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.
This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.
- Posted in: Uncategorized
- Tagged: alchemy, God, grief, happiness, heartache, joy, pain, redemption, sorrow, suffering, transformation, understanding, wisdom
This is a great mystery and why the Book of Job has always been a problem for me…There is an alchemy of sorrow but not for all. Some may be crushed under tragedy or grow into a bitter shell…
Mike, I have abbreviated your comment here because it deserves a fuller treatment which I intend to answer via email (I copied your entire text to an email draft to answer point by point to the best of my ability). For purposes of what you ask here, it is indeed a great mystery, and as you say, not all survive with both their integrity and their faith intact (as Job did). I never understood the book of Job fully until I lived through what felt very much to me as if it was a close approximation in terms of catastrophic loss. There are those who argue that Job is just allegory but after the past 5 years, I tend to take it quite literally. In either case, the message remains the same. One has to be willing to accept both the sovereignty of God and the reality of human free will, along with the pervasive effects of what is commonly called “the fall.” And yes, one has to accept that life isn’t fair. It’s a hard lesson to learn but for those who believe in the ultimate divine redemption of all that has gone wrong, there is hope.