Finding Strength In Sorrow
I’m a crier.
I’ll admit it. I cry while admiring waterfalls. While climbing mountains. While in church. During Needtobreathe songs.
I cried watching Elf alone in a movie theater once.
In retrospect, I probably should’ve kept that last one to myself.
The point is, I’m an emotional human being in many respects. I’ve actually contemplated buying stock in Kleenex. The majority of my tears, though, are halcyon tears. When I’m sad, frustrated, or angry, I tend to hold back saline sorrow, preferring to throw on a happy face and resolutely face my situation alone.
Why? I can’t provide a pinpoint answer. Perhaps I’m afraid of burdening others or bringing them down; of being a Negative Nancy, or, in my case, a Joyless Jon. Perhaps it’s because we as a society are taught to innately perceive tears as a sign of weakness. Perhaps grief provides too clear of a window into my soul.
Perhaps, though, it’s in grief that growth takes place, and in grief that authentic human relationships are forged.
Think about those in your life whom you consider your closest friends. I would venture a guess that those who come to mind are not those you necessarily see the most frequently, or sit next to at work, or even share the most laughs with. They’re not the ones you talk fantasy football with, or your shopping partners. They are the people who you have faced storms with.
The friends who visited you the most while you were in the hospital. The confidants who listened and prayed while your marriage fell apart. The companions who held you while you cried at your mother’s funeral.
It’s in and through these honest, tear-filled relationships that we find the strength to persevere, to hope, and to grow.
There is strength in sorrow.
Grief is not a negative emotion. It’s not something to be ashamed of; to feel weak for experiencing. Rather, it’s an expression of honesty. Of strength. Of vulnerability.
In fact, sorrow is inescapable. Whether it’s events taking place in your own life, or events taking place in this broken world, it’s hard to go any amount of time without a valid reason to grieve. This year alone, I’ve lost three family members and watched friends go through some very tough circumstances. Then there’s Las Vegas. Charlottesville. The 120,000 innocent children who died of AIDS last year. The list goes on. And on. If you aren’t grieving about anything that’s happening on this planet, you are not paying attention.
We are all on a crazy roller coaster ride with one inevitable end. Along the way, we are faced with a gargantuan gamut of emotions. We naturally and understandably strive to seek happiness and run from sadness, and in the process miss out on enormous opportunities for growth.
We go to such great lengths to suppress the sorrow.
Years ago, I dated a girl whose father had passed away a few years before we met as a result of a freak accident during a minor outpatient surgery. Externally, she was one of the happiest, most positive people I’d ever met. Internally, though, a war was being waged. She eventually confided in me that she had never shed a single tear over her father, because the rest of her family expected and needed her to be strong. This inner stockpile of tears consumed her.
I am guilty of the same thing, the same suppression of sorrow. The same phony smile.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
I in no way am suggesting that we ditch our jeans and flannels and throw on sackcloth and ashes, living our lives in perennial sorrow.
Contrary to popular belief, sadness doesn’t preclude you from experiencing happiness. In fact, sorrow and joy are inseparable. Without one, we would never know the power of the other. The ancient Greeks understood this, seamlessly blending comedy and tragedy. We, too, would never know light without the dark.
Solomon puts it this way in Ecclesiastes, in a passage famously quoted by The Byrds: “For everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
The shortest verse in the entire Bible reads like this: “Jesus wept.” Why was He crying? His good friend had just died, but He knew that He was about to raise him back to life. Yet Jesus cried anyway. Cried for our hardened hearts. Cried for the pain and death that we all must inevitably experience because of our choice to turn away from His plan. Cried because He knew that even in the face of one of the most extraordinary miracles in Earth’s history, we would still find a reason not to believe.
Jesus wept. It’s safe to say that we can do the same.
What proved to be the most joyful moment in Earth’s history was one marred with tears and mourning. God Himself had been brutally executed on a cruel cross. For us. The sky turned dark. Those who believed in Him gathered around in shock and grief, unaware of the greater story.
Little did they know what would happen on Sunday morning.
Have the skies turned dark in your life? Are you in the midst of a trial more difficult than you believe you can handle? Is it hard to pretend to be happy for the sake of everyone around you? My advice is simple. Give grief its day. Don’t hold back the tears. Don’t be ashamed of them. Don’t gloss over your sorrow with a veneer of cheer.
But, grieve with hope. Find strength in sorrow and in those who are willing to share it with you. Cry with the hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that this broken world, full of death, pain, sin, and regret, will one day be made new by a Savior who will wipe every tear from our eyes, and turn our sorrow into joy forever.
Though the sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.
Believe me, the morning is coming.