img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

All of us have witnessed or felt deep sadness in the world around us, in the lives of friends, or our own families.

This past week the sadness has surfaced for me more than usual:

  • The father of a friend, both genuine Christian men, took his own life to free himself from the agony and embarrassment of depression.
  • A very close friend, who has experienced traumatic deaths of several friends, was told by his counselor, “I think a spirit of sadness has settled in your heart.” He cried for the first time in 6 years.
  • A friend Beryl and I became close to over the summer returned to her home in Europe facing family issues of terminal illness and challenging relationships, in the midst of her own questions about God’s existence.
  • 7 high school students committed suicide in my town within the last year. A few were from Christian families. One had gone through the Passage to Manhood program I provide for dads and their teenage sons.
  • As I opened my laptop to start writing today, a calendar alert popped up reminding me that my dad passed away 4 years ago today.

This series of events or reminders has left me with an aching pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I’m no longer surprised by the tragedy that surrounds us. But I’m still deeply saddened by it.

You may have seen me write it or heard me say it before, but it bears repeating: This is simply not the world our hearts were made for. In the beginning God created us with profound longings for deep relationships and an unshakeable sense of significance and worth.

He designed us with a longing for:

  • Hearts- that know deep, fearless intimacy and connection with friends, a spouse or family
  • Souls- that live in a constant, transcendent relationship and presence with God the Father
  • Minds- that learn and grow in wisdom and knowledge, and that provide fruitful impact
  • Strength- bodies that are healthy, alive, and serve us well in our daily lives and efforts

When our fore-parents, Adam and Eve, distrusted God’s grace and goodness, and chose instead to believe the Deceiver, all was permanently changed. In addition to the knowledge of Good, mankind was now condemned to the overwhelming consequences of the knowledge of Evil:

  • Hearts- broken, sad, and hungry; looking for love in all the wrong places
  • Souls- filled with spiritual thirst, but turning our backs on God, the Source of living water, digging substitute “broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jer. 2:13
  • Minds- that pursue superficial knowledge that puffs up, separates us from those who think differently, or causes us to renounce the possibility that there might be a Supreme Being, who though mysterious, is real
  • Strength- bodies that age, fall apart, succumb to pain, disease and death

It’s enough to make you weep. Today it was enough to make me weep.

It made Jesus weep. When he saw the grief experienced by those who lost their friend and brother, Lazarus, he wept. As he walked with friends toward Jerusalem, heading toward abandonment by friends in Gethsemane and separation from God at Golgotha, he wept again.

Perhaps more than any other chapter in the Bible Romans 8 brings a deeper perspective on the sadness that surrounds us:

  • Creation waits in eager anticipation…was subjected to frustration…and survives in bondage to decay v. 19-21
  • All of creation groans as in the pains of childbirth v. 22
  • We, who have the Spirit in us, groan inwardly as we await redemption v. 23
  • The Spirit goes to the Father on our behalf with groans that can’t even be expressed with words v. 26

Everything around us, and in us, groans with the tragic consequences of the selfish, distrustful choices of mankind at the beginning, and even since.

So what do we do? Live in agony? Face every day and each new disappointment with yet another set of tears? End it all? Or, ignore the pain, pretend it doesn’t exist or matter, and live in a state of numbness or search for pleasure? There are many who choose one or more of the above options. Some are friends; some are loved-ones. Sometimes we do the same.

The good news is we can reject either extreme response, and choose instead to live with an honest acceptance of both. We can honestly acknowledge the sadness around us while choosing to be hope-filled and joyful at the same time. We grieve with those who grieve; including ourselves. But we keep our eyes on the end of the story. Those very same verses in the middle of Romans 8 are preceded by this,

         “I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” v. 18

Our honest acknowledgement of suffering around us fills us with compassion for those who are personally struggling. We can sit in silence with them and enter into their pain without dispensing superficial advice…because we know what pain, and insincerity, feel like.

