I have had more than a few moments in my life when my heart was so heavy I thought it would never recover. You know those moments, when the raw emotion is so great you think you are going to short circuit, when you just want to pull the mountains down on top of you. You want relief, even for a moment, but everywhere you turn your thoughts pursue you, never giving you even a moments break. You can't escape inside of sleep because sleep remains elusive. You can't escape in activity because your mind won't stop. You can't escape in relationships because your heart is too full of sorrow. You are overwhelmed because you know there is no escape.
I wish with all my being that no one ever had to face such moments because each of these moments in my life almost destroyed me. Some people use self-destructive things to try to kill the pain. They run to alcohol, to drugs, to sex, to adrenaline. Not me. People have looked at me in these times and have said that I am emotionless, unfeeling, uncaring. They have no idea how broken I was/am and what effort it takes to stand in it instead of running away. They have no idea the big gooey mess that is inside from the heart leaking sorrow. They have no idea the strength and trust that it takes to carry on instead of closing up shop. The easiest thing in the world is to run away. The easiest thing is to walk away and start over. It is a lot messier and much more difficult to stand your ground and deal with it.
In these moments I must force myself to look square into the situation and make a decision: will I trust or will I run away. There are a tonne of scripture that supports faith and trust in the darkest times, in the moments when you want to pull the mountains down on top of you. Psalm 23 is one of my favorite and I have come to live those words:
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Those words, "even though ..." have become very important and real to me. But this morning, in the early morning hours before the world begins to stir, the Spirit has led me to a different place, a place of greater foundation, a place of great light, hope and joy. Through the darkness of my sorrow I read:
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:1-3)
But why? Why should I sing to him in this hidden place of my sorrow? Why should I reach out to God who allows such great sorrow? Even as I write such words they ring hollow and untrue. My relationship with Jesus is unyielding and unapologetic. Human suffering and sin is the origin of my sorrow not my holy God. He is so far above this and yet is in the middle of it, providing comfort and assurance. Why does the psalmist exhort us to sing?
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love. (Psalm 33:4-5)
Because the earth is full of his unfailing love. I know this to be true, far truer than my own existance. There is no truer statement in the human language and I stake my entire life on this fact. I know it is more sure than the ground on which I stand, surer than the name by which I am called. Nothing can change, shake or remove this fact: the earth is full of his unfailing love. It is for this reason that I can rise up in my sorrow, that I can lift holy hands in praise, that I can lift my sweet voice in humble adoration to the one who is faithful in all he does. The Word of the LORD is right and true! When everything else fails me, including my heart, he never will.
There is nothing greater than this truth and nothing that can provide the comfort that it brings. Alcohol leads to destruction, as does drugs, as does any form of escapism. Regardless of how many times our hearts are brought to the depth of that sorrow, God's unfailing love will rescue us, strengthen us and revive us. That is the choice we have to make. In every situation we have a choice. In every sorrow we have a choice. Today, once again, I make the only choice that is of any benefit, to run to Jesus:
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33:18-19)
I have no doubt that today my sorrow will turn to rejoicing, that my heart will be pieced back together, that I will find great joy in this darkness because today I will choose to trust. I have no need to tear down other people or speak destructive words but instead to allow God's love to produce life, love and light through me. I will not allow the darkness of sorrow to shape me but instead allow his unfailing love to provoke a stream of living water to flow through me. My hope is found in the Lord and he will renew my heart:
We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:20-21)
I love and trust my Lord too much to hide from my sorrow. It is not that I am unfeeling or emotionless. It is not even that I am strong. It is simply that I trust his unfailing love to see me through it all. Even now, as the first rays of dawn peak over the house tops I can feel the rays of his unfailing love touch the darkness of my sorrow. My choice this morning is clear; I will trust him and I will praise him, and today will be a day of great joy.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:22)