Sorrow and the Goodness of God

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Sorrow feels akin to a tide eroding the stony shore, hollowing out a cleft in the rock face. It overwhelms, all-encompasses, and deadens at once. None of us are immune to it. It crashes repeatedly in the years we’re granted on this spinning orb. People die. People move. Relationships are broken, left unmended, and we find ourselves carrying the weights of these sorrows on shoulders too narrow to bear up under them.

I’ve recently been experiencing a bit more sorrow than I have in the past as our life overseas keeps shifting like the sand. Our friends are packing. We’re having goodbye meals; the kids are sleeping over. A friend was touched by mental illness, and we rallied around her in her time of need. This is all in addition to the pain of separation we’ve felt from family and friends due to border closures, and of course, in addition to the pain of racism’s touch back in the US. It feels like sorrow heaped upon sorrow.

What I’ve found in these griefs is a growing empathy toward my fellow humans as we all wrestle with the question, some of us subconsciously:

Is God still good? Does He care about my life? My pain? My problems?

In my true fashion, when feeling overwhelmed by life, I must move my body. I put on my sneakers and headed to the park down the street for a walk. I always listen to a podcast when I exercise, but on this day, I stumbled onto Osheta Moore’s Instagram and saw a video in which she was graciously welcoming people into her space of “Breath Prayers.” She was playing a beautiful song on Spotify in the background called “In the Meantime” by Jess Ray. I passed the lily pad pond on my left and opened up Spotify on my phone to have a listen.

And in time,

I’ll let you in on everything I’m planning.

When it’s time,

I’ll let you see everything you’re asking me. When it’s time,

You will know why there are things

I’m hiding from you.

But I’m gonna satisfy

Everything in the meantime.

“In the meantime”–Jess Ray

These words spoke directly to the questions I’ve been holding in my heart. It’s been hard to understand why things are the way they are right now. Why is He allowing so much pain? He is good; I know this is true. But God, these circumstances just don’t feel GOOD; they feel hard and sad and long. It’s easy to confuse the goodness of my circumstances with the goodness of God. He doesn’t let up; the chorus rang out again:

But I’m gonna satisfy

everything in the meantime.

“In the meantime” –Jess Ray

With each step I took, my “whys” echoed one another. The lyrics continued to answer back that He is enough–for the meantime–for the future–forever. The Father’s desire is to satisfy the empty places in our hearts, and He knows how deep the caverns of sorrow reach. He knows that He has to reassure us that His plans for us are good, that He won’t leave us or forsake us.

I stepped up the ramp onto the sidewalk, and the playlist skipped to a song by Andrew Peterson. It was one with which I was unfamiliar. The lyrics caught me off guard:

Do You remember how Mary was grieving?

How You wept and she fell at Your feet?

If it’s true that You know what I’m feeling

Could it be that You’re weeping with me?

“Always good” –Andrew peterson

Isaiah prophesied Jesus would be a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” (53:3, ESV). He was human; sorrow touched His heart too. We get a glimpse of the most dramatic touch of sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane when He told the three, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38, ESV). Remain here, and watch with Me. Remain where? I’m not sure Jesus was merely asking them to stick around in the Garden, though He knew they would run from there as well. What if He is asking us to stay with Him in the sorrow? Sitting in the sorrow is hard; running from it feels easier though it always catches up eventually.

You’re always good, always good

Somehow this sorrow is shaping my heart like it should

And You’re always good, always good

“always good”–Andrew Peterson

This second line above caught my breath, “Somehow this sorrow is shaping my heart like it should.” What is this? Sorrow serves a purpose? But isn’t it just a byproduct of sin? How can sorrow turn out for good? Should we let the sorrows of sin in the world really shape our hearts–and in that shaping, we gain His heart? Maybe staying in the sorrow, we can see how much He really gave? We can see how high the price was for Him to redeem it all, to make us new, to transform creation? Maybe the sorrow shapes us in a way that makes us more like Jesus?

That You’re always good, always good
As we try to believe what is not meant to be understood
Will You help us to trust Your intentions for us are still good
‘Cause You laid down Your life
And You suffered like I never could

You’re always good, always good
You’re always good, always good

“always good” –andrew peterson

By this time, my tears have welled up and fallen to the tiled pavement in the park, and I’m keeping my head down, avoiding eye contact with locals. This is becoming a habit, apparently. But I keep walking, keep listening, keep thinking about these lyrics. He suffered like we never could, but He asks us to stay with Him in His suffering. The writer of Hebrews said, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2b, ESV). Jesus was able to suffer because of the joy set before Him; this joy was multi-faceted: God’s glory, the restoration of a relationship with humans, the transformation of sin-stained humans into His kingdom-ambassadors in the earth, the renewal of creation, the utter defeat of sin, death, and the grave–this was the joy toward which He set His face like flint (Isaiah 50:7, ESV) .

Jesus’ joy is our joy. Paul finishes up Romans 8 with these words, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies…Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (18, 23, 26, 28, ESV). We’re not in this alone. He wants us to remain with Him in His suffering, because He knows as we suffer with Him, He is shaping our hearts into hearts like His.

5 thoughts on “Sorrow and the Goodness of God

  1. This is so good and so true. What a beautiful reminder of His Goodness. It made me think of Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst and living loved despite the mess we live in. I also thought of Judah and the Lion’s new song, “Beautiful Anyway.” Thank you for sharing your heart.

  2. This speaks to where I’m still sitting; with Him in the sorrow over both Asia and America. I appreciate the thought that this time is shaping my heart to be more like Christ. Thanks for writing Amanda!!!

  3. Timely. Thank you. As I have felt deep sorrow, one that makes compromise or abandonment in relationship an option, I have gained and grown. Deep sorrow has shaped my heart in a way that I feel the compassion of my Father for the damage done by sin on our world. People are damaged and hurt other people and that sin continues to ripple outward causing pain and damaging others. As a daughter of the King I am to stand fast and turn the tide of that damage but to do so I must feel the pain as well as the deep sorrow my Father feels over the damage done to children He loves. It is a difficult and daily choice. My nature is selfish and self-preserving. But God is good and by an act of my will I choose to reflect my Father as best as I can, turning tides and starting new ripples of His goodness.

  4. Amanda, your words touched my heart and made me think. Suffering has a purpose—we don’t like it but it shapes us Inyo the people God created us to be. SUCH LOVE, SUCH WONDROUS LOVE! Thanks for sharing your heart.

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