The Uninvited Guest: Grief in a Time of Joy

As a child there is no better time of year than Christmas. The gaiety, the lights, the cousins, uncles and grandparents, the sweet treats, and above all, the presents.

Once you become an adult, you usually land in one of two camps. You either hate Christmas, because it has no special meaning for you, or you hate the painful memories it brings of happier times or of unbroken relationships.

Death and estrangement are common to the human experience, so there is no reason to hide the scars or numb the pain during this time of the year.

Rather, we must stare frankly in the face of any loneliness, estrangement, and pain we are experiencing and decide what we will do with this uninvited guest to our Christmas holiday.

Take a good long look into its dark eyes and ask it, “What are you going to teach me?”

This is not to say that death, illness, divorce, childlessness, or estrangement is something you necessarily did or some lesson you are being “taught.” No, it is owning the reality of where you are today and deciding how you will react to it.

It is acknowledging that “it” did, in fact, happen. Your spouse became ill, she walked out of your relationship, the marriage is over, your child has cancer, you lost your job and your home. It happened.



What new strength am I going to learn from this uninvited guest? Will he turn me into wormwood or will I rise again one day like a Phoenix?

My mother, who was well liked by all and loved by her family, was not a very introspect person, but I never forgot one thing she told me when I was a teenager having a morose spell:

“You will be alone in this life. Your parents will die or leave you, your spouse may die or leave you, and you will only have yourself. You will have times of being alone so you must prepare for this.”

I have forgotten whatever crisis of the soul I was experiencing at that time, but I never forgot those words of wisdom. And time has proven that she was right, but she was wrong about one thing. You can’t really prepare for adversity of the soul, or can you?

Don’t miss the important point in which I am struggling to make here. Pain and adversity will come and it will come in different circumstances and with different people, but what she was saying is that—that’s okay, don’t fear it, it is normal.

That is, we must understand in our modern times of medicine, computers, cell phones, curbside pickup, on-demand Netflix, or whatever modern conveniences we may partake of, we will NOT be insulated from adversity and pain.

The uninvited guest of misery will knock on your door and he will come in.

As long as we are in this world, we will experience the tragedy of being human. There is no way to escape its long arm or to outrun it. There is no one immune to its appearance, no matter how rich, beautiful, educated, or talented.

People often associate the word grief with the death of a loved one, but grief takes many forms. You may cry for your estranged adult child, the spouse you still love who has moved on, or the way you failed yourself and those you love.

Pain is the author of epic tragedies and ballads, beautiful paintings and marble monuments. Pain builds something in us that we would not otherwise be able to express or experience. Sorrow, tragedy, and pain transcends the material into the spiritual.

It humbles us as nothing else can and it can empower us to fight the darkness lest we sink in it and our ship disappears beneath the foamy waves.

Pain is the catalyst that either moves us or sinks us. And it is our calling, yea our very duty, to rise above it so that one day, unexpectedly, a smile spreads across our face as quickly as the sun peeks through a storm cloud and blinds us with light.

A genuine, joyous, from the heart lightness that spreads through your very being and ignites the heart still awaits you. The storm will pass and you will be forever changed. Perhaps that is what the point was all along.

Holidays don’t have to be painful forever, but for a season. You will come out triumphant in the end. Don’t set a plate for your uninvited guest, but acknowledge its presence, then send it out into the dark night.



God tells us that above all we are to guard our hearts. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This is a very profound statement on the human heart and has multidimensions of meaning.

First, God doesn’t say He will guard our hearts, but He commands us to do so. We are responsible for not allowing bitterness and hate to fill our hearts. We are responsible for what we allow into our hearts and allow to take root: unforgiveness, bitterness, and pride.

God also tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Indeed.

This means, we cannot trust our feelings. Everything must be based on who He says He is and not how we feel about our dark night of the soul. And right now, you need a road map.


Do not believe the lies of the enemy that your life is over. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If you don’t know the Lord today and your pain is overwhelming you, why not reach out to the one who knows you more than anyone during this painful time. The I Am knows you intimately and knows the pain you are experiencing.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Ask God into your heart today, and he will be found by you. You are not alone in your pain or in your grief. It happens to us all at one time or another.

Jordan Peterson will tell you to go make your bed. And he isn’t wrong, but I would say, lift up your head and fight the enemy of despair. You are an overcomer and joy will come in the morning. Cast off the weight of the enemy and fight like your very life depends on it—because it does.

Your enemy is not the tragedy, the pain, or the loneliness but the tools the real enemy of your soul uses to make you give up, give in, and to put you in a pit of despair so deep you will never free yourself.

Life is a gift wrapped both in tragedy and in joy. So shed your tears over happy memories now lost and gone forever, it is your human story.

But may the wind fill your sails and lift your ship and may your broken heart be mended. Above all, may you experience the real peace and joy of Christmas. God bless!