Sacred Sorrow

But if we are willing, the experience of grief can deepen and widen our ability to participate in life. We can become more grateful for the gifts we have been given, more open-handed in our handling of the events of life, more sensitive to the whole mysterious process of life, and more trusting in our adventure with God. —”Tracks of a Fellow Struggler” by John R. Claypool

The use of Vicodin, the most popular pain relief drug in the country, has grown dramatically from 112 million doses prescribed in 2006, to 131 million in the U.S. today.

Pain and sorrow, however, are the friends that no one wants. They are companions for our journey toward God and others. For it is only in embracing the sorrow that comes to us in this life that we can expand our capacity to experience joy and sit authentically with others who are suffering.

When we have done the hard work of lingering in our pain, the lines of sorrow are etched on our souls in such a way that others who are suffering will recognize where we have been and will allow us to come close.

Or as C.S. Lewis said,

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

For some weeks now I have been carrying in my soul a low-grade fever of sorrow. I have reflected on it and have tried to trace its source. I’ve had some health issues that have been concerning. I have heard countless stories of pain and suffering from the ministry leaders I do soul care with. I have church members who are suffering from cancer. I have friends who are struggling to keep their families together. The grief of my mother dying last fall is following me like a shadow.

All of this, and more that I won’t share here, are piling on and driving me down into the basement of my soul of sorrow.

A report documenting the systematic stonewalling and coverup of sexual abuse within my denomination just came out and turned my stomach. I felt shame on top of sorrow. That is a toxic brew.

Then an entire fourth grade class in Uvalde, Texas, and their teacher were murdered with an AR-15 by an eighteen-year-old kid. The toxic brew is boiling now. I feel revulsion, despair, and rage. I want to overturn some money tables. I want to make a whip and drive out some animals. I want to let my hair grow and put my hands on two columns and push a building down. I want to cut off Malchus’ ear. I want to scream into the universe.

This morning I arose before the sun and opened my bible to my reading plan that took me to the Psalms. There in the longest chapter of the Bible I found an old familiar verse that shimmered and shined to me:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

As I reflected on that verse I didn’t think of “word” as the Bible. I imagined “word” as Jesus, as described in the first verses of John’s Gospel.

Jesus is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Something about that slight adjustment in my thinking caused me to see an ember of smoldering wick far in the distance. I sat still and meditated on that small, pulsing glow. It was as if I was sitting in a dark cave and, if I squinted my eyes, I could make out a faint glow of hope.

That’s when it felt like I was no longer alone in my sorrow. I had a companion. I had a paraclete, and I felt some consolation.

Robert Browning Hamilton reminds us,

What I learn from this sorrow is that I am not alone. There is one with me that is acquainted with my condition and darkness cannot overwhelm him. So, I sit with him in my sorrow and weep with those who weep.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. – Jesus

Won’t you come sit with us?

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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