Alchemy in sorrow
“Sorrow fully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmitted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.”
— Pearl S. Buck
I believe that true optimism must include comprehension of the role sorrow plays in all our lives. A positive outlook is not a form of denial; rather, it’s a conviction that even our deepest grief has meaning; that our trials and tragedies bring understanding and transformation more than superficial knowledge ever could.
In the years since Matt was born, Jeff and I have dealt with sorrow upon sorrow as the medical and developmental challenges continued one after another, and practical daily support was often scarce. It has changed us forever, in more ways that we can describe or even know. But I truly believe that our lives have been made richer for all Matt has taught us, that we could never have discovered without him. It’s no coincidence that the author of the quote above walked a similar path years ago, and left us a priceless literary legacy as a result.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard Jesus referred to as “the man of sorrows.” I didn’t understand how profound and ultimately beautiful a concept that was, until I experienced recurring sorrow for years on end. The terms “God with us” and “man of sorrows” are now linked in my mind, as I contemplate the full implications of a God who, in granting humans freedom of choice, allows us to undergo suffering — an omnipotent God who chooses to walk beside us and share in that sorrow, rather than render us powerless to choose our own destiny.
There could be no deep joy if we did not know sadness, just as a person who has never gone hungry is unable to appreciate food as fully as those who have been without it. It’s a kind of paradox; a mystery we can’t fathom. Yet its truth has sustained people through circumstances far worse than the ones we now face. If you are in a time of suffering or grief, I pray you can hold on to the belief that your sorrow may yet be transformed into happiness deeper than you could have imagined.