The endurance of love for a loved one who has died or one who is suffering, especially at Christmastime, can at once be a weight that pulls you down and a buoy that lifts you up. It pulls you down because love exercised where hope is lost leads to disappointment. It can lift you up because love exercised along with hope, even in difficulty, can keep your head above the waters of pain.
So then, your flailing may in fact be evidence of enduring love. And love is from God.
This at-once-ness of two competing experiences with love is something that is connected to the very heart of Christmas. The reality is that Jesus came down into a dark and troubled world full of sin, weight, and sadness and shouldered the burden himself. For us this means that darkness is definitely real, but so is the hope. And these will remain until he comes again. For now we are struggling, but he is lifting.
The world and our experience of it is filled up with difficulty and often overflows with pain. Memories, especially of holiday cheer, are supposed to be sweet. However, they often aren’t, and even when they are (in the presence of enduring love that has lost hope), they lack fullness. They are mixed and it is possible for the mix to go sour on us and it can even begin to fester. Jesus came down into this festering slop for you. He knows. He has clean clothes for your wounded soul to put on and a warm hearth where your troubled heart can rest.
Take heart, what you’re experiencing right now isn’t a new problem. In fact, this dramatic contrast of darkness and pain with light and hope can be seen in the prophecy of Jesus’s birth in Isaiah 8:22-9:2.
“And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish…”
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.”
The darkness of sin and suffering requires the light of God to shine. This light is Jesus. Only in him can we look at pain honestly, feel it’s full weight, and hope feebly while he holds us up. For, “in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17), even you at Christmastime.