I learn so much from blog readers. I love thinking about where people are coming from, especially those who have such different views than I do. I have learned so much from trying to put myself in the shoes of others, trying to see things from different perspectives. There are all kinds of things that rumble around in my brain and my heart long after they are said here that teach me.
One of those things I still think about was a while back. I wish I could remember which post and where (sometimes I’m the worst at responding to comments, but I do read them all!) Anyway, someone was talking about how in my church it seems like everyone tries to brush over sadness and sorrows. That there seems to be some unwritten rule that you should just look for the good in hard things rather than just accepting the sadness. Does anyone remember where that was? If so let me know. But I have been thinking about that a lot.
Specifically lately because it seems there are so many “valleys of sorrow” in the world right now.
So many people right in my little corner of the world to mourn with.
And because of those comments from way back when, talking about how I (or the counsel in my church) sometimes tend to brush over the sad, I wonder, if that is true, (and I think it is to a certain extent), is it ok to look for “sunshine” in the sorrows? Is it ok to look for the silver linings? If I do that, why do I do it?
Of course, the answer to that is that it’s really up to the person going through the valleys.
We will never understand the gravity of the sea of sorrow someone else is swimming in until we are there ourselves.
Some of us want to stay.
Some of us must stay, there is such depth and gravity that it takes a hold of us and becomes part of who we are. There are parts of that darkness that embed themselves in our hearts and spread, sometimes slowly, sometimes like wild fire. Sometimes they are there for good. And never, ever go away.
But does that darkness really have the potential to make us better? Is it true that that darkness has power to make us stronger? “The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees”? Is that just rhetoric to make us feel better when we are in the midst of the valleys of sorrow?
I love the quote from Hellen Keller that says, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
There was a thought shared in a church meeting today about afflictions. (There are so many scriptures about afflictions…Psalms 34:19 “many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all,” Hosea 5:15 “in their affliction they will seek me early,” 2 Nephi 2:2 “God shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” just to name a few.)
But the thought today was about that last one…consecrating our afflictions rather than praying them away. Trying to turn them over and over again, wondering how they are changing us. Letting them change us.
I think that’s such a beautiful thought. Beauty for Ashes.
Which reminded me of another story shared in church a little while ago from The Hiding Place (which, embarrassingly I have not read, but know I should…it’s sitting on my desk waiting patiently for me…and after this story I am more determined to read it). It is a story of the two sisters, Corrie and Betsie, who are suffering mightily in a concentration camp, and find that the straw they have been sleeping on has been infested with fleas.
Corrie asks her sister Betsie how they can live in such a place, to which her sister reminds her of a scripture they had recently read in first Thessalonians: “rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
Corrie is horrified, how in the world can they find “thanks” for an infestation of fleas in the midst of their sorrows? Here’s a little part of the story because it’s good:
“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“‘Such as?’ I said.
“‘Such as being assigned here together.’
“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.
“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’
She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.
“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’
“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘
“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
But it turns out that one night they made the realization that the very fleas Corrie could not find a reason to be grateful for were the reason they had discovered so much freedom in their particular barrack. That they found they could speak quietly of religion. That they could smuggle their Bible and escape the rigid surveillance that was going on in much of the rest of the camp. The reason? The guards knew it was “crawling with fleas” and did not visit often.
I think that is such a beautiful story of finding beauty for ashes in the most poignant way.
I took notes from some quotes I loved from the This Is Us season premier:
“You were born out of tragedy. Multiple tragedies. All that loss. All that sadness. Look right here in this room. Look what you did with all of that. Do you see it?”
“This pain is not forever. This moment in time is not forever. Nothing is forever, except us.”
Yes, some valleys of sorrow last a long, long time. Some never seem to go away. And sometimes sitting with our sorrows is what teaches us the most. I am grateful I have been taught to seek out the lessons in the darkness.
They are there for the taking if we look.
I love that the “Heavens” WILL “weep with us” (the title of this painting below), if we let them in.
I don’t pretend to know and understand the depth of the myriads of hardships people are going through. I don’t even understand the depths of the things I’m dealing with myself. But I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to mourn with those who mourn to the best of our abilities. To sit with others in their sorrow. For those who have been willing to sit with me in mine.
I’m thankful that we can in some way pave the way for others to go through the trials that come when we have experienced part of those trials ourselves. I”m thankful for those who have gone before me who have braved unknown valleys and come back to show me the way. I’m thankful that when those things hit the hardest and the deepest, I am able to reach Up, like Betsie in The Hiding Place, and look for the beauty amidst the ashes.
Just some thoughts for a Monday morning. I’d love to hear yours if you have some to add.