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Posts Tagged ‘Sorrow’

“You’re made to do hard and holy things
— because there’s no other way to get to the happy and holy things.”
Ann Voskamp

This week my mind has been swaying back and forth, between the quote above, and a line in a song. Both quotes have a common thread … tough stuff.

Can we really experience, can we really understand happiness, if we have not experienced tough stuff?

For me, to answer that I just need to look at our three kids. Three miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, and the sorrow that accompanied each, make the life I get to share with my three kids so much sweeter. I know how hard and holy those times were … and make me understand the happy and holy times today.

“Earth has no sorrow,
that heaven can’t heal.”

Every one of us knows what sorrow is, knows what it feels like, knows the darkness that accompanies it, as though the goal of the sorrow were to envelope us, like a dark cloak. John 16:33 reminds us that sorrow is to be expected, but …

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

There is rest for the weary, for those who are in the midst of tough stuff, that shakes us to the core. But even the tough stuff is holy, and can bring us to the healing of heaven.

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Ever cried in your pillow? How about punched something (a wall, a tree)? Ever stood in a forest and screamed at the top of your lungs? Or stared out the window, but your thoughts were so far away, you didn’t see anything? Ever sighed from a place so deep inside that you wondered if there was any air left in your body? Have you ever waved fists up in the air, while stating your sorrowful case before God?

Ever lamented?

Though the Bible has ample examples of lamenting (the Psalms, Job, and, of course, Lamentations are full of lamenting), it is not something that we often see, or do, in our churches. I am not sure that church is the place where lamenting should occur, but the absence of this practice (at church) can make people think that it is not something that we should do … period.

Often our christian circles can be so … clean, happy, perfect …

UNREAL!

We are not living on the side of eternity, we are living lives in this temporal, sin-filled worlds, with sin-filled bodies and minds. We live lives of sorrow, disappointment, worry, sickness, heartbreak and agony. To live authentically does not mean we paste a smile on our faces and sing Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

To lament is to pound our chests, and, with fountains falling from our faces, cry out,

“God, I hurt!”

“God, I don’t know where you are in this!”

“God, did you leave me? Because I feel so alone.”

“God, why did you allow my enemies to do this to me?”

“My God, why did you …

forsake (abandon) me?”

David lamented.

Job lamented.

Jeremiah lamented.

Rachel lamented.

Jesus lamented.

To lament is to powerfully, passionately voice our sorrow, our agony. To lament is to pour out your heart. To lament is to be the most real we can be. To lament to to come to the end of our rope … resulting in the abdicating of power, of control of ability to do it alone, anymore.

When we lament, we speak, we cry, we moan in the most pure and beautiful language to God’s ears. To lament is to be on our way to acknowledging that we cannot do it (life) without Him.

God can handle our laments … our God has broad shoulders, and he wants us to lay the weight of our world on them.

 

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“Depression is an ink that stains everything it touches
A black hole that swallows all that comes near”
-The Beaver (movie)

I do not personally know the truth or fallacy in the quote above. I do know that as I look back at times when I was sad, when I was feeling downcast those words are so true. Looking back on those periods in my life, I can see the stains that were left on those around me, even today.

It is easy to forget, or not even be aware, that we are part of a bigger world than just ourselves, and that things that happen to us, affect those around us. It is the relational evidence of the scientific fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So when we are overwhelmed with pain or sorrow or frustrations, we are not the only ones to feel the effects … all those closest to us feel our reactions, and then they, in turn, also respond.

As a mom (I cannot speak for dads) I am naturally predisposed to guilt. I can look over the well-intended mothering that I have done, and see errors that I made that will surely result in therapy for my kids in years to come. Yes, I have forced them to clean their plates, at times. Yes, I yelled at them more than once (a day). Yes, I sent them to their rooms to await discipline … and forgot them. Yes, I made them clean their rooms. Yes, they are all aware that that their not at all skinny parents have skinny dipped (that one may send them to therapy for longer and sooner than any other, if their faces turning green when they discovered this is any indicator).

There are certain periods in our life together, when I thought I was hiding my own disappointments and sadness with life’s circumstances so well, and as I look back, and look at changes in their lives, I am aware that too were stained by my sadness. It is such a guilt-ridden thing when I see those stains that they wear, because of me. My inability, at times, to manage and deal with events in my life better, have permanently stained my children …

I am coming full circle now, though. And I am looking to see purpose in suffering, I am looking to see good from bad. I am looking to see that something positive, not just negative, can come from those stains. And I am beginning to see it.

I see a daughter’s sensitivity to a friend who is being stained by sadness and illness in her home. I see a son’s expression of his friends need of God. I see a daughter’s desire to go to those in desperate pain and need, in a place I would not want to go, to show love and mercy. Those times of sorrow for me, that were permanently etched into the beings of my children, have altered their hearts. They have been able to take the stains that I have caused, and are wearing them as certificates of accomplishment and experience. And these stains are being used to reach out to others, more desperate than their mother ever was.

