The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sorrow as “deep distress, sadness, or regret, especially for the loss of someone or something loved.” ¹
Admit it: we all face sorrow at one time or another.
Sorrow fills our hearts at different times and under different circumstances throughout our lives. We may be distressed over a divorce, disappointed we didn’t get accepted into the college we desired, or regretful because of a poor decision.
King David Faced Sorrow
Old Testament King David experienced both joy and sorrow.
Joy filled his heart when he dedicated and devoted his life to God. Furthermore, on the battlefield, David’s military power and strength exceeded that of all other leaders, earning him the admiration of his God-given abilities and gifts.
However, at other times, David resembled a godforsaken failure. As a child, David lived in obscurity compared to his older brothers. Later in life, though, he defeated Goliath! In his youth, he was constantly running away from King Saul because Saul became jealous of David’s success. As an adult, he lived with harsh consequences due to his sexual lust for (and relationship with) Bathsheba and then his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.
As to be expected, David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba caused him extreme grief and undue sorrow.
David’s Success Plummets
David, who once held a familial relationship with King Saul, escaped from Saul’s horrific wrath by reducing himself to hiding in a cave. David’s psychic characterized his enemies as snarling dogs waiting to attack. All the while knowing that his refuge was in the Lord. David acknowledges his disdain for his enemies in Psalm 59:13-15, where he writes:
13 Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more;
That men may know that God rules in Jacob
To the ends of the earth. Selah.
14 They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
And go around the city.
15 They wander about for food
And growl if they are not satisfied.
We can glimpse more clearly the heart of David as he pleas for God’s help in Psalm 56.
¹ Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
3 When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
5 All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They attack, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life.
7 Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!
8 You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me . . .
13 For You have delivered my soul from death,
Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living. (Psalm 56:1-9;13)
David’s pure and unadulterated prayer to God exposed his dilemma, pleas and desires.
- His dilemma: He tells God His foes were fighting him (Psalm 56:1-2);
- His plea: He asks God to put his tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and;
- His desire: He asks God to be gracious to him and to cast his enemies forth, so he may walk before God. Psalm 56:1, 7, 10.
David approached God in confidence—all the while knowing that God knew the true state of his circumstances and heart.
God knows the true state of our hearts as well. When the walls are closing in around us and when we cry out to the Lord, the prudent thing to do is to follow David’s example by sharing everything that is on our heart with Him. At many times, our thoughts and desires are meant only to be expressed to God. Some say, “Why should we tell God? He already knows everything.” But, when we share our inner thoughts with Him, He is pleased to see us entrusting our lives to Him in prayer and conversation.
Only God knows the true state of our hearts—not the person sitting next to you, your parents, or your spouse.
What Thoughts Should Fill Our Mind When We Are Sorrowful?
Deal With Sorrow
We all experience sorrow at some point in our lives: the death of a parent, a divorce, an unfulfilled desire, a jealous spirit. If you haven’t experienced sorrow yet, it will come.
The emotional pain from our circumstances can linger for years or decades. Some carry grief, regret or sorrow their entire lives by ignoring the pain and blocking their sorrow. Be that as it may, blocking our sorrow can cause serious problems, such as suicidal thoughts, hate and physical illnesses.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at the agonizing pain of a broken heart—medically called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Broken hearts can affect men and women, and young and old. Doctors now say that having a broken heart is real: it mimics heart attack symptoms and can lead to heart failure. ²
I know it’s real. I experienced it as a young adult due to a boyfriend-girlfriend breakup—although at that time there was not a medical term for what one experiences with undue pressure, stress and sorrow. It took six months to finally release the severe heaviness stirring in my heart. Then decades to release the emotional pain!
Let’s take care not to dismiss the extreme pain many high school students and young adults feel when losing a relationship or any desire of the heart. God knows and cares about all these types of experiences.
We need Him to hold our sorrows and tears so we can move on and be useful to Him, and when we are being used by Him, we will flourish in our Christian walk.