Our intentional embrace of grace, hope and even joy fills us with a spirit of encouragement that can feel like a drink of cold water to a parched soul.

2 Cor. 1:3-7 makes it very clear that there is a direct link between suffering, compassion and the ability to provide comfort for others who suffer. When we embrace all of the above, we can become “wounded healers” in Dan Allender’s insightful language.

The spirit of sadness that sometimes fills us with grief or despair can lead to a harmful end for us or others we love. But when carried along with a spirit of joy and hope, we can bring honesty and comfort. Just like Jesus did.

Romans 8 ends with these words of hope:

       “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

        For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any

       powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God

      that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” v. 38, 39

None of us are invulnerable to the pain and tragedy of life. But nothing, nothing…nothing…can separate us from the hope we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

46 Comments

  1. Very touching, Craig.

  2. Thanks for sharing Craig … I, too, try to go through life positive and uplifting and when those days come when I am low, I recognize them as “blue funk days” … I know they will pass and I need to persevere. The challenge is when those days become weeks or months. Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, you have penned a great summary of hope.

    • Thanks for your comments, Mark. Yes, if days like this become a pattern, we need to let the right people know and ask for help.

  3. Thanks Craig. Appreciate you.

  4. Thanks, Craig, for these thoughts, very profound ones I might add, and so worthy of the son of a man who I loved with that rare quality that only true friends and fellow journeymen hold for each other.

    I’m proud to have called him my friend and fellow Christian brother. We served together at Bethesda and Arlington Countryside Chapel and NEVER had a cross word between us, even though I am sure he often considered me the sand paper in his life and he mine. I learned much from him as I know you did.

    We shall all meet again and perhaps sooner than we expect.

    With gratitude,
    Jim Harshaw

    • You’re very kind, Jim. I know Dad enjoyed and respected you too.

  5. Craig…exceptional writing today. Thank you! I read you heart, and thank our God for it. Hoping we can do lunch again before Christmas comes ’round the bend. That be this Christmas…not ’17. 😉

  6. Thanks Craig, I really enjoyed reading this. I can relate to you and I am thankful for the reminder that we can still have joy and bring comfort to others. Very insightful.

  7. Thank you for this heartfelt letter. With my current circumstances, my basic daily prayer is for His Strength in my weakness So I can handle the next crisis that is sure to come. However, I don’t believe he wants me to live just crisis to crisis. So, I also ask that I not miss the daily blessings He provides. I guess I’m just trying to keep things simple and let Him guide me on my way.

    Thanks again
    Bob

  8. Well written my friend and Glds timing is perfect. Sadness all around us right now- keep the faith!

  9. Brother Craig, I hear your pain and I thank you for sharing. Yet I promise you: your suffering is not a function of your spiritual condition. From my experience – I can testify to you that your deep sadness and grief are real. But do not weep; it will not bring healing. Rather, feel your feelings of profound sadness as intensely as you can. Find a quiet place where you can cry expressively, deeply and loudly. Literally, let it explode out of you. Your sadness is real and I believe you will find it is stored deep in your belly, not in your heart. If you allow yourself to cry very deeply, you will feel healthier and relieved soon. Then do it again tomorrow. Many woman know how to do this; few men do. You are blessed to be able to share and to ask for help.
    Brother Chris

    • Chris, SO good to hear from you!

  10. Powerful post today, Craig. Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

  11. Thanks Craig! I always appreciate your insight and sharing it!

  12. Craig, you know I’m your biggest fan and thank you for being so open and transparent. God has blessed you with an awesome gift and I just want to say kudos to you for your openness and willingness to share your heart. I also wanted to sum up what you said with the words that are engraved on my family head stone “LIFE IS HARD, BUT GOD IS GOOD”.

    • Thanks for cheering, Jim!

  13. Craig, thanks for this timely and deep sharing. We are to be moved by the people and circumstances that move our Lord. Praying for you especially todayz

    • I’m grateful for the depth of your heart, Caroline.

