For families all across the world, this holiday season is uniquely special. Many families will join together this year after several holidays spent apart. While gathering safely is an amazing blessing, it may be combined with some unannounced emotions. Loved ones that celebrated with us in 2019 or even 2020 are no longer with us in 2021. That means there will be an empty seat at the table. For my family, this will be the second year that Kayla’s seat will be empty. Although I have had the experience of the empty seat, it still requires practical and Godly perspective to have hope this holiday season. Allow me to share what the empty can mean and what it should not mean.
The empty seat can mean…
The empty seat represents heartbreak. I wholeheartedly believe we do not grieve those that we do not love. Therefore, a loved one’s absence causes heartbreak. That heartbreak can be magnified and multiplied during the holidays in multiple ways. It can be magnified as you are seeing holiday memories from the past or remembering good times. The heartbreak can be multiplied as you see other families together and happy, or continuously hear how the holidays are best spent with the ones you love. If you are not careful, that can cause death and grief to sting. My hopeful reminder comes from my belief that the sting of death was swallowed up in victory through my Savior (1 Corinthians 15:54) The thought of my sister’s death does not have to sting because I have hope in God that He conquered death, hell, and the grave. Kayla now has the victory and I have peace.
When I look at Kayla’s empty seat, I think of what she replaced it with. I ask myself, “If I were her, would I want a seat at the table or a literal seat in heavenly places with complete healing.” Heaven is my choice every day and I know that Heaven was her choice. In fact for Kayla, Heaven was her prize. Kayla couldn’t wait to “make it” to Heaven as she would say. Heaven being her prize means that healing is her portion. Everything that this earth plagued her with is now gone. So it’s with that perspective that I may look at her empty seat and cry tears of joy. Kayla is completely healed in paradise and I couldn’t be happier for her.
The empty seat should not mean…
Many people decide to honor their lost loved ones by decorating the empty seat or still making a place card with their name on it. While those are nice gestures, be very careful not to make the empty seat an idol. Now I’m not saying that anyone would literally worship an empty seat. I do want to warn grievers, however, to not make the empty seat an object that you fixate on for the rest of the year. That’s not healthy at all. An idol is defined as an object of extreme devotion or a form or appearance visible but without substance. No seat or decoration can bring back the substance of the loved one that was lost. Attempting to make something with no substance equal the value they had in your life will leave you heartbroken. If you decide to honor your loved one with a physical representation of their absence, I urge you to monitor your emotions towards the object and do everything in moderation. Nothing can replace the loss of that loved one and fixating or worshipping an idol will cause much more pain in the long run. God vividly instructs believers to put no idols before Him (Exodus 20:3). That’s not because He wants no competition against Him, but because there is no competition. He is the one with all power and the only one that can truly help you get through this.
Absence and grief have a way of making you feel alone unlike anything in this world. I urge and plead with you today to not let isolation set in your heart. Find community, fast! Being by yourself may feel like the best option or your only option but I promise you that it is not. For those that feel this way, I pray that you find a community to love you and hold you up. My sincere prayer for you is that God pulls on the hearts of people and guides them straight to you. I pray someone calls or knocks on your door saying, “Something told me I needed to check on you!” Then you will know that the Holy Spirit has led them to you. I pray that you see God in someone this holiday to prove to you that He is real, and he cares. Even if you feel alone with a million people around, I pray that the Holy Spirit who is a comforter (John 14:26) comes and meets you right where you are.
If you don’t know the God that I write about, I sincerely invite you to let Him in your heart today. If you would like to know more about Him, comment below or email us at griefplushope.com. We would to introduce Him to you. Remember to add hope to everything you do.