Editor’s note: As part of FMS’ 2017 Advent blog series, missioner Cindy Mizes recognizes God’s welcoming presence in the midst of grief and anguish. The photo is from the top of Blue Mountain (Highest peak in Jamaica) which she climbed with others last month.

I would never have imagined that I would enter into a world of personal grief while serving as missioner. One year ago, on the joyous day of my commissioning, that thought was the furthest from my mind. But as fate would have it, both of my parents and a beloved aunt would die within months of each other before my first year as a missioner was completed.

My dear father, Herbert, was the last to leave this earthly life. He passed away peacefully the day after Thanksgiving Day as I was en route back to the US to tell him ‘goodbye.’ While I was preparing for his inevitable death, I was also in the midst of making an unexpected major change in my ministry which was causing me anguish and inconsolable sadness.

I could easily drown in an ocean of grief. But instead, I welcomed it because it is in the grips of that raging storm of sadness and suffering where I encounter God’s saving presence.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for the kingdom of God is theirs.” The darkness, hurt, and fear which shrouded me during my struggle was certainly illumined by God’s divine presence. And for a brief moment, my sadness united me with those whose lives are a continuum of inconsolable oppression and suffering as they endure a life of poverty, deaths of loved ones, and rejection by a society too focused on material gain and wealth.

“I was a stranger, and you comforted me.” My community families in both the US and Jamaica held me in their prayers and comforted me with consoling words and hugs. In this ironic and unexpected twist where the one called to serve is the one being served, I learned an important lesson: I am not much good to anyone if I don’t accept the healing love offered by others in times of my own brokenness.

I get it now, God.

God never intended for us to experience death, grief, or even suffering, and he certainly doesn’t “cause” death. It was sin, our own human weakness, and our broken human condition that separated us from the Father and from a life of eternal happiness in paradise.

However, the Father’s promise of eternal life was renewed when Christ entered into this world as a tiny, vulnerable baby born in a dark, cold cave because no one was willing to open the door of their heart to welcome him in. In order to regain a life of eternal joy, I must do what the innkeepers on that first Christmas did not: welcome Christ into my heart and live according to his Word.

“Those who walk in darkness will see a great light.” My love for you, God, is invincible and I will fearlessly enter into a world of darkness and suffering with the light of your love. Make my heart big enough to welcome all strangers seeking comfort and strong enough to sustain my trust in you so I can build your kingdom on earth.

Reflection Question: In helping others let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy. What can you do today to comfort someone who is sorrowful?