  14. This wasn’t just written exceptionally well it, is full of Biblical truth and powerful, healing and applicable principles for the days or seasons in which the weight of the world becomes overbearing. Thank you for pointing us to Scripture, the actual Word of God as the source of hope and stability in an unstable world. You blessed everyone who read your blog today. Thank you for sharing your heart and soul.

    • Rob, your comments reveal your own value for truth and the Word.

  15. Thanks for opening up your heart at this time of great sadness, Craig. It takes courage. and it is healing as you share the burden and weight of your deep sadness. you are ministering to me even now even in your depression. what great love you give. You matter to us. you matter to God.

    • So good to hear from you, Art. You matter, too!

  16. I appreciate how in our humanness we can feel sometimes, but thank almighty God and Jesus Christ for His Word that picks us back up and gives us His perspective. Thank you for sharing that with us how even Jesus grieves when His loved ones miss the mark so as seen in His Word. Psalm 37 says “fret not” at least 3 times, but instead what Earl Lee calls the cycle of victorious living trust in the Lord, rest in the Lord, delight in the Lord, and commit your way unto the Lord. Thank you for sharing your heart today!

    • You’re welcome, Gary. And thanks for your comments.

  17. Thanks Craig for your openness and insights. As I was reading,
    James 1:2 came to mind,

    2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing

    Hope to see you and Beryl soon.

  18. Today is the first day that my mom after 61 years of marriage is alone! My brother and his wife are flying back to China this morning. Checking on her and my own heart as I process my sadness for my dad’s passing! He died on the same morning as the person in the Redtalk passed. The discussion last Friday had many waives of emotion crashing my heart as I gave dad his last dose of Morphine just minutes before he died! I know Hospice prepared me for the it’s not you killing him speech, but medicine keeping him comfortable yet during Colorado’s vote on the upcoming ballot I am still struggling arguing both sides of the vote in my head. It sure feels like a failed health care system on one side basing decisions on finances instead of prolonging days! I am thankful for every hard day I spent caring for my father and do not wish him back into the pain he was experiencing. Yet, at the same time I wonder how many more days he would have lived well if he could have been in the hospital instead of sent home to die. I am not blaming anyone or even taking blame myself, but I do weep for those who experience this dilemma with eternal consequences in the balance. A friend of mine recently hugged me with tears in his eyes as he told me how my leading him to Jesus allowed him to lead his father to the Lord the day before he died. I do not wish one fewer day to anyone if it would mean one less person with our Savior in eternity.

    • Thanks for letting me know, Joel. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dad. I think one of the hardest experiences we have as our parents age is to watch the loss of dignity. Another consequence of the fall. I can’t imagine what he is seeing and doing now.

  19. Craig, thanks for those warm hearted words. Great job . I have been feeling sad about Glenn S going home to heaven. He was a faithful friend and co worker. Also thinking of your Dad and Mom. Great friends.We send our love and thanks. With prayers for you both. Kevin and Eloise

    • Thank you, Kevin. Beryl and I are so grateful for you and Eloise and your impact in our lives.

  20. Thanx for sharing your heart, Craig. You’ve touched on things we’ve all experienced, even in recent days. My own dad just passed away a few weeks ago, and I attended (MC’d actually) his funeral up in Canada.

    Recently I’ve also been lifted up, even in the midst of loss on many fronts with some incredible promises of God, which really do pull me out of so much natural depression:
    1. “All things are yours” …powerful words from Paul both in Rom 8–which you cited here, and 1 Cor. 3, where Paul says, “So, then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–ALL are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” THAT, my road-weary friend, is something to dwell on…I would say…for a very long time! It fills my heart with HOPE and awe in his presence.
    2. one of the many messianic prophecies, following the familiar verse “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name…” The following verse: Is. 9:7 says; “Of the INCREASE of his GOVERNMENT and PEACE, there will be NO END!!” I live in this almost daily–what a promise. It’s not his government and peace that’ll know no end; it’s their INCREASE!! …to which I say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
    3. Lastly, it’s what I call the “most quoted, least believed words in history” …the Lord’s prayer. It is the only prayer Jesus left in our hands to pray, and it’s audacious…it’s basically asking for heaven on earth: “Thy KINGDOM come, thy WILL be DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!” So again, I say, Come, Lord Jesus! We long to see your will done HERE, ON EARTH–not in heaven, that’s where your will already IS DONE…no, the prayer is for this war-torn, confused, rapacious planet–to see your will being done HERE as it already is in heaven. Wow!

