Lenten Reflection, “On Sorrow”

“For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.” (Psalm 31:10)

This verse is from the Psalm assigned for today’s morning prayer service [in the Book of Common Prayer]. Can you imagine a life that is literally ‘spent with sorrow’? Perhaps some of you identify with these words as you reflect on your own lives? For those who have felt the power of this dark emotion settle upon you, you know that the Psalmist’s words are true. Strength does fail and bones do waste away while one is in the grip sorrow. Its power seems to know no boundaries. The world shrinks, hope departs, friends scatter and isolation becomes the tortuous norm.

Sorrow can come to us in millions of devilishly creative ways. It has certainly been a constant presence to humanity throughout our existence. Given the unbearable amount of suffering in the world, it is surprising that we ever experience anything other than sorrow. And with the speed and availability of ‘news’ coming to us from all over the globe, we are certain to encounter the horrors of human existence each day if we live even half-way ‘connected’ lives. There are many days that I literally can’t hear another story about starving or sick or abused children, young girls who are sold into sexual slavery, and natural disasters that steal life as though it were nothing, not to mention the silly but destructive games that are played in our public and political spaces. I have to escape. I, like the Psalmist, seek refuge. I look for One who can be like a rock or fortress for me, a protector from the onslaught of despair all around me and within me.

All of this is what makes it so astounding and utterly unbelievable that God would enter into this sorrow…would take it up like a blanket and be wrapped in it — ‘…he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ While most of us seek to avoid sorrow, God dove into it, gathered it up, and brought it into the heart of God’s very own life. God moved towards our sorrow, not away from it.

God moves towards your sorrow, not away from it. And God moves towards your sorrow in love. This is the mystery of the incarnation. God became flesh — became human — so that we might, as humans, participate in the life of God, which is a life not exclusive of sorrow, but rather of a life in which sorrow is redeemed and where tears are wiped away.

So today, if sorrow overwhelms you, consider him who became as you are so that you might become as he is. We have a God who is not distant, but very close. Close enough to not only hear your cries, but to feel them along with you — to literally have com-passion (to suffer with). And wonder of all wonders, even in the darkness and absence of strength, overcome by sorrow, Jesus waits for us…for there is no place in heaven, on earth or under the earth, in which God is not present as Creator and Redeemer and Friend.

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Chris serves as rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Broomfield, Colo., and is my best friend. His many and varied interests include the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher, his 4,000-volume personal library and news shows from different political perspectives. He also firmly supports the claim of Benjamin Franklin that “beer is proof that God loves us.”

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