Are you experiencing a sense of loss at this time of year when everyone else seems to be celebrating?
The Christmas season can be one of the loneliest, most difficult times of the year if you are already feeling alone or have recently lost someone.
I asked my Mom, who has been experiencing a season of deep loss, to share on my blog what has given her hope this year.
As you read it, I hope you, too, will be encouraged that you are never alone.
Here’s my mom, Joyce:
Don’t let your reason for joy be something you may eventually lose.
That was the point God seemed to be driving home to my heart this year as I experienced the final loss of my dear husband to Alzheimer’s. Gradually losing who he really was – mentally and emotionally – years before his passing was even more painful than his actual death. At first, I was able to hide my grief as I was losing him. But even though my husband was still around physically, the joy of my life was lost! Gradually, I began trying to fill the void with things that I thought would fulfill me– hosting elaborate church events, decorating my house for expected company or the change of seasons, working to make my garden a picture of nature’s beauty, arranging and playing difficult piano offertories at church, and the list would go on and on. Initially, my husband would follow me around dutifully, although unable to contribute as he once had.
After his death, the realization that I was physically alone hit hard and the aloneness became increasingly unbearable! Four months after his passing, I finally hit my lowest point of emptiness. No longer interested in hosting activities alone, creating lovely decorations, or arranging piano solos, I cried out to God to let me find another husband to share life’s experiences with so I could return to the person I thought He wanted me to be – anyone, but a widow!
But God had other plans.
The very week of my husband’s death I began to experience severe nerve pain resulting from a later diagnosed herniated disc. The pain was the final blow in robbing me of the enjoyment I once found in activities I loved. Now, instead of thinking I could conquer whatever life challenged me with, I realized I was not only a new widow, but still in pain after my back surgery and walking with a cane and a definite limp for many months to come. I had lost all sense of joy!
My struggle with emotional and physical pain was compounded with the realization that I was facing a loss of identity and depression as a new widow. In my desperation, I had finally come to the place where I abandoned myself – and all expectations for my life – to God alone. I had lost so much that I no longer cared what else I lost! I told God that all I wanted was an intimate relationship with Jesus again. I knew in my heart that His peace was stronger than the temporary satisfaction of any personal accomplishment. Now I began to hunger and thirst for Him like I never had before. The truth of Jeremiah 29:13 became so true in my life:
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Gradually, His love and comfort put to rest my imagined “need” to find another mate. His strength enabled me to walk straight, with head held high because I regained recognition of who I was in God’s eyes….with or without a cane……with or without a husband….with or without chronic pain….and with or without facing another loss!
When I was able to travel from Virginia to California to visit three of my children and several grandchildren, I had to fly as a single disabled passenger, a label I hated to be associated with! But, the joy I experienced in spending time with my family once I arrived on the West Coast helped to soothe the losses I had previously experienced.
At one point in my trip, I had to take a train from Central to Southern California to see one of my children and ultimately lost my suitcase. Except for the toiletries, cosmetics, and medications in my carry-on bag, I was left with only the clothes on my back for the remaining five days of my trip. When repeated efforts failed to locate the luggage, I realized I would fly home without the suitcase and I had lost all my favorite jewelry, gifts for some of my grandchildren, and a couple of my favorite outfits and shoes. I couldn’t help but compare this loss with all the other losses I had experienced this year. Suddenly, loss of the suitcase and its contents mattered little to me because I already held in my possession the greatest joy that life can afford. This fulfilling joy in my Savior is something that can never be lost!
Today I know that my joy does not depend upon things or people that I may someday lose. My joy is fully dependent upon Jesus! My identity is in Him. And not only can I never lose Him, He will never let me out of His sight. I am not alone this Christmas, after all. And neither are you!
Joyce Smith is the mother of author Cindi McMenamin plus three other creative and gifted adult children, and “Grammy” to nine grandchildren. She is a professional musician, having begun as a church pianist at age 12, and was a choral director for several years, and composer and arranger of some published Christian music. She owned and operated a costume rental shop for 13 years in Washington state where she designed costumes for 30 different well-known stage productions. Joyce now resides in Virginia with her faithful cat, “Lady Grey” and is still employed as a church pianist.