I’m sure for people living in Isaiah’s time, the permanence of hills and mountains was something taken for granted. And so the prophet could suggest that God’s steadfast love was even more solid and immovable than that. The reassurance is no less needed in these days when we know that both technology and nature can and do destroy mountains. The words of the prophet still ring true: God’s love and compassion are with us in good times and bad. We might think it’s easier to recognize God’s presence when life is good and happiness fills our spirits. We enjoy gathering with friends to celebrate the good times, the successes in our lives and theirs. But we know from experience that it’s in the most difficult times in our lives that we are truly grateful for those who can simply be present to us in our fear, our anxiety, our sadness, and our grief. And it’s in those times, too, that God’s enfolding love surrounds us and keeps us going. The holidays often bring with them a mix of emotions. We enjoy being with family and friends but few of us can say that we don’t notice a tinge of sadness when we realize how many people we’ve lost over the years. This loss creeps up on us at the most unexpected times. It might be due to a variety of circumstances, not only death but also the transitory nature of modern life. Some of those people are only casual acquaintances but some have a deep impact on us and we feel the loss of their presence. As we remember them, it helps to thank God for bringing them into our lives. Being happy doesn’t make us grateful. Being grateful makes us happy. (Br. David Steindl-Rast) As you focus on your breathing, reflect on the happy and sad times in your life. Let your mind and heart absorb the truth of this statement. Be grateful for the simple presence of loved ones in your life. It’s easy to be grateful for what people do for us or give to us, but their importance goes beyond this. Be grateful, too, for loved ones you have lost to death. Know that they are still very much present to you, even if it’s in a very different way. Our grief is a measure of the depth of our love. If your grief is new and still raw, trust that it will become more gentle over time.
— from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent
by Diane M. Houdek