Cry: Tears – Chasing a Rabbit
God loves us so much that He puts our tears in His bottle. Some Hebrew Bible scholars use the word wineskins or containers in place of the word bottle. The opening of a wineskin is so small that liquid can be poured in carefully resulting in very little evaporation. Either way, David asks God to look at his tears of fear and pain. David’s tears were so precious that He preserves each one. He does the same for us.
There are three types of tears: Basal tears, irritant tears, and emotional tears.
Basal tears keep our eyes lubricated. These tears are needed to prevent damage from the sun, air, or debris.
Irritant tears occur when we are hit by the wind, sand or even an onion.
Emotional tears show up in moments of intense feelings; sometimes joy, but more often sorrow. They contain stress hormones.
Our eyes generate tears under all these circumstances. This is one reason that crying is therapeutic when we are under a lot of stress. ³
In Here’s Scientific Evidence That Crying Can by Therapeutic, Anna Almendrala states, “new research shows that while shedding a few tears leads to a dip in mood immediately after the crying jag, about 90 minutes later people report feeling even better than they did before they had reason to cry.” ⁴
In Psalm 56, David was experiencing emotional tears. When we are going through an emotional crisis, our emotional tears pour out and are collected by our Heavenly Father as were David’s tears. Then when God has prepared us, trained us, and is ready to use us, He will use those tears. He will tilt that bottle or wineskin until the tears that you have shed can be used for His glory.
Jesus was not ashamed to shed tears. He wept at the raising of Lazarus. He wept over Jerusalem. And, He wept in agony at Gethsemane.
The Lord is aware of our suffering and sorrow. Crying is a gift from God, and He wants to bottle up our tears and record them in His book. (Psalm 56:8c)
Remember, Life Happens
Toilets break, dates are broken, jobs are lost, children have life-long illnesses, parents disown their children, young couples encounter infertility, spouses die, malignant tumors appear out of nowhere. I love what my pastor recently said when he said, “anything that can happen to anyone else can happen to us.” So true!
It is vitally important that we know what to do when “life happens”—this includes emotional, mental, physical or spiritual misfortunes. Often times, we see our trials as solely physical, but trials can be emotional, mental, physical, and/or spiritual in nature.
The problem is we insist on running our own lives when we really need to be still and set our sights on God. Sometimes our pain is so deep, we can’t even talk to others about it, but we must talk to God. When life happens and tears fill our eyes, we must remember that God is right there with us as we cry, mourn and seek peace.
Jesus guides believers through life. Unfortunately, sometimes we act like we are “La-Z-Boy believers”, i.e. too lazy to be still before God; too lazy to read our Bible; too lazy to pray; too lazy to make some Christian friends. Let’s change that today!
In Our Sorrow, God Always Has a Plan For Us
Our Lord deeply desires to give us peace when we encounter sadness and sorrow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bank on the fact that God knows our future and the future of our family? Well, we can!
Most of us don’t want to go through any circumstances that would refine us to be all God wants us to be. We take our wounds and try to hide them, so the same wounds keep coming up time after time; marriage after marriage; job after job. Then, bitterness sneaks in.
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
Folks, life throws us curves. We need to anticipate the curves. We need to be” pre-prayed up” so we are ready when those curves come speeding toward us. We must learn to trust God always, even when we cannot understand what is happening. If you are anxious about the future, turn to God. When you are confused, take refuge in Him because He has a plan for our lives.
Look at your afflictions and sorrows as a means God has chosen to refine, purify and mold you into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” — C. S. Lewis
God Uses Our Sorrow and Suffering for His Glory
God is doing a great work in us that can only come to fruition as we learn to trust Him, no matter how dark and dreary our life may seem. When we stop asking God why we are experiencing sorrow, and instead start applying our pain and sorrow for His glory, a milestone in our Christian life has been reached!
