Monday, December 7, 2009

Beautiful Sorrow

I've been reading this amazing book called "When God Weeps" about the reasons for suffering, what God is doing about it, and why it is beautiful.
This is a passage from the book that really stood out, and made me rethink why I love sadness:


It's humiliating to be sandblasted to the core. The mask of pride ripped away. The veneer of pettiness peeled off. But there's something refreshing about knowing yourself at the core. The vulnerability. The transparency. The "nothing" between God and us.
    And thankfully, God doesn't leave us stripped bare.
   The beauty of being exposed and empty is that God can then cover you. Like a surface that must be scrubbed clean before you can bond anything to it, the bonding of intimacy between God and us won't adhere until the film of dirt goes, the ambitions, the vanity, everything that sets itself up against others and God.
   It's not just that the sin is removed; the saint is built up: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (Romans 8:29). Remember when we said that God delights in his own reflection? That the mirror image of himself is his Son? Think of his joy when he sees Christ in you. Nothing enthralls him more. When the soul empties itself of pride and pettiness, Christ fills it up. It's just another way of saying Colossians 3:3, "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." You die. He lives.
   Nothing could be more gloriously bittersweet. Not sweet, but bittersweet.

Have you ever noticed that there is a kind of suffering and a kind of dying that we secretly long for, that it is indescribably delicious in a mystical way? This is not ordinary suffering (unless we are masochists). But we want to die when we have a mystical experience. I only felt it twice: once when swimming in the ocean in a great storm and once when first hearing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The French call sexual intercourse le petit mal, the little death. It is an end, a consummation, like death, yet a consummation devoutly to be wished. The mystics speak of their deep desire to die in God, to become nothing in God....What does it mean that we long to die, to suffer total self-loss? And what does it mean that joy is close to tears and that the most wonderful things are not sweet but bittersweet?


My greatest pleasure comes not from seeing a person carefree and skipping through life with the sweet unconcern of the little child. Rather, it comes from seeing the sunshine through the rain - as  it were - in the eyes of someone you know to be suffering. Seeing the smile even while tears stream down his face. Knowing he is experiencing acute pain, whether of mind, body, or soul, but seeing that heavenly light in his countenance anyway, the light of hope. That is why, to a degree, I love sadness. That is why there is more beauty to be found in sorrow than in a life free of pain.

A few lines from a song I recently sang at church go thus:

Only be still and know His leisure,
In cheerful Hope, with heart content.
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
And all discerning love have sent.
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

...God never will forsake in need
The soul that trusts in Him indeed.

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