How to Use Sorrow and Sadness to Cultivate Hope
2018 has been tough so far...I've felt more sorrow over the last month than I have in the last five years. I've started to wonder about the ways that God uses and redeems sorrow by strengthening our faith, and building our resolve to live a life of dependence on the one who knows sorrow. I plan to do a series over the next several weeks to examine sorrow and how to face this tough world with hope and expectancy when things seem impossibly broken...
On the eve of the most sorrowful day of my life I read Psalm 90. Insomnia plagued me the night before my divorce and all I could seek was the sustaining bread of God's Word. He had fed me so well over the many months leading up to this unimaginable event. I don't know what I was looking for God to tell me that day, but here is what he said:
Psalm 90:14-15- Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad ALL our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
In this desperate moment of panic I could not grasp God's call to rejoice. His call to be glad in affliction. To embrace the days of despair and regret and be satisfied instead with His steadfast love. All-consuming sorrow overshadowed any attempt at positivity. I closed my Bible in frustration and finally drifted off to a restless sleep.
Any tiny glimmer of hope was extinguished the next day as my husband followed through on his desire to end our marriage and move on with plans for a future without us. Sorrow. Despair. Regret.
In anguish I tried to live my life in a new and foreign way. To suppress sorrow. To ignore it. To move on in the way that seemed so easy for him. But it didn't work that way for me. I had to be intentional about my sorrow.
Here are three ways that I actively targeted my sorrow and allowed it to mean something to my growing faith.
1. I continually told God how broken I was. I patterned my prayers after David's desperate cries in Psalm after Psalm:
Psalm 6:2-3, 6-7a: Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me O Lord for my bones are troubled. My soul is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord- how long? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief...
Tell God exactly how you feel. Let it all out and hand it over. He can take it. He can take all the deepest wounds and speak life right back into your heart.
2. I surrounded myself with people who listened, but didn't judge, solve, or encourage me to stay in sorrow forever.
These women didn't say, God heals all wounds. They didn't say "do this" or "do that" and things will get better. They also did not allow me to wallow in the depths of despair 24/7. They created opportunities for me to have fun and grow relationships with them that didn't have to revolve around my pain.
3. I had to compartmentalize my work life from my sorrow. This was not easy. This was an intentional choice every second of every day. I was a second grade teacher at the time. Those students did not deserve a short-tempered or emotionally up and down teacher. I had to focus on the task at hand. There were times when my principal came into my classroom and gave me a five minute break. I really needed those. I clung to my prep times or student recess times when I could read some Scripture verses I kept on cards at my desk or just close my eyes, take some deep breaths, and pray for a few minutes. Don't ignore your sorrow, but learn ways to manage it to help you function in your workplace. After all, you need this job now more than ever!
If we return to Psalm 90, we learn that the author of this Psalm was actually Moses. The man who was leading God's people through an endless, barren wilderness implores us to be glad in our affliction. To embrace God's love in a way that satisfies our souls and sustains our sorrows.
Coming from Moses, I suppose I can't say that he doesn't understand what sorrow is all about. I can't pretend that God has allowed more sorrow to afflict me than anyone else who has ever lived. This is not to say that my sorrow isn't valid or justified. This is to say that even Jesus himself was a "man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3). He understands our pain. He knows our pain. He wants us to find ways to embrace our righteous sorrow and fold ourselves into his loving arms to receive the love we need to conquer these feelings of hopelessness and loss.
Can we allow Jesus to comfort us in our sorrow? To take on our sorrows as only a Father can and show us what light exists at the end of this sad tunnel? I know His love will satisfy. I'm positive that even when our circumstances bring more sadness and disbelief than we can handle, He has a plan. Let's trust that God is using our sorrow to grow us and love us and bring us closer to Himself.
What are some ways that you intentionally face your sorrow today and see hope in God's loving plans?