“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~C.S. Lewis
Yesterday was the start of the Advent season, a season of expectant waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ into the world. It is a time of waiting and of hope.
And yet, I am finding myself surrounded by people who are waiting in grief.
My step-cousin disappeared over a year ago without a trace. His body was found last week, and the family is waiting for autopsy results for answers about his death. Some of those answers are likely to never be found.
Another friend has just found out that her sister-in-law has stage 4 cancer, and the sister-in-law’s husband is also battling cancer. Their family waits for surgery results today to learn more about her prognosis and what is coming for them.
Two friends have just spent lengthy sojourns at the bedsides of dear friends in their last days. One of these friends traveled across the country to accompany her friend on her final journey through hospice. While both of these waits have now ended, they faced a waiting for death along side of those they loved.
Another friend’s husband lost both parents last weekend. Their family waits as funeral arrangements are made and they face the grief of a dual loss all at the same time.
While I am not in this moment touched by circumstances causing the kind of grief that each of these people are facing, I have had experiences of grief that, as C.S. Lewis notes, felt much like fear. I think, for me, it was fear that the grief might be more than I could bear as I waited for healing to come.
Waiting itself can even feel much like fear—fear of disappointment, fear of loss, fear of heartache at what might come, fear of the worst, fear that the waiting will never end.
In this season of waiting and of preparing for the miracle of God choosing to become human, it seems like an odd juxtaposition to be surrounded by grief and waiting for death. But then, God came to earth and died, and as a human knew what it was like to wait for death himself. And that belief that God knows what it is like as a human to walk through this vale of tears—that he knows what it is like to suffer, to fear, to grieve, and to die—that is what keeps me from walking away from Christianity when I get fed up with other parts of it.
So perhaps this is still a season of hope, if only the hope that we do not walk alone. Perhaps being surrounded by such grief and fear and pain is a fitting place to be in this season of expectant waiting because it reminds me of the value of what we are waiting for.
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