We are very mindful that there are many people who experience grief and sadness during the Christmas season. My sister-in-law Sharon is one of them. Today we want to reprint some thoughts she shared with us several years ago. Here is how I first introduced Sharon to the girltalk audience:
On July 8, 2003 Sharon lost Dave, her husband of 32 years, to a brain tumor. We all desperately miss Dave’s joy, his impeccable sense of humor, his servant’s heart, and his delicious cooking. However, the intense grief that Sharon and her five children have experienced these past two and a half years is a testimony to the love they had for Dave, and his love for them.
And yet, through this unimaginable hardship, Sharon’s faith in God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness has remained strong. She has truly grieved with hope. While not a day goes by that she does not desperately miss “Her Bud” (as she and Dave would call each other) she displays a selfless strength in serving others that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
For this reason, we asked Sharon to share about both the pain, but more importantly the comfort she experiences at Christmastime. We pray her thoughts will provide hope to those of you who have lost a loved one. And for the rest of us, may we extend discerning care to those we know who are grieving this Christmas.
I believe there is only one answer to the question of how I experience God’s comfort at Christmastime, and that is for me to be on my knees basking in and staying grounded in the Word of God. His words touch my heart and soul, as he is the ultimate comforter. And from him come all other forms of comfort, as well.
Of course, snags are everywhere this time of year. If you’ve ever driven through the mountains, you’ve probably seen signs that read, “Beware of falling rocks.” For me as a widow, the holidays can be full of “falling rocks” in the form of that invitation or Christmas card addressed to only one name, traditions that are no longer an option, having to pass by the men’s department no longer looking for that annual sweater or tie, or even getting a whiff of my husband’s favorite cologne in the crowds of shoppers. Like a thorn on a rose pricks the finger, these reminders of a love lost prick my fragile, already bleeding heart. The challenge becomes surfacing from the pain of the past and wanting to live joyfully in the present with a hope for the future.
Although I have yet to get through the season without heartache and tears, and this will be my third Christmas without my husband, my Lord is faithful to supply the needed comfort. I should add here that I must choose to be comforted, as the temptation can be to fall into the sin of self-pity. If you are a widow, you know you can feel the pain of loneliness even when you’re in a group—even a group of family and friends. Those who help me to surface from the pain are not afraid of my sudden tears that may spill over in an instant unexpectedly, as they realize that may be the only language I can speak at the moment. They respect my need to talk at length about my current grief, or my desire not to talk at all. They give me much-appreciated hugs and tell me they care. They sometimes share remembrances of my husband that make me smile through the tears, knowing the memories may cause pain but are certainly treasured. Comfort has also come in the form of e-mails and phone calls and cards, all with words of love and encouragement. This past Sunday, I was comforted by a word shared during worship from one of the pastors with an encouragement for widows and single parents.
I think it is important to note here that we should not assume someone is no longer grieving, or not grieving as much, because a number of years have passed. I am among those who, before I became a widow, mistakenly thought that the one-year anniversary marked the end of the grieving process, that somehow things became easier and got back to “normal.” Where did that idea come from? That’s not accurate. I believe grieving is actually a gift, a good and necessary gift, a process, and a journey that, because of the depth of our love, may last until I see my Bud again. And, yes, the severity of my grieving is increased during the holidays. But as I respond to the pain and embrace with gratefulness the comforts he sends, I learn endurance and perseverance; and I realize that everything is part of the process of sanctification. And I am overwhelmed—not by my grief—but by his love for me.
“The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises….
What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do.
Look at it in a personal sense: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’—that is a promise—‘to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28, KJV).
‘But how can I know that is true for me?’ asks someone.
The answer is the incarnation.
God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you.
Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Heb. 13:5, KJV)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises.
He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it!
And he will never fail to do it.”
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones
from Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, ed. by Nancy Guthrie
Just wanted to pass on this Christmas gift idea in case (like me!) you are nowhere close to finishing your Christmas shopping. The Gathering is the new Sovereign Grace album recorded live at WorshipGod11 and it contains 15 songs that progressively tell the story of the gospel and our apprpopriate response. Here’s a more complete description from the website:
The songs on The Gathering can be sung apart from each other, but together they form a progression that reflects the gospel and our response to it. A call to worship (There is One Reason) leads to proclaiming God’s greatness (Greater Than We Can Imagine, Come Praise and Glorify). In view of God’s glory, we more clearly see our sinfulness and need for mercy before his holiness (Shine Into Our Night, Have Mercy on Me). We then rejoice in the good news that God has forgiven us and reconciled us to himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Now Why This Fear and Unbelief, Isaiah 53). A fresh awareness of God’s mercy in Christ makes us grateful for his generosity and kindness in every way (Generous King), which leads to eagerly asking for more of his grace (When You Move). A desire to know God’s will through his Word (Your Words of Life, Show us Christ) is followed by expressions of commitment and communion (All I Have is Christ, We Hunger and Thirst). Having rehearsed and celebrated the gospel and its effect in our lives, we want to take this good news to the world (Lift High the Cross). A final song reminds us that we leave relying not on our own strength, but on the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the power of the Spirit (As You Go).
To all the kids around here, Janelle and her husband Mike are affectionately known as Mr. and Mrs. B. The kids know that whenever Mr. and Mrs. B show up, there is sure to be lots of fun and laughter and learning about Jesus. Recently, Caly joined her parents for a little Christmas singing and talking. “Are You Ready for Christmas?” is the first installment of our brand new kidtalk series. Check back for more episodes in the days leading up to December 25.
And this first show calls for some audience participation—from your kids! So listen and have them contact Mr. and Mrs. B. They might just hear their ideas read on next week’s episode.
We hope you and your little ones enjoy the very first kidtalk Christmas!
We are home from Ethiopia now, but a big part of us is still ten thousand miles away with our two new children who are still there. The adoption process in Ethiopia requires two trips—the first to meet and appear in court to legally adopt your children, and the second to receive approval and visas from the US Embassy to bring them home. Oh, we can’t wait to bring them home!
Leaving Kassa and Mulunesh was gut-wrenching. We marvel that God made so much room for us in their little hearts so quickly, and for them in ours. Our family isn’t complete without them. In fact, that is what Mulunesh’s name means: “it is complete.” We pray it will be soon. God-willing we will be submitted into the embassy process today (Wednesday) and it can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks after that before we can bring them home. We would love your prayers that the process would move ahead speedily.
By God’s grace Jack and Tori did great in Ethiopia. They love their new brother and sister and talk daily about when we can bring them home. We were so blessed by the wonderful guides from our adoption agency who love all the children there and take outstanding care of the adoptive parents. And we made many wonderful, and I hope life-long, friends with the other couples who were also in Ethiopia to adopt. Several of them did not pass court due to a variety of paperwork issues, so we would covet your prayers for them as well. All in all, we could not have had a more blessed trip and we are grateful to God for his many mercies—most of all for giving us our new son and daughter.
This week though, we are busy packing up our house in Virginia. We are moving to Louisville, KY so that my husband can attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, prior to planting a Sovereign Grace Church. For many years, Steve has had a growing desire to plant a church, and an equally strong desire to be further equipped and trained for the task of preaching God’s Word. We are so grateful for this opportunity to attend Southern and we have already been so blessed by the godly people we have met there. We will greatly miss our dear friends at Sovereign Grace Church and are so grateful for the eternal investment they have made in our lives.
So, that’s the update from the Whitacres. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this brief little video of us meeting our kids for the first time. I can’t thank you enough for all of your prayers!