If you read Psalm 88, you will find a vocabulary for sorrow. You learn that “when you feel like Psalm 88, you should pray like Psalm 88.” Transparency is part of our healing. As we embark on the healing of our sorrows, we need to at least give consideration to the sources of those sorrows from a biblical perspective. I first encountered this type of thinking about suffering in a book by Edward T. Welch, entitled, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness. In the blog post that follows, I have built upon and expanded Welch’s insight to lay out six possible sources of our sorrow as taught in the Bible. My goal is to explore some of these sources of sorrow then conclude by considering how we are to move forward in our pain.
- Sometimes, Others cause sorrow.
Psalm 13:2 says, “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Sometime, others cause sorrow in our life. At times they may be our enemies. At other times they may be an acquaintance. And occasionally they may be complete strangers. But the fact remains that others are often a source of sorrow.
- Sometimes, We cause sorrow.
Consider David’s actions with Bathsheba. His adulterous actions led to the death of his child, which caused him great grief. Furthermore, his actions led to a divided home where children were treacherous to each other. Our Actions (Anger, Addiction, Fear, etc.) and Our Thoughts (Misunderstanding of the Gospel – “I can’t be forgiven.”) can all be sources of sorrow for us.
- Sometimes, Our Bodies cause sorrow.
Consider all the examples of Jesus healing people throughout His earthly ministry. Sickness can be a great trial and source of depression.
- Sometimes, Satan causes sorrow.
Job 1:6-12 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.” Satan is our adversary. He wants to devour us. Sometimes he causes our sorrow.
- Sometimes, God causes sorrow.
Admittedly, at first, this point may make us uncomfortable, yet, I contend, that this point brings more comfort than we could ever imagine. 1 Samuel 2:6-7 says, “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” Isaiah 45:7 says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.” These texts, while teaching us that God sometimes causes suffering, also teach us that He causes good things as well. The power is in His hand. And as Job said in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Lamentations 3:32 likewise teaches that while He “does bring grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love.”
- Finally, there are times when multiple causes of sorrow are at work and we simply cannot understand or explain them all. In fact, we may not ever be able to fully understand suffering in this life. Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So what should we do?
My suggestion is for us to focus less on identifying the particular source of our sorrow and focus more on the One who gives hope in our sorrow. To that end, I believe we need to hear words of a man that found and taught hope in this midst of their suffering.
That person is the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he wrote, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Paul knew that in spite of his “momentary afflictions,” Christ had secured an everlasting renewal and redemption through His resurrection.
God is up to something in our sorrow and suffering. There is a purpose in the pain. And while we may not be able to fully know the details of His plan on this side of heaven, we can be sure that for those who love Him, He is working everything for their good in order to conform them to the image of God in Christ Jesus. If there was ever someone that could be trusted with your breaking heart, it is Jesus, who renews the mind, heals the body, defeats the enemy, destroys the devil, and brings beauty out of brokenness.