us when we are at our lowest. In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us it is in our weakness that God’s power is made perfect. When we don’t know what we need, He knows. When we don’t know what to pray, He does. And when we just can’t, He can. All because of His proximity to us, His permanent dwelling within our hearts.

He Will Heal and Restore

It may be hard to imagine how God can possibly heal our broken hearts and restore what has been taken from us. It may look darn near impossible. With my mom’s remarriage followed shortly by my dad’s, it didn’t take long for the 8-year-old me to realize that my parents weren’t getting back together. And realistically, right now, I know I still have another 13 years of sharing Christmases until my daughters are of age and grown. Restoration looked bleak then, and right now it appears to be on a timeline.

Maybe you are so overwhelmed and disoriented by your grief that you can’t see beyond your current circumstances, either. But be encouraged friend, God has a plan. In His omniscience, He foresaw the entrance of sin into our world. He foresaw all the sorrow and suffering. And since the beginning of time, He has had a plan to rescue us from this world. While some of the healing and restoration might happen earthside, the fullness of it will happen in eternity.

So as we willingly press forward through grief, we can be encouraged by the promises below knowing that our God is a promise keeper.

Psalm 147:3
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

God is both the Creator of the universe and The Great Physician. Not only does He know our hearts, He’s the one who formed them. Who better to heal our hearts than the one who knows them intimately? Who better to tend to our wounds than the greatest of physicians? Healing may not look like we think it ought and it may not be on our timetable, but we can trust that our broken hearts are in good hands and they won’t stay broken forever.

1 Peter 5:10
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

We won’t suffer forever. What a relief that is to know. We will, however, grieve in some capacity until Jesus returns. But this ache, this heaviness, this downtrodden spirit—it won’t feel this heavy and this hard forever. What a comfort it is to know that the Lord will refresh our weary, worn-down, and broken spirits. What an encouragement it is to learn that He will make us strong, firm, and steadfast in Him.

So while we may be uncomfortable with how weak we feel in this season, may our hearts be encouraged knowing the Lord has a plan to restore us, making us strong and steadfast as we once were, if not more so.

He Will Make All Things Right

You may have heard the phrase, “If it’s not good, He’s not done.” While it may sound like a catchy bumper sticker, there is truth to this phrase. In Philippians 1:6 we read, He is faithful to finish what He has started. The healing and restoration we receive on earth is a taste of the fullness we will receive when He makes all things right through the restoration of Eden.

The scriptures below are the ones to fix our eyes upon. They are the rays of sunlight that shine through the thick fog of grief, helping us to journey through the barren wilderness and into the Promised Land. These are the promises made by a covenant-keeping God whose faithfulness endures forever. So fix your eyes on things above. Fix your eyes on eternity. In His time, He will make all things right.

1 Corinthians 15:22
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

For those of us who have experienced loss, we can find true comfort and hope knowing that in Christ we have eternal life. Our loved ones are not gone. Though they are absent from the body, they are present with the Lord. We will see them again one day, because through Christ we too have been saved from eternal death. Just as everything went wrong when sin entered the world through Adam, Jesus put in motion the plan for everything to go right when He died upon the cross.

John 14:2-3
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

One day we’ll be reunited with our loved ones. One day we will be reunited with our Heavenly Father and dwell with Him again, this time in a New Garden. On that day everyone will get along. There will be no fighting, no grudges, no ill will. This perfect Paradise will be devoid of sin.

What love the Father bestows upon us that He has prepared a place for each of us. What care He shows in coming back for us and ushering us into Heaven. May our minds wander today from glory to glory as we envision and look forward to Heaven with eager anticipation.

Revelation 21:1-4
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

Inevitably the Christmas tree will wither, the needles will fall, and it will slowly change from green to brown. In this world, nothing lasts forever. But when God rights all the wrongs, there will be no more death, no more crying, no more pain. While our suffering may feel without end, in light of eternity, we will only suffer a short while. When it feels like there is no end in sight, like we can hardly go on, know that what awaits us is glorious and not of this world. The beauty and perfection that awaits will pale in comparison to the suffering we have endured in this life. Our hearts, our minds, our souls will finally be made whole in the perfect peace of Paradise.

Sadly, in this broken world, there will inevitably be seasons of suffering, grief, and mourning. Whether we are grieving the passing of a loved one, navigating a broken relationship, enduring relational discord, or lamenting sin’s impact on our everyday lives, I pray these scriptures will comfort our aching hearts as we long for the perfect promise of Heaven.

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