In an earlier blog, I noted the connection between Advent and Lent, and today I found another author doing the same thing (but saying it better!). Thomas McKenzie over at the Rabbit Room has written a wonderful blog titled “When Advent Fails.” I encourage you to read the entire thing, but here is my favorite part:
What happens when excitement and expectation ends in disappointment and calamity? What do you do when your Advent ends not in Christmas but in Good Friday? Expectations are not always fulfilled, hope is sometimes dashed. Sometimes this results in loss of life, as happened to my friends. Sometimes the loss is not as tragic, but no less real. Relationships end poorly, jobs fall through, dreams are not realized.
When someone is in the middle of their suffering, it is easy for an outsider to say “God is still with them.” That is true, and it is the message of Advent. Christ is with the suffering, the broken, the mourning. He knows what it means to endure horrific evil, and so he is the ultimate source of comfort and healing to the hurting.
At the same time, suffering does not always move quickly to hope. Sometimes hope is put on hold and mourning drags on. For those who are in the middle of their pain, God must be mediated in the silent affection of other human beings. Christ is incarnate in the tender compassion of the friend who says “I don’t understand it either” as he bursts into tears. The Christian who can set aside her need to control, her desire to “make it better,” and can sit in the awful pain of her friend becomes Jesus to that friend.
For those of you who are suffering right now, let me say a couple of things. Your pain is real and it has meaning. I encourage you to feel what you feel, to be as angry and sad and overwhelmed as you are. In the middle of your pain, please know that there is still hope for you because of Christ. I pray you will reveal your suffering to other people who can sit with you in the midst of it. I hope you will find some hope in this Advent, and in the Christ who has not given up on you.