Christmas is known to be the holiday of joy. During this season, families typically invite their relatives and close friends. Around the table gather cheery eyes, rosy cheeks, and bellies savoring warm food.
As perfect as that scene may appear to be, my Christmases often tasted of a blend of flavors. All sorts of ingredients are thrown together into a pot – sorrow, happiness, longings, thankfulness, and contentment roil around and bash against each other. I eventually found the word to describe my mixture of emotions: grief.
Is it Okay to Grieve?
Out of all the emotions a person could feel during Christmas, why was mine grief? The feeling stemmed from being away from my “extended family,” and I don’t mean my blood relations.
My core family – my parents and sister – and I have not been close with our relatives mainly due to geographical distance, so I barely know who they are in terms of personality. While this relational distance narrowed slightly when my family and I were repatriated, the gap remained between most of my relatives and me. We probably know each other merely by name and place in our tree of ancestry.
To me, my “extended family” are, rather, certain friends from the countries I have lived in. While I have a certain level of grief from not knowing my blood relatives well enough, and while I appreciate the people God has brought to me in my current country, being apart from my “extended family” makes my heart ache at times, especially during Christmas. Memories of their faces and voices encircling dishes of cultural food play in my mind, bringing along a bittersweet taste. The smiles of those who passed away amplify the flavors.
In past Christmases, I was not okay.
Sorrow throbbed in my chest and persisted, threatening to drag me down to despair. Its clouds loomed over me. Going through the process of grief felt not okay. Yet the process reminded me that grief itself is not necessarily wrong; instead, it is an emotion expressed in response to an incident or an aspect of life. In my case, it was being separated from people whom I love, by geographical distance, relational distance, and death.
However, sorrow was not the only ingredient I encountered. Joy and thankfulness joined in as well. My memories showed the mountains and pastures the Lord had carried me through, as well as His faithfulness, holiness, grace, and mercies through the relationships He had brought into my life.
And that made me smile.
Bringing My Grief to Christ
The process of grief did not feel like it was okay. However, experiencing mixed emotions on Christmas day evoked images of Jesus coming to earth as an infant. The thought of His birth emanated both joy and sadness in my heart. My Lord had come to die for my sins! … And yet, I couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been for Him to bear all the pains, sins, and sorrows on His shoulders.
Although my experience with grief has left me feeling isolated, and I am tempted to look inward, my Savior was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3 KJV, emphasis added). He experienced grief as well.
My Savior, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2 KJV).
My Savior, whose joy I can have, and who keeps my tears in His bottle (John 15:11; Ps. 56:8).
I realized I could bring all of my mixed emotions to Christ. It’s okay. He can carry all of them as well as all of me (Isa. 46:4). I needed to surrender to Him; I couldn’t handle grief myself. I needed to trust Him with my emotions, thoughts, and memories.
For He was able to bear my sins on the cross. Not only my sins, but also the sins, tears, and burdens of the entire world.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 KJV
Grief is Temporary
“And it came to pass” – this phrase appears repeatedly throughout the Bible is a comforting truth I want to cling to. It whispers that everything in this world lasts for only a moment, including sorrow.
Although grief hurts and feels long at times, its endurance is no match to the One who is eternal. His promise for those who believe in His saving grace sings of a time when there will be no more sorrow.
“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:11 KJV
I don’t know if this Christmas will stir bittersweet flavors again, but I do know who is already there, waiting for me to reach for His hand so He can carry me through grief’s heaviness in this life … and eventually, to the joy of His presence in eternity.
TCKs for Christ: Administrator
is a vessel used for Christ and desires to encourage TCKs to live victoriously in Him. She’s an ATCK, a former business kid, and has lived in four countries. She seeks to follow the Lord’s calling in her life to missions. She also serves at Light Unto Darkness. Connect with her Instagram at @ClarissaChooWriter.