Anyone who has ever read my words or shared conversation and coffee with me or heard my music knows that I have a fascination with the parallel the psalmist, David, makes between night and dawn and sorrow and joy. In fact, two of my favorite passages in scripture feature this imagery.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5, ESV
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8, NIV
As we are fast approaching another holiday season, I am reminded of a young woman who is part of my inner circle. We speak almost daily, though we are miles apart, and we share similar struggles in our journeys. But there is one area of her life I cannot fully grasp: sorrow.
To be sure, I’ve carried my own sorrows, but when I consider the weight of all she has been through—all she has lost—it reminds me how very much I still have. Her family has been ravished by cancer. Death has ripped from her heart both of her parents, one of her two brothers, and her sister-in-law. Her sorrow has been all-consuming at times, and there are no words, no facebook memes, no well-wishes that can appease such grief. For a woman carrying such sorrow, the holidays can be hard. In fact, they can be downright torture.
I’ve asked her in the past— what helps? As someone who desperately longs to ease the weight of her burden, I am very aware that sometimes words make it worse. Her answer, however, surprised and encouraged me. She said that while words may fall short and be powerless against sorrow, the knowledge that someone cares, that someone is aware, that someone is beside you, both ready and willing to love you in your sadness—that knowledge helps. It means something.
There is no time limit. Grief does not expire. It does not curdle like a gallon of milk left too long in your fridge. And it is not the same for you as it is for me. In fact, it’s not the same for me as it is for me—I grieved much differently when my uncle died than when my brother-in-law died. Each relationship is unique and irreplaceable, and so each loss must find its own way through the dark night of sorrow.
As Christians, it can be easy to talk about joy. It can be easy to expect sorrow to move quickly through our lives without too much trouble. The truth is, sometimes our faith makes the sorrow harder to work through. We don’t understand why our loving Father would allow such pain, such suffering. We don’t understand why one person is healed and another dies. We don’t understand our sorrow because we’ve told ourselves that we have joy.
Yesterday, I wrote this on facebook:
Night is resolved, not negated, with the rising dawn. Pray for those who mourn.
Sorrow, my friends, is not any less real because of our expectation of joy. But sorrow is evidence of joy—in fact, it can be the only proof of joy—and therein is great comfort.
Night finds its resolution with daybreak, just as sorrow finds its resolution with joy. If we did not experience the dark, cold of night, we would never know the brilliance of sunrise, the warmth of dawn, the sparkle of dew on all things living, the morning song of the robin, or even our first cup of coffee.
Sorrow, though we despise it, becomes the means by which we can know and fully experience joy.
Our nation has seen many sorrows in recent weeks. There are many who need our love and our presence. There are many struggling, many grieving, and for many reasons.
This week, my extended family is grieving the loss of a beloved man. Though the promise of eternity is strong and gives great hope, and though memories are fond and filled with love and laughter, the sorrow and the trauma of loss right now is great, and there’s no sense in pretending anything else.
Our hope, you see, is not that we will never feel pain. It is not that we will never cry or feel swallowed in despair. Our hope is in the dawn, the sun that rises—slowly, not with a snap of the fingers. Our hope is in the sometimes unnoticeable shift from the deepest black of night to subtle indigo. Our hope is in the joy that awaits us. Our hope is in the knowledge that our loved ones now know the full presence of joy—the presence of Jesus.
Today, if someone you love is hurting—whether by the loss of a loved one, by a life-changing diagnosis, by the devastation of a hurricane or wildfire or earthquake— by another unfathomable shooting, by a lost job, a broken relationship, or a battle of depression and anxiety—be near. Be present. Love them. Pray for them. Pray with them. Don’t just speak of dawn and joy; sit with them through the night.