My darkest day lasted several years. My father died, I got divorced, lost my job, my home, and my son became deathly ill. Sprinkled amongst these major events were daily devastations. Depression crippled me which contributed to bad decisions and multiplied my troubles.
I cannot count how many times I said, “God knows how much I can take and He won’t give me more than I can handle,” only to be knocked down by another blow. And time and again, I was sure I had finally hit the bottom and would soon begin to climb out of my mess; but I was wrong. I sank further.
Some of my problems came because of my own choices; others were simply circumstantial and no one or no thing was to blame. Some of the major obstacles in my life however, were there because of deceit and what I was facing was truly not fair. Regardless of the cause, I was steadily being stripped of the things that shaped my identity. First it was the titles: daughter, wife, teacher, administrator, employee, good mother…
I made light of it in my public persona, saying I was “in transition”; but inside I knew I was falling into a dark, bottomless cavern. I was afraid, but unable to stop the momentum of the fall.
I knew God was there – somewhere – but I couldn’t see Him. I couldn’t feel his hands to grab onto, and His word was deafeningly silent.
Then I was stripped of the things that shaped my image as I sold off my possessions to pay the bills. I kept my collection of dishes, but sold everything else – clothes, furniture, appliances, accessories, everything I could. Finally I lost even my empty home. Still, God was silent.
The next layer of stripping was private and invisible as I grappled with the raw essence of who I am. All the adjectives I had acquired and claimed throughout my life fell away. I stood naked before God, frightened by the echo of my own voice in that black tunnel as I shouted and cried out, what more do you want??
When the echo faded, I realized I wasn’t standing at all, but still falling, going deeper into emptiness. Even more adjectives fell away.
At some point I even lost so much of myself that I became objective, observing in amazement how I could be stripped away of what I understood to be everything, and yet, still feel a continual stripping of still more. It was then that my surrender reached a new level: I stopped praying – my voice now useless, and tears ceased. The falling sensation morphed into a crouching, sitting position very far down in a very deep hole. I knew I was naked and no longer cared that there was nothing to cover me.
How long was I there? Time stopped and duration was irrelevant. I was there for as long as it would take for the emptiness to penetrate and consume me. I had yet to become the emptiness.
I didn’t know when I was ready, but God knew when the surrender had become fully genuine. It was then that He blew me a kiss, ever so subtly, but enough to turn my face just slightly in His direction.
There were no words, but the message that fell over my weak existence said “HERE I AM”.
I understood then what it means to sit with sorrow. I had been sitting, waiting, for a very long time.
God didn’t scoop me up in His hand and lift me out of that internal canyon in some dramatic rescue, but instead offered the dimmest light imaginable. It wasn’t the light I would have wanted, but it wasn’t my choice to make. I could understand that because finally, I had learned to sit with sorrow. The light was enough to see His almost invisible finger pointing to crevases in the hole where I could place a foot, handles to hold on to. It was a long and laborious climb. I had no idea where I was going, but I believed it didn’t matter for the requirement was not a destination, but a profound trust. God had asked me to trust Him; trust was the only option.
As I continued to climb, a picture of sitting with sorrow slowly emerged into my consciousness. I understood that being in sorrow hurts, but that running from pain only prolongs it. Once sorrow has come into our space we must surrender ourselves to the trust in the Holy Spirit that we so boldly proclaim when we have control in our lives. Oh, how many times had I proclaimed that myself in times of plenty, ease, and comfort? Yes, sitting in sorrow is the only response to life’s trials, for the pain that lurches like scary shadows in the dark has a momentum that must be spent before we can be free. That pain has to penetrate, consume, and destroy all we have and all we know so that we can give God the truest of trust and finally know the depth of his love and grace.