an empty seat at the table

what to do with an empty seat at your table

I wrote this post last Thanksgiving. But I wanted to share it again. If you have an empty chair at your table this holiday, I pray that you will find comfort.

The holidays seem to be hard. The entire family is together. Except for them. They leave an empty seat…

One year ago, we were preparing for our first holiday without my brother. I was hoping this year would be a little easier. It isn’t any easier, but it is different. There is still a hole at our table and in our hearts that I’m not sure will ever be filled, for he left a giant hole in a very tragic way. Today, I want to talk about how to get through the holidays with joy when you have an empty seat (or seats) at your table. The “empty seat” can  represent any heartache; the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the inability to fulfill a dream that you have. It’s anything that can steal your Thanksgiving and your ability to have joy. And we all have an “empty seat”.

My prayer this month, has been that I will be able to write “David’s death” on my grateful tag for our Grateful Tree. Not because I don’t miss my brother terribly, but because God has asked me to be thankful in all things. Not for all things, but in them. This morning I read from my journal from a year ago. A year has given me an ability to see my empty chair from a different perspective. A year ago, I couldn’t even fathom thinking about writing ‘David’s death” on a grateful tag. But this year I can. There is still a hole in my heart, but my perspective on that hole he left is changing.


Paul has told us “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” I Thessalonians 5:18. We are only able to do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.

About a year ago, at Ann Voskamp’s website,, she made reference to an article written by John Bloom. He was talking about this specific verse and He used Jesus as our example. During the last supper, Jesus took the bread and gave thanks. He gave thanks not for the horror that He knew He was about to endure, but for what was to come out of it. John says this, “Jesus’ eyes were on His future joy. He got through the cross by not focusing on the cross but on the promised joy that would result from it. That’s where God wants your eyes, on the future joy He has promised you…”

The only way I will get through another holiday without my brother is not to focus on the loss of my brother, but on the good that I KNOW God will bring out of it. I must keep my eyes ever on Christ and remember that He knows the end from the beginning. My brother’s story is not over. God will do great things; I am sure of it.

As I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I have two choices. I can see the empty seat at our table with tremendous sadness and loss or I can see the empty seat as a symbol for what Christ has done for all of us and what He has yet to do.

dealing with grief during the holidays

He has asked me to rejoice in Him. And I will do that. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines… yet I will rejoice in the Lord” Habakkuk 3:17-18. There may be heartache all around us, but we still can find joy in our Lord. He is a big God and He can, HE WILL do big things.

“The kingdom of God is most clearly shown on earth when Christians gratefully suffer present trouble because they see a future weight of glory coming that makes everything this world throws at them as “light and momentary afflictions” in comparison 2 Corinthians 4:17… There is no circumstance that can steal your Thanksgiving.” John Bloom.

So when you see your “empty seat” during the holidays this year, remember this… You can choose to see it through eyes of sadness and despair and see the emptiness in it, or you can choose to see it with your gaze on Christ, and look at it with hope, with joy and with Thanksgiving.

I have a good friend, Maggie Cotton, who has suffered loss. God penned these words through her with a prayer she prayed…

Dear Lord, Our Father,

We pause this beautiful seasonal Sabbath morning in gratitude, in appreciation, in Thanksgiving.

We are Thankful.

We are thankful for your LOVE. we are thankful for your surpassing GRACE We are thankful for your VICTORY…

Lord, this week across America, many will be gathering around tables in Thanksgiving. Be there with us! Be at those tables.

Tables with not enough food.

Tables with not enough love.

Tables with not enough people.

Be there, dwell and remind us, bring vivid to our memory your victory, your surpassing Grace, and your Love.


… “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord” Habakkuk 3:18.


8 thoughts on “an empty seat at the table

  1. Thank you Heidi for putting sorrow into words!! But most importantly, thank your showing us the space where gratitude and joy can abide in our heartache.
    Today I am so grateful for you!!

  2. Thank you for your beautifully written post. Your courage and faith have been such a testimony and inspiration to me. I appreciate your open heart that fills so many others in their empty places.


    1. Your words mean so much… thank you for them. I am so thankful for a God who fills us with hope in all of our empty places.

    1. Thanks Shell. I’m thankful for a God who can take our broken and turn it into something beautiful.

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