Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Savoring the suffering

Ecclesiastes 7:2-3 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better and gains gladness.

Let me just put this out there:  I love eating.   Going out to eat, cooking for people, holiday meals, sharing dinner with a friend...all of it.    All-inclusive food in resorts and on cruises? Yes, please.  YES.  I just LOVE it.  I read this Twitter post yesterday and it made me laugh:  "Dear men, Actually our dream isn't finding the perfect guy, it's being able to eat without getting fat. Sincerely, women."  True story!

So, when I recently read Ecclesiastes 7 (after listening to the song story for this song - more on that later), I was confuzzled at first.  Based on experience, the logic struck me as a little strange.   A house of feasting is fun.  But, I've been to the house of mourning on a few occasions.  Not so fun.   When I think of mourning, I think of September 11.  I was still living in NYC on what started off as a perfect Tuesday.  After the planes hit, I saw fear and disbelief on the faces of people in the streets.  I watched those buildings fall with my own eyes.  I know people who lost loved ones.  I know people who survived.  My brother-in-law was a cop who worked down there in the days and weeks that followed.  I have never seen so much mourning in my life as I did in the time following that horrific day.  

But I have also never seen so much hope. I remember that my church was packed for months after that.  Heroes abounded.  Random acts of kindness spread.   New Yorkers were actually nice to each other.  Even though I deeply wish it never happened, that Tuesday changed a lot of people, for the good, forever.  Tragedies have a way of reminding us how short life is.  That's what Solomon is talking in that verse.  Mourning reminds you to live well.  Now. 

Chances are you've dealt with intense sorrow at some point in your life.  There are plenty of things worse than divorce, but divorce is one thing I can speak to.  The sorrow of betrayal is deep.  The humiliation is terrible.  Life is interrupted, lies are exposed and confusion abounds.  Sometimes the hurt is so heavy that it truly is hard to breathe.  If you've been there or in a million other places of pain that doesn't make sense, you know. Yet, I can say this now:  More than three years after the worst of the worst days, I wouldn't trade that pain for the world.  I've never felt closer to God and I've never felt God was closer to me.  Friends surrounded me.  My kids gave me unspeakable joy and most days, they were the only reason I smiled.  That pain helped me more than it hurt me.  It taught me some very valuable lessons about life and love, and made me appreciate times of "feasting".  The tears stung but, like a good cleaning, they scoured my heart (Ecc. 7:3 MSG) and made it glad.

I guarantee you, at the time I wasn't thinking "Phew! I'm glad life SUCKS right now because my heart really needs some scouring!"  I'm not that wise (at all).  Looking back though, I see the good in it.  I see how it's helped me help others and how I'm a better woman and mother for it.  I'm still learning (sometimes the hard way), but definitely an improved Sarah.  

The other day something happened that hurt me. Minor, but it just opened up a lot of other wounds and I found myself sulking around and wanting Ben and Jerry's.  That night I heard the song I've linked to below (which led me to the chapter in Ecclesiastes) and it reminded me that there is no hurt on earth that God can't handle.  And just when you think you can't take one.more.second., the hurt and the Healer collide.  

Whatever you're facing today, as painful as it may be, savor the suffering.  Breathe it in 
deep and know that not a tear is wasted.  Let your heart be glad.  You're alive.


  1. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L-L-Y written! And the perfect song - one of my favs!

  2. Thankyou, Sarah, for sharing your heart and touching mine. How can anyone deny the existence of God. It seems so crazy but when we give our heart to christ he renews our spirits in such a way that the sorrows of this life become the very thing that strengthens us. What a mighty God he is!


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