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Weddings are my favorite. I love all the hoop-la and energy of getting ready for the big day. I love the groom in a tux and the bride in white. I love the children tossing rose petals and carrying satin pillows with plastic rings tied on them. I love the cake and the dancing. I love all of it. But sometimes I think weddings should come with a warning label, reminding the bride and groom that being wife and husband is much harder than planning a wedding.
Over the past few years, we’ve felt helpless as several couples we care for deeply have divorced. We’ve counseled the brokenhearted who would have done anything to stop the split. And, we’ve listened to the worn out who couldn’t see past their very real hurt and disappointment to find a way to stay.
Also in our years in ministry, we’ve seen couples who have spent a lifetime together torn apart by dementia and death. I’ve held the hands of widows who wondered how they would ever make it through a day without their husbands by their sides. We’ve watched the slumped shoulders of men who buried their one true love far too soon.
What I’ve observed is this, it’s those firsts afterward that hurt the most. The first birthday or holiday can feel like a dagger in the heart. What was a great celebration the year before is now a day colored by grief and questions.
Anniversaries are often the hardest. After fifteen or fifty years of celebrating together, there is just emptiness. And it’s okay to grieve but we also need to remember we have a God who brings beauty from ashes.
My friend’s husband left her for someone else after fifteen years of marriage. She poured herself into making sure her children knew how much she loved them. But many nights she cried herself to sleep wondering what she could have done differently. Now, five years later she is remarried to a wonderful man whose wife passed away a few years ago. Together they are building a new life, with new dreams and new hopes.
Another dear woman we know buried her husband after his long battle with dementia. They’d shared a lifetime of memories and suddenly she was the only one who remembered. While she had grieved the life they’d shared as his illness progressed, the months following his funeral were especially difficult as she navigated a new normal. Now, while she misses her beloved deeply, she has used her own loss to help others find hope in their own dark days.
Maybe this year’s anniversary isn’t so much a celebration as it is a sorrow. May I remind you of three things:
1. You are not alone. Even in that darkest valley, the Lord who loves you with an everlasting love is with you.
2. Your tears are not unnoticed. When the ache of grief feels too much to bear, remember our tears are kept in the Lord’s bottle and recorded in His book (Psalm 56:8). He sees and He knows.
3. You have hope. Jesus reminded us there would be trouble in this world. He knew the ache of betrayal, the depth of grief, and yet He assures us of His peace (John 14:27), the truest peace that opens the door to the hope we have in Him.
When the hard days come, we can be assured God’s love is real. And we find assurance of His tender cares and mercies throughout Scripture. Rest there, even in your grief, knowing He is at work and He brings new mercies every morning.
If you or someone you know is facing a hard anniversary this year, books like You are Free by Rebekah Lyons, Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs, and Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong offer Biblical truth and practical encouragement for the difficult seasons in life. And if you know someone who is facing a hard anniversary, you can send an encouraging Ecard. Most of all, reach out! One of our greatest gifts to others is simply being present in the happy times and the hard times.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these related articles:
When You Don’t Know What to Say or Do
God WILL Use This
Loving in the Tough Times
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Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up as you are already doing.
1 Thess 5:11 CSB