    • Steve, thanks for your insight and contributing to the conversation.

  21. Well written, Craig. The reality of suffering and pain embraces all of us, but not all of us know how to be “wounded healer’s well. Thanks for the reminders of both our hope and our opportunities to be conduits of blessings in the midst of the storms. We have not been left alone: “Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Ps. 16:9)

    • Thank you, friend.

  22. Craig, thank you for sharing your pain. That isn’t always easy for men to do. Like Mark Chambers said, we all go thru periods of pain, hardship, depression and hopelessness. We pray they won’t last too long, sometimes the persist awhile. But as you implied, our strength and hope is found in the Lord. Thanks for your uplifting insights and wisdom.

    Below is a poem I wrote for a friend that eventually died of ALS. He was a godly august man full of vitality, humor and prowess. I visited him frequently and watched as this wretched disease literally withered him to absolutely nothing. I was inspired by his ability to keep his sense of wonder and humor even as he faced his impending death. He liked my poems so I wrote several for him before he passed.

    SANCTIFY ME LORD

    My Lord moves, in mysterious ways
    He watches over me, all of my days
    I know not what His plan may be
    So He ask me to wait, patiently

    My trial He planned, is in align
    To mold, recast me, and refine
    Only He knows what is good, for me
    Only He has wisdom to foresee

    My thorn in place, it seems not fair
    Enduring, suffering, I pray to bear
    Tenderly, tenderly He makes anew
    The man to be, of God’s virtue

    One day, it will all make sense
    Christ’s mercy, and His recompense
    The Saints will rejoice in Heaven above
    Eternally caught up in His Love

    Ron Robins © Nov 2012

    • Ron, once again, thanks for sharing your gift with us.

  23. Craig,

    Thank you for allowing me to walk along the way with you my dear brother. Sobering thoughts …hope-filled thoughts.

    • Carl! So good to hear from you, friend.

  24. Thanks as always, your thoughts and feelings are special for me. I wish there wasn’t the distance between cities so that we could embrace each other during the times of sadness.

  25. Thank you, Del. You’ve been that kind of friend despite the distance.

  26. I am with you brother. I hurt with my bride as one of her brothers is waiting in pain for a liver transplant and the other is with his family as I write, huddled in an inner room, watching hurricane Matthew invade their beautiful home in New Smyrna Beach, FL.

    Thank you for the reminder that while the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is experienced in terms of joy, courage, peace . . . we also know why He was called the “man of sorrows”.

    To experience, in even a small way, what moves God’s heart is both a privelege, and to be honest, something I find uncomfortable and disturbing many times.

    I pray my faith and hope stay in balance with my moanings and groanings as I wait for Christ to make all things right.

    The Jesus in you is one of the ways I find that balance. Thank you for your life, calling and passion Craig. I love you brother.

  27. Thank you for your profound and personal words. They are very much appreciated on a day when I received the belated news of Glenn Schuman’s death. How I enjoyed working with that man!

    I am reminded of something Frederick Buechner wrote: “Being a good steward of your pain. . . . It involves being alive to your life. It involves taking the risk of being open, of reaching out, of keeping in touch with the pain as well as the joy of what happens because at no time more than at a painful time do we live out of the depths of who we are instead of out of the shallows.”

    Once again, thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for your comments and insightful quote Woody. I realize increasingly what it means to be able to both grieve and rejoice.

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