Chapter 3: Will the Sadness and Grief ever end?
Many times in our periods of profound sadness or grief, we feel as though we will be in mourning forever. In times of overwhelming loss, we may have trouble believing that we will ever smile again. In the beginning of this booklet, you read about Sara, who believed she was to experience only sadness in life. Perhaps you can relate to the sorrows of Sara.
Twisting the torn tissue around her fingers, Sara cried, “I think that God has marked my life with a dark cloud.”
“May I ask what the dark cloud of your life feels like for you?”
“Heavy, burdensome, painful, hurtful, hopeless.”
“You feel all of those deep feelings of sorrow?”
“I’m so sorry. Have you felt those feelings for a long time?”
With tears in her eyes, Sara nodded and began to share her painful life story. “My father was an angry alcoholic. After my mother died when I was five, my father was extremely physically abusive to my brother and me. I joined the Army after high school to get away from my dad. In fact, I never wanted to see him again. I thought I’d begin a wonderful new life in the Army.”
“Did you find the hope you were looking for in the Army?”
“Hmm. Yes and no. At first, things were great. While everyone else would complain about basic training and the challenges of Army life, I was thriving because I was free from an abusive father.”
“I gather that something happened while you were in the Army which changed your positive outlook on your military experience?”
Sara shifted somewhat nervously and looked out the window as she spoke of her military sexual trauma. She shared that her longing for care of a loving father resulted in her being taken advantage of while in the Army. As a result of that trauma, Sara stated, “I felt forever damaged. I was even more convinced that I was a cursed and forsaken object that deserved nothing better than pain and sorrow.”
“Sara, my heart aches to hear of your pain. I believe that God also is heart-broken over the pain you have experienced in your life.”
With an indignant voice, Sara replied, “If God really is heart-broken over the horrific things I’ve experienced in my life, why would God now end the happiness which I have found with a wonderful man by giving me a diagnosis of terminal cancer?”
“So, you are angry with God for allowing a terminal cancer diagnosis when you now have joy in your life?”
“Yes. It is so unfair. I deserve some bright moments in my life. Childhood abuse, military sexual trauma, an abusive first husband. Peter is the first and only good thing that has ever happened to me in my life. We’ve been married only three months. So do you see why I believe that God has cursed me with a dark cloud?”
With tears in my eyes, I held Sara’s hand and replied, “Oh, yes, Sara, I do see why you see a dark cloud over your life. I am so sad, so very sad with you. I too would like to question and ask God why. Why all the sadness and dark moments, God? Why? This is all so very unfair!”
We sat in silence and cried for some time. Sara then began to talk of Peter and his sorrow over her terminal diagnosis. Sara spoke of how Peter’s love and understanding patience had captured her heart and won her fervent trust. Sara also noted that Peter had experienced his own deep sorrows in life, yet that he had a resilient spirit that was an inspiration to her and others.
Several weeks later, I spoke with both Sara and Peter. They talked of how they had been extremely angry with God, and were justified in asking why Sara’s cancer should drastically cut short their anticipated years of happiness. Yet, they also spoke of how intense prayer and grief counseling brought them to a point of recognizing the value of choosing joy for whatever time they would have together. They spoke of their decision to live a day at a time… not die a day at a time. Both Sara and Peter stated, “Together, we fervently committed to make a happy memory each day, and thank God for the beautiful moment.” Sara and Peter talked of how they were building a memory bank of beautiful moments which they would entrust to God for all eternity. Despite the very sad circumstances of their lives, Sara and her husband learned that qualities like hope, love, and joy can transcend temporal life circumstances and lead us to rejoice in everlasting hope, life, and joy.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
God wants us to experience joy. Hannah prayed:
“The LORD has filled my heart with joy;
how happy I am because of what he has done!
I laugh at my enemies;
how joyful I am because God has helped me!”
1 Samuel 2.1
God will not neglect those in need.
The needy will not always be neglected;
the hope of the poor will not be crushed forever.
God will refresh us and be with us through our darkest times.
The LORD is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, LORD,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love
will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home
as long as I live.
God will protect us and watch over us.
Whoever goes to the LORD for safety,
whoever remains under the
protection of the Almighty,
can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers
and from all deadly diseases.
He will cover you with his wings;
you will be safe in his care;
his faithfulness will protect and defend you.
You need not fear any dangers at night
or sudden attacks during the day
or the plagues that strike in the dark
or the evils that kill in daylight.
God says, “I will save those who love me
and will protect those who
acknowledge me as LORD.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
when they are in trouble, I will be with them.
I will rescue them and honor them.
I will reward them with long life;
I will save them.”
Psalm 91.1-6, 14-16
God will wipe away our tears and bring us joy. The prophet Isaiah writes:
Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare
a banquet for all the nations of the world—
a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine.
Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow
that has been hanging over all the nations.
The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever!
He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes
and take away the disgrace his people
have suffered throughout the world.
The LORD himself has spoken.
When it happens, everyone will say,
“He is our God! We have put our trust in him,
and he has rescued us. He is the LORD!
We have put our trust in him,
and now we are happy and joyful
because he has saved us.”
God will restore our strength and renew us.
Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God;
he created all the world.
He never grows tired or weary.
No one understands his thoughts.
He strengthens those who are weak and tired.
Even those who are young grow weak;
young people can fall exhausted.
But those who trust in the LORD for help
will find their strength renewed.
They will rise on wings like eagles;
they will run and not get weary;
they will walk and not grow weak.
Readings from the New Testament
Jesus reminded his followers that God comforts us when we mourn.
“Happy are those who mourn;
God will comfort them!”
God desires us to have great joy. Jesus said:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete.”
The apostle Paul believed that God is with us in the midst of our suffering and works to give us hope.
We know that in all things God works for good
with those who love him,
those whom he has called according to his purpose.
Our faith in God is what encourages us to believe and to have hope.
To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for,
to be certain of the things we cannot see.
It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval.
It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God’s word,
so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.
God promises us a new home where there will be no more grief, nor crying.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne: “Now God’s home is with people! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.”
Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” He also said to me, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.” And he said, “It is done! I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. To anyone who is thirsty I will give the right to drink from the spring of the water of life without paying for it. Those who win the victory will receive this from me: I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
Thoughts for Reflection
- When you find yourself in the midst of unsettling and upsetting circumstances, what do you believe is a way to find joy, to find hope? Write or share your thoughts with a trusted friend.
- Make a list of specific thoughts or actions that bring a sense of joy to your life.
- Draw or paint a picture of what joy would look like for you. As you are able, share your picture.
Dear Lord, I want to believe that you will bring me through this time of sadness and loss. I want to have confidence in the fact that I will smile and even laugh again.
I understand that hope may be grasped in different ways as we proceed on our life’s journey. I believe that you want me to be filled with abiding peace, unconditional love, and eternal joy.
I am currently in a deep valley of sadness. Help me to hold on to your promises of everlasting joy and peace as I walk holding your hand through this dark valley. I know that you will never leave me, nor forsake me.
In your loving name. Amen.
A Blessing for You
May the LORD bless you and take care of you;
May the LORD be kind and gracious to you;
May the LORD look on you with favor and give you peace.