Unbearable Sorrow

I am halfway through my ponderings on the book of Proverbs.. so I thought that I would share a bit on a topic that has been on my mind since I read a post that my cyber-friend Jill Hollis wrote a few weeks ago. Here is what Jill wrote about her gut-wrenching battle with Lou Gehrig's disease:
"I believe that this life is full of the unbearable. Often unimaginable heartbreaking pain and suffering."
I have also been thinking about this line from The Impossible Dream.. that beautiful anthem from Man of La Mancha:
"To bear with unbearable sorrow"
The words take me back to that Intensive Care Unit where I, along with my two young children, watched my first wife breathe her last breaths.. sometimes our sorrow is so unbearable.. often life presents us with seemingly impossible circumstances.. and sometimes it feels like God is not there.

But on that occasion.. as Ellen was slipping off to a new life.. a nurse walked in and asked if she could sing Amazing Grace.. Ellen's favorite song. With tears rolling down our faces we witnessed the passing of our beloved wife and mom.. the song made our sorrow a bit more bearable.

I don't really have any answers to the question of intense sorrow other than to say that life is often riddled with pain and suffering.. but I think that in the midst of our pain God will reveal Himself in unusual ways. I think of this verse from the book of Hebrews that speaks of angels:
"Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?"
The word Greek word translated "angel" is sometimes translated "messenger". Perhaps that nurse with the beautiful voice was one of those messengers.. perhaps one of the purposes of angels.. be they heavenly or earthly.. is to help us bear the unbearable? Perhaps the admonition to bear one another's burdens or sorrows is a primary reason for our existence? Perhaps sorrow is unbearable without angels?

Successful Relationships and Lives

The fifteenth chapter of proverbs instructs us in ways to create and maintain healthy relationships.. we are told of the importance of gentle words when we disagree with each other. Keys for success are given to us as King Solomon speaks of hard work, wise counselors and being teachable.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (v1), "A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (v4)

The importance of communication in a relationship cannot be overstated.. it is why prayer and listening to God's voice is so important. The problem with harsh words is that once spoken they cannot be taken back.. it is why it is so important not to fuel each others anger.. when a friend is angry it is best to listen and respond with understanding and life giving words.

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." (v3)

God's omnipresence and omniscience is mind-boggling.. the idea that He is everywhere and knows our thoughts is a bit freaky. It is also comforting to know that nothing can separate us from our loving God.

"The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness." (v9), The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure. (v26)

My thoughts first focused on the word abomination.. I meditated on it and wondered why someone's way or thoughts would disgust the Lord.. then my eyes caught the word "wicked" and thought of how wickedness disgusts me.. especially my personal wicked ways like unforgiveness and bitterness. Of course the antidote for all manner of wicked thought and behavior is the pursuit of righteousness.

"A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed." (v13)

Thoreau once wrote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I have found that even in profound sadness God has given a song in my heart. When my first wife died I found daily heartfelt worship to be great medicine for my heart. When I feel sad I will often listen to (and sometimes cry with) a few worship songs.. it is good for my heart.

"Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it." (v16-17)

Verse 17 in a way interprets 16.. love never fails.. when love is present is causes the poor man to persevere.. when it is absent even the wealthy lose heart.

"The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway." (v19)

Thomas Jefferson once said: "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." Sometimes some appear to be luckier or more blessed.. according to this verse you could infer that blessing follows hard work.

"Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed." (v22)

The cornerstone of good decisions is often good advisers. It is not that these folks are that much smarter than you.. they just have a way of bringing out the best in you and helping you see things that you didn't before.

"Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor." (v32-33)

These two verses connect being unteachable with pride. It is often hard to listen to criticism.. I once heard a pastor preach that there is not such thing as constructive criticism.. like him many miss out on the blessings of reproof by discounting it as negativity. Sad because often our critics know us the best :)


Please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.