Freedom to Be...
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
...Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. –Kahlil Gibran, “On Joy and Sorrow”
Ought to Be, Ought Not to Be
My natural reaction upon meeting sorrow had usually been to divert from any pain, as quickly as possible. Finding comfort and healing became a rushed process with a pressured deadline. Brainstorming solutions to “fix” my painful state, I didn’t allow myself freedom to fully feel and process the weight of my emotion. My coping methods were often avoidance or distraction, which really meant that I had deceived myself into believing my heart was in a different place than it was in reality. Instead of inviting God into each fluctuation of my heart, whether that be grief, bliss, or anywhere in between, I’d hurried to feel better before worshipping and, again, letting Him walk each step with me.
Accompanying these responses to pain is the assumption that God sets expectation on us – that we ought to be smoother in navigating the changes of life, that we ought to be something better than what we are. I am finding that the pit of pain we will frequently find ourselves in is okay. I am finding that it is more than okay; it is valuable. As my perspective is shifting, I’m approaching these sorrowful experiences differently with God than before.
Value in Height, Value in Depth
We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest “well pleased.” –CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain
God is always acting in a way to best love us, whether that be in a joy or in a pain. At every state we may find our heart, we can trust His love and discover purpose for each season. Further, we can be free to experience the abundance of sorrow without fear because only then will we be able to know joy to the same abundance. Read these words about the liberty of feeling:
"To express the realness of emotion truly deepens the wells that we draw from. When you allow the feelings of sorrow out and allow yourself to soak in it, you deepen the wells of all emotions. You can feel joy in a much more real way afterwards, especially if you continue to allow your feelings out in a healthy way." –John Moore
Worshipping In, Versus Out
How can we interact with and embrace pain well? Do you pretend it doesn’t exist, close yourself off in fear of feeling the true depth of your sorrow, or connect to God in worship in the midst of it? (In discussing depth and range of emotion, let’s define worship as “holding onto and declaring truth about God, to God.”)
Letting God in is the healthiest option. Now, what is your motive? Do you worship with the purpose of getting out of pain, away from anything negative? Maybe the point of pain isn’t to immediately escape it; maybe there are valuable lessons that only pain can teach and opportunities to be refined that only pain can create. Could you shift your perspective to worshipping with the sole purpose of simply connecting to your Maker, regardless of whether or not your current state is changed?
Freely discover the abundance of joy and sorrow. Bring Him into each well; discover Who He is in all of them. Worship not to escape but to connect.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; and you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief. -Kahlil Gibran, "On Pain"