Ryan is the Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory, NC. He is the host of the "In The Room" podcast, and the author of 8 Hours, Or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster.  

An Empty Seat At The Table

An Empty Seat At The Table


At my holiday table, there sits an empty seat.  The seat is empty because my late husband, Bob, died of colon cancer in 2005.  The years following his death, my holiday table was filled with deep sorrow and even despair, as I tried living life and raising our children without him. 

God blessed my table three years ago with Dale, a Godly man who is both a wonderful husband to me and an awesome spiritual leader to my children.  Dale doesn’t sit in Bob’s seat, however; Dale has his own seat at my holiday table, filling my table once again with deep joy and contentment.  Yet, I have been caught off guard at times when memories of Bob have returned, uninvited, bringing tears to my eyes during the holidays.

This season, I decided to find a way for my heart to honor both of my wonderful husbands, to express deep joy and gratitude for Dale’s presence as well as sorrow at Bob’s absence.  I thought I’d try celebrating the holidays this year by feasting on God’s Word.  He pointed me to Psalm 103.  

"Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."

The truth of the matter is that while Bob is absent from my table, he is in reality present at the Lord’s table.  The Lord faithfully surrounded Bob with godly men and women who pointed Bob to Jesus; Bob accepted life through Christ a few weeks before he lost his battle to cancer.  Psalm 103 is a great reminder that God redeemed Bob’s life, healed his cancer, renewed his youth, and crowned him with love and compassion.

And now, my inmost being is beginning to understand that I must praise our Lord for Bob’s presence at His table.  I’m also learning about God’s sorrow over the empty chairs at His table, empty because people have either rejected His invitation to join Him, or they don’t even know they’ve been invited.  The Lord is redirecting my sorrow over death toward individuals who don’t know Him yet, toward inviting people to join Him at His table. 

What does your holiday table look like?  Do you, too, have an empty seat because you’ve lost a loved one?  Will you join me this holiday season in praising God, and in remembering all His benefits, especially that He sent His Son, the Lamb of God, to redeem us all from death.  Can you also make room at your table for someone who is lonely, and then extend to this person God’s invitation to join Him at His table?


What are some of the challenges you face during the holidays? Join the conversation and leave  a comment here...



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