By Sarah Bessey, Sarah Bessey's Field Notes, December 21, 2020. Sarah Bessey's first and most well-known book is Jesus Feminist. She and her friend Rachel Held-Evans began Evolving Faith, which holds retreats and provides communities for people who are exploring the faith they inherited. Sarah wrote this prayer for those who are "tired, heartbroken, estranged or isolated from loved ones, yearning for more while settling for less, broke, afraid, betrayed, struggling, addicted, disillusioned, lonely, doubting, numb, any or all sorts of things that aren’t showing up on the easily resolved Hallmark Christmas movies or the shiny-happy-Jesus-people," knowing "There is something about Christmas that makes the unbearable even more painful." We at Sacred Sorrows join Sarah in remembering, "your sorrow is not overlooked by God." May this prayer give you comfort during the holiday season.
I pray that God would be near to you, a strength to you. I pray for comfort. I pray for a friend who knows, a friend who sits in your sorrow without fear, a friend who doesn’t try to jolly you up.
I pray for endurance in your heart and in your mind and in your soul and in your strength, I pray for perseverance beyond what you think you can bear. I pray that you would be someone who does not give up but continues to take up the space you need. I pray you will know how to ask for what you want. I pray for a community that meets you where you are at.
I pray for comfort. I pray for warmth in your home. I pray for candles and for lamplight, for good books and for movies, for long walks in the darkness lit only by street lights or stars. May your voice crack with tears when you sing on your own this year that there is a thrill of hope and the weary world rejoices because you are longing for a bit of rejoicing. May you fall asleep humming good songs of hope. I see you trying to sing in your sorrow and I think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen.
I pray for courage. No one ever told us how much courage it takes to have a broken-heart, did they? No one told us how brave we would have to be to simply carry on. And yet here you are. I pray for courage to rise up in you so that you can get up out of bed for another day and do what you need to do to carry on. I pray for an appetite to eat good food and I pray you’ll go to bed on time and sleep well, I pray you’ll be good to your own self in the midst of all this. I pray for your hands to find work you enjoy doing and for creativity to give you a respite.
I pray for you to find the intimacy of the Holy Spirit in these days. I have often found that it is in the wilderness and in the darkness and in the loneliness that the Spirit draws near. I pray for the active and intimate presence of the mystery of God to be close to you in ways you couldn’t name or explain or understand. I pray for dreams that will comfort the hours of sleep you are given.
I pray for peace in you and through you and about you. I pray for glimmers of reconciliation. I pray for bad jokes and for the kind of laughter that makes you want to whoop and pound the table a time or two. I pray for friends who become family and I pray for family to become friends.
I pray for God to be near to you in ways you never could have expected. I pray that this will give birth to a great compassion in you, a love for our suffering world like you’ve never known.
After all, now you’re in the company of the people of the unanswered prayers: we can hold both hope and grief together.
I know there is something for which you cannot even pray, there is no faith left in you: I pray for that unnamed thing, too, I have a bit of faith and you can have it. I don’t know what it is in you but I know you carry it and the better thing is that God knows.
I have always been so thankful that Jesus is described in Isaiah as a man of sorrows, a man acquainted with grief. This God, I can let into that inner chamber of grief: he is acquainted with my sorrow and will deal so gently, like a good mother, with our broken-hearts.
I pray for hope to rise, unbidden and unforced and surprising, like a flower breaking through the cement in a parking lot. I pray for you to tend that tendril of hope like a gardener, protect it, let it grow wild and unexpected into the places you least anticipated.
I pray for opportunities to serve others in your life. I pray for Jesus to bring you people into whom you can sow your inexhaustible love and your flagging energy even now. I pray for eyes to see the company of the broken-hearted around you and that you will become a place of rest for each other.
I pray you will find something or someone to love in these days.
I pray for real reciprocity of relationship – that for everything you receive, you are able to give someday. I pray for the prayers of children to be spoken over you. I pray for the love and joy and the peace and the hope of Advent to be yours. Maybe this isn’t your season for celebration but the good news is that Advent and even Christmas isn’t just for the ones who feel happiness; it’s also for the ones who are afraid and wondering, who are refugees and who are broken-hearted. You, as you are right now, were written into the Story from the beginning and you have a place here, you belong at this Christmas table.
And I dare to pray for joy for you. I pray that everything you are sowing in grief, you will reap in joy. It will be a different sort of joy, we both know that. There is the uncomplicated joy of those who haven’t suffered and then there is the joy that is born of suffering, the joy that is deeper for the loss that preceded, the joy that is in seeing redemption and yet knowing the scars you bear from the wounds are beautiful to those with eyes to see.
And may the Light break through the darkness to warm you and guide you somehow.
We have turned towards the sun now. The days will imperceptibly grow longer again. We won’t be able to notice the moment it changes over but now we know what we’re spinning towards, one day at a time, one morning probably sooner than we know, we will wake up to the long day of light.