An Empty Chair
Thanksgiving has come and gone and the time till Christmas seems accelerated. The pace of life seems to go to a new level. As my daughter hosted her first Thanksgiving, she started feeling the effects by the weekend from all the days of planning and preparing for meals and company. It is joyful exhaustion. Well, those are my words, not hers. (Hoping those are her words too : )).
This year, however, was something different for our family. At the Thanksgiving table, we had an empty chair. We knew it would be hard this first family holiday with missing a loved one. A loved one we unexpectedly loss five months ago. What would it be like? Would we cry? Laugh? Would we sit in silence about the “empty chair,” or would we talk about how we missed her? Was everyone ready to talk about this new dynamic, or should we ignore the fact and talk around the realization of our grief?
You might be surprised at what I am going to say next, but I got to tell you, this Thanksgiving was wonderful. Why? Or more like, how is that possible? We intentionally spoke of what we were thankful for, which was a little different when you are faced with a fresh experience of how short life can be. But let me tell you what made the difference. What made us able to talk about Susan, a wife, a mom, a daughter, and a friend, our “empty chair?” How were we able to come together as two different families and become one that is closer?
We started praying for our time together weeks before. We prayed for the conversations we would have, praying for thankfulness to be on our hearts, not to miss “the moments.” We prayed for bonding, and we prayed for the one who would be with us for Thanksgiving who doesn’t know Jesus yet, and thanked God for Susan and knew that she was having the Thanksgiving of her life.
Maybe you experienced an “empty chair” at your Thanksgiving table this year. The struggle is real. You never get over the loss, you just learn how to move forward with the loss. Those steps are some of the hardest steps you will ever take. But I will tell you, as I have experienced my fair share of loss, it is only the Lord who can move you forward. It is only the Lord who can give you the joy needed to cover the sorrows. It is only the Lord who can truly restore and renew you.
Why not start praying now for your Christmas holidays. Pray for Jesus to be what you see above all else. You can endure a lot of sorrow when you dwell in the presence of the Lord.
Father God, empower us through your Holy Spirit to endure the sorrows we will experience for the first time as we gather as family and friends, with an empty chair at the table. Father, you know the heartache. Lord, prepare our hearts to give grace, receive love, and rest in Your presence. Let our conversations be full of encouragement, laughter, sweet tears, and memories of the ones we lost. For those Lord who may not know you, let it be this Christmas that their eyes turn towards You. Your glory and peace capture them and break the grip of the enemy’s hands. And Father, let us not forget why we are celebrating Christmas. The birth of Jesus, our Savior, our light in a dark world. Thank You, Jesus. May we all set our hearts and minds on things above, and may there be no empty chairs in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.