Bearing the Unbearable
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
Some things are unbearable, like inconsolable sorrow. The Bible tells us that Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some doctors tell us that the water mixed with blood which poured forth from the spear wound that pierced His side indicated Jesus died of a “broken” heart. There is little doubt that Jesus suffered unbearable sorrow for you and me. Some of us also have suffered unbearable sorrow. Such sorrow can be so severe, it can lead to death. One of the mothers of a PAYH graduate may well have died of grievous sorrow not long after her son was killed by a hit and run driver.
C.S. Lewis shares about his experience of unbearable sorrow in A Grief Observed, recounting the devastating, untimely death of his dearly loved wife and the sorrow it leveled on him. My daughter is experiencing such sorrow now in the death of her daughter. There is nothing, it seems, that can remove this burden, like words of solace or the concerned presence of a loving comforter. It is a burden which must be carried for an unfixed time, not knowing how long the burden must be borne, and whether it can be endured.
Lewis writes of his wife, “Her absence is like the sky; spread over everything,” and, “Aren’t all these notes [speaking of writing down notes of his grief] the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” His expression of this unassuaged sorrow is perhaps a comfort to the one who reads him and thinks, “He is describing me,” but the sorrow continues nevertheless. As Lewis found, “I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process.” And it is a process which impacts the grieving one in one way or another in the loss of their precious one for the rest of their earthly life. They may not remain in the intensity of their sorrow, but they never forget; a real part of them has been severed, and they will not return this side of eternity.
Yet as Lewis’ A Grief Observed has helped many a sufferer in the depths of their valley to understand grief and sorrow though not remove the suffering, so a child of the Heavenly Father who “shares so intimately in His Son’s sufferings” does not do so for no eternal purpose; you suffer in part to assist others in their sufferings. Your words of knowing love are heard by those grieving as though they want to die, whose hearts and ears are opened by the knowledge that their present sorrow is also one you know from personally living it. The one who grieves deeply must not waste their sorrows. Rather, speak as one with them into the sorrowing heart of a neighbor you are to love as yourself. You will not even in most cases have to search out those who have been thrust into the pit of grief; God will put them in your path.
Job underwent grievous suffering in body and soul for what purpose? To give to countless sufferers through the centuries encouragement in their tears that their suffering is not for naught; their suffering has an eternal purpose which may not be fully known until they see their Savior in His flesh face to face. All of us should be devoted students of the Book of Job, for the Bible warns us that in this life we will suffer. Job helps us understand something about its weight; not only its weighty burden, but its weighty meaning, its glory, which Lewis has titled “the weight of glory.” There is a glory in suffering and sorrow which may escape you now, but it will not in eternity. Weeping may endure for a night (as long as an earthly pilgrimage), but joy comes in the morning, on the day that the Son of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings (Malachi 4).
Do not allow sorrow and grief to destroy you, but trust the God who knows your sorrows and the Great High Priest who feels them with you (Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9).
“Come, ye disconsolate where’er ye languish, come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel: Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.”
(1st verse of Thomas Moore’s hymn, “Come, Ye Disconsolate”, 1816)
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