The redemptive way that God can take our pain, and mold it into something beautiful for others is something I do not expect to ever understand this side of heaven. But, I am thankful that the stains I may have caused, have not swallowed the futures of my children.

“God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;

and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;

the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son (daughter).

Revelation 21:4-7

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“I have nothing left … not for work, not for my kids, not for my husband, not for any part of my life that demands something of me. I have no more strength, no more energy, no more solutions. I am at the end of myself.”

As I listened to those words, I heard her heart … she had reached the end of her solutions, her strength, her abilities. She did not know what to do, nor did she have the energy to fake it any longer. She was desperate, in a position of having to rely rather than having anything to offer to others.

As I shared in her sorrow, I soon realized that, although my heart and desire was to help her ‘fix’ her woes, I was not her solution, I was not her Savior. I was simply ears to hear, and arms to hold. With that realization, I felt the immensity of the weight that she was bearing. After all, haven’t we all had moments at the end of our ropes … at the end of us?

Certainly it would seem that we mere mortals periodically get to the end of our ropes, with no hope in sight, yet hope is always there in the form of God.

The problem is, that when we are at the end of our ropes, at the end of ourselves, we sometimes need an intervention, we need one to step into our moccasins, and carry us to the one who CAN fill our empty spaces. To hold a lethargic, emptied soul and lift them to the God who strengthens, who fills, is the greatest of honors, the greatest of callings.

Writer, Ann Voskamp (and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) has said, “blessed are those at the end of their rope because they can be tied to God. Blessed are the broken for they can be gathered into belonging. Blessed are those who find themselves wholly empty, because they have space to be holy filled with God.“Only he who cries… is permitted to sing…” is what Bonhoeffer said.”

“In you I rest,
In you I found my hope
In you I trust
You never let me go
I place my life
Within your hands alone
Be still my soul”

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“Sing.
Sing a song.
Sing out loud, sing out strong.
Sing of good things, not bad.
Sing of happy, not sad.
Sing.
Sing a song.
Make it simple to last your whole life long.
Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear.
Just sing.”

So sang the Carpenters in the 1970’s … although my memory of it is from Sesame Street …

It is amazing how the singing of a song can make memorization so much easier. As one who is in the midst of memorizing one of the Psalms, I am thankful that it was put to music … I think I can, I think I can.

One of the beauties of memorizing scripture, poetry or lyrics through music is that it stays in your memory, and resurfaces at the most wonderful times.

Such has been the case for a particular hymn that I learned in my teens.

The hymn is more than a song, it is also evidence of the strength a person can attain with God as the rudder and anchor of their life.

Written by Horatio Spafford in 1873.

He, his wife Anna, and their four daughters had survived the great Chicago Fire. Horatio planned a trip to Europe for his family, and just days before they were to leave, he had to change his plans, send his wife and daughters on the ship without him.

While sailing to Europe the Spafford ship was hit by another, and sunk.

Days later, Horatio received the following in a telegram, from Anna, “Saved alone what shall I do?”

He boarded a ship, to meet up with his grieving wife.

As the ship was nearing the place where his four daughters died, he wrote the words to this hauntingly beautiful hymn.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Although I have not suffered the kind of loss and suffering of Horatio and Anna Spafford, this song surfaces in my conscious whenever my heart plummets with the weight of the sorrows of life and living.

I am amazed when it does come to my mind,
as though placed there
like a tissue to wipe my falling tears,
or a shoulder to cry on,
or a string around my finger

to remind me …

that I am not alone
that peace is more about the condition of my soul than anything to do with world conflict
that no sin is unforgivable
that no earthly sorrow can separate me from my God
that the sky, not the grave, is my goal.

What is your song?

tranquility

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As I watch the dark push away the light,

The sun is being swallowed by the horizon

Gone forever

My soul longs for the it’s final small slivers still in the sky,

The remnants of what is passing,

Of what will also soon be gone forever,

Never to be exactly the same as in this present moment.

My head lays down at night with the hope of light arising again in morning,

When darkness falls upon this world it is a reflection of my heart,

My heart whose life evidence was in it’s soundless beat in my ears,

But whose rhythm I felt in the whole of my body,

Now, it too is gone.

The ache settles in my soul, filling every part, forcing the last rays of light away,

Until there is nothing but darkness,

There is no light in view,

There is only nothingness,

In the dark there is no light to keep me warm,

To make me feel alive.

In the dark there is no growth

There is an absence of all things that light allow to grow,

And more dire than a severed vein,

There is only the stagnancy from the absence of anything,

Nothingness is all that is left,

The light is gone,

The dark has come,

The ache is all that remains,

To torture my soul,

Forced into believing

I am still alive.

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