Pastor Tony Evans compares our sorrows to “The Temptations” hit song My Girl. When the song lyrics say, “When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May,” Evans says, [Look! My external circumstances are bad, but what can make me feel this way—My girl. He had a love relationship. You may be in a cloudy situation, but when it’s cold outside you can still have the month of May. My God can change your emotional strongholds]—when you have a relationship with God. ⁵
Every person must make the crucial choice to choose God or not choose God. By allowing the Holy Spirit to lead our lives, we develop trust in Him knowing He will control our lives way better than we can. Why? Because He knows the big picture, and we don’t!
Most often, those who have had the deepest spiritual impact in the world are those who have endured the most suffering because suffering produces holiness, strength and endurance.
Looking back over your life, where have you come from? What circumstances have happened in your life? Have you asked God what He wants you to do? He probably won’t show you the big picture of your life—even though He knows it! But we have the joy and privilege of asking Him to show us one step at a time.
Ask the Lord the following questions:
- What needs to be refined in my life?
- What areas do I need to improve upon? [My sins and logs]
- Then repent, move on, and ask Him how He can use you.
When We Surrender Our Lives to Jesus Christ, He Will Give Us Peace
Let God carry your earthly burdens and concerns.
In addition, one thing I have learned in life is that “surrendering all to God” can be the most painful task we can undertake. It is painful because we have to confess our sins, give up all our earthly desires and trust solely in Him. It may not come all in one sitting. It may come over time. But through the pain, God is refining us, maturing us and making us more Christ-like. And as believers, that should be our ultimate goal, even if it is a grueling task, because our job is to joyfully endure to the end of our earthly life.
As I have grown in my walk with the Lord, I know the more time I spend with God reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on His Word, and releasing my cares, sorrows, and trials to Him, the more I want to obey Him and His Word.
Moreover, as we each move through our earthly life, let’s not forget that, in that life, we all experience sorrow in the form of deep distress, sadness, or regret. We will all make mistakes and blow it—just like David did. But, let’s not dwell only on David’s failures. Let’s look at how He chose to sum up the lessons learned as he imparts his wisdom to his son Solomon.
“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (1 Kings 2:1-3)
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Oh, my dear Jesus. When times of sorrow fill my heart, let me remember You foremost. Let me come to You and share my sorrows, concerns, and trials. Let me lay them at Your feet. You are my comforter. It is in You whom I want to always depend upon and trust. Help me to be all I can be for Your honor and glory. I love you. Amen.
Central Houston Inspirational Writers Alive! Associate Member
BibleGateway Blogger, Member
SBC, Church Member
¹ “sorrow.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2019. http://www.merriam-webster.com (1 July 2019).
² Q13 News Staff. “Doctors say having a broken heart is real: Here are the symptoms.” Web. 14 Feb 2018.
³ Roizen, Michael. “What are the three different types of tears found in our eyes.” Sharecare. Web. Accessed 1 July 2019.
⁴ Almendrala, Anna. “Here’s scientific evidence that crying can be therapeutic.” Web. 25 Aug 2015.
⁵ Evans, Tony. “Overcoming Emotional Strongholds.” Podcast. One Place. Web. Accessed 29 June 2019.
Edited by E. Johnson.
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible unless noted otherwise.
Books by Patti Greene
Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending
Devotional Prayer Journals
Answer Me: Developing a Heart for Prayer
Anchor Me: Laying a Foundation in Bible Study and Prayer
Awaken Me: Growing Deeper in Bible Study and Prayer
4 thoughts on “Targeting Sorrow”
Beautifully expressed and written Patti. Lots to think about. Oh my that medical term for heartbreak is amazing – glad I am not a doctor!
So thought provoking, my friend. You gave me things to study and uplifted me at the same time. Great job!
Thank you for your kind comment.
Even though I edit your column, and see it before anyone else does, it is truly inspiring to experience the “finished product” in print! I have a new appreciation for your writing style: simple, direct and honest.
You have renewed my commitment to preserve and bring out these qualities in your work for all to enjoy, and for the Spirit’s blessings to pour forth abundantly through your written words to a world which desperately needs them.
Keep laboring in the vineyard, and producing your abundant harvest!
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