Day 13: “I Wish Someone Understood The Depth Of My Sorrow. I Feel Alone With It Right Now.”
“There are some seasons that you can’t do anything to change. You can’t fix it. I think in our instant society, where any family problem or relationship can be solved during a one-hour television show, we have an unconscious expectation that things will work out to a pleasant solution, and the solution will come along by the end of the week. The depth of the pool of sorrow that I swam through was not so simple.” -- George 1
Sorrow is a constant companion of those going through crisis. Most crises involve some kind of loss: loss of health, of youth, of independence, of loved ones, of job, of friend(s), of identity, of structure, of a marriage, of home, of economic stability, and of pride. Loss brings sorrow. Part of the sorrow is the loss itself. Part of the sorrow is in a deep and abiding sense of failure. One woman relates an experience she had in the wake of her divorce: “I received a card congratulating me on my divorce. When I opened the card, it sent me into a bout of tears. I hadn’t gotten married with the intent of someday having my heart ripped out through a painful divorce. While I may have wanted the divorce due to the repeated unfaithfulness of my spouse, I certainly didn’t want to celebrate it!”2
In some regards this woman’s sorrow is the sorrow of anyone going through a crisis. No one gets married with the intent of that marriage ending in a divorce. The divorce feels like a failure, and a personal one at that. Sorrow flows from the loss, but also from the sense that “I failed!” Likewise, no one makes plans for the future planning on being diagnosed with a major health problem, be it cancer, or Parkinson’s, or Hodgkin’s, or MS, a stroke, a heart-attack, or any of the other debilitating illnesses that are out there. Though we know with our heads that we are not responsible for the onset of such health challenges, nevertheless there is a sense of personal failure involved in such diseases. Sorrow flows from the loss of health and mobility and independence, but it also flows from the sense that “I didn’t have it in me to stay healthy” (or in the case of a parent with a sick child, “I’m responsible for his/her condition because I passed on a bad gene to him/her”). Similarly, no one takes a job planning on being fired or on being laid-off. Sorrow flows not only from the loss of economic security and the shaking of self-identity, but also from the sense of failure attached to the loss (even if the loss was the result of nothing more than corporate downsizing or reorganization).
The sorrow that comes from these major life-altering loses is overwhelming and isolating. There is a sense that no one understands the depth of our pain. That’s especially true when our friends or family members offer us platitudes or feeble attempts at comfort. Such words sound hallow, insincere, and unfeeling. That just makes us feel even more alone and isolated in our sorrow (It may help to know that such words are genuine attempts at comfort, but that they flow from the anxiety of the comforter who feels inadequate to offer words of real empathy and comfort. In other words, their hearts are in the right place even if their words are not).
Through the ages God’s people have experienced the same sorts of sorrows that we feel and for the same reasons. The Bible itself is full of laments of sorrow, and so the Bible can help us shape our sorrow and the ways that we voice it so that we are voicing it in faith. An example is Psalm 6:
“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.”
In our sorrow it helps to know that we can turn to God and be fully known, even in the depth of our sorrow. We can express and voice our sorrow to God, for in Him we will find complete empathy. We have a constant, listening ear in God. God is able to listen to us and empathize with us completely, too, because in Jesus He has become one of us. It is not as though God were a disembodied spirit that is only able to sympathize with us like we might sympathize with our dog or cat when they are in distress. Jesus is one of us, and He knows the full range of our emotions – not just as the creator of those emotions, but also as one who has personally experienced our emotions, even our sorrow. Jesus knows (from experience) what sorrow is, and He knows our sorrow. And He has promised not to leave us alone in it, but to hold us up and bear us up through it.
As the opening quote of today’s devotion says, not all the seasons of life can be changed or fixed. Sometimes we are called upon to carry a cross for a season – for a long period of time. Some of the crises that we experience in life will be things that change us forever. But God promises to be with us through it all, no matter what may come our way. He promises to eventually change your present sorrow into joy. That doesn’t mean that the present crisis will end pleasantly in a week’s time. But it does mean that you will learn to laugh again, learn to be at ease again, learn to look back over your life and not be ashamed of anything that has happened, while at the same time being able to look toward the future with hope. Hope may need to be redefined, depending on the nature of the crisis faced, but God will supply whatever needs you have. He is a loving God, one who is personally concerned about the welfare of His children. As He turned David’s sorrow into joy and praise, He will do the same for you!
“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, save me!" The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you” (Psalm 116:1-7).
Prayer: Lord, It helps to know that you know the depth of my sorrow. Please turn my sorrow into joy in Your good time and according to Your good purpose. Fill me with your peace, and remind me of the joy that is found in belonging to You. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
1 The Art of Helping: What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting, by Briggs, Lauren Littauer; Life Journey, Colorado Springs, CO; c. 2003; page 31.
2 Ibid p. 32.