Is There an Empty Chair at Your Holiday Table?

At my Thanksgiving table this year, there will be three empty chairs.

I've lost a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a sister within six months of each other. All three professed to know Christ as their Savior, and this brings me great comfort.  As Mary said to Jesus after the death of her brother, Lazarus, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection."

But it still hurts.

I can still hear my sister-in-law Kay's classic "Bummer!" ringing in my ears when things don't go my way. My brother-in-law Luther's traditional dry humor resonates in my memory.  Whenever I would ask him how he liked a particular dish, he would declare that it "tastes like chicken." And the sharing of leftovers is not quite as satisfying without my sister Cindy making the rounds of the buffet table with her red heart plate.

Many of you may be staring at similarly empty chairs around your Thanksgiving table. You have equally quirky memories of times you took for granted with your loved ones, assuming they'd always be with you.

Yesterday I reread the account of the death of Lazarus. His two sisters were heartbroken. "Lord," they  said to him, "if you had been here, this would not have happened." Sometimes we feel this way too, that God must have been somewhere else the day our loved ones died.

This holiday season, if you are missing someone, take comfort from the words of John 11:5, "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Because we know Christ loves us as much as Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, we can be comforted.

While Jesus' love doesn't return our precious family members, it brings solace when we miss them.  We know their deaths weren't random acts of cruelty from the hand of an uncaring god.  Their deaths, like Lazarus', were allowed to happen to give us a chance to glorify him, even in our sadness. 

Especially in our sadness.

When Jesus heard of Lazarus' sickness, He said, ". . . it is for God's glory, so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4).

Take comfort this holiday season.  God loves you very much. And remember that one Christmas long ago, God loved us so much that he had an empty seat at his table on Christmas day.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).



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  1. I can so relate to this. With my friend Mark over Easter and with my grandmother 11 years ago the week before Thanksgiving.

    Thanks for reaching out to me :)

  2. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

    So glad to have been a measure of comfort today :) Like Joni Earikson Tada says, "Don't waste the pain."