Sorrow and pain are part of life. That is a fact that I do not enjoy talking about very often, nor do I take joy in thinking about. However, it is a plain fact. That fact alone is possibly what inspired Michael Stipe of R.E.M. to compose their 1992 smash hit “Everybody Hurts.” The fact that the song became such a big hit for the band tells me that people connected with this song as well. Let’s take a look at a sample from the lyrics:
“Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on”
Universally speaking I think almost everyone has felt this way at some point in his or her life. I know I have felt despair at times in my own life, and can relate to what Stipe is saying right here. I used to think that feeling this way somehow meant that I wasn’t a true Christian because Christian’s aren’t supposed to ever been sad or angry. How wrong I was though. Look at what the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:17-18: “Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘my splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”’
Wow! That is powerful stuff right there! Jeremiah was someone who God used to prophecy to the city of Jerusalem that “I have plans for you…. Plans for good and not disaster to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) Now Jeremiah is writing here in Lamentations that all his hope from the Lord is lost! This is just one example though. I have previously mentioned in a different blog about how the Apostle Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” that God refused to take away even though Paul pleaded with Him three times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) That definitely had to cause Paul some loss of hope. Even Jesus Himself when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane about to die on the cross for our sins stated that “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).
Therefore, I think I can conclude that feeling agony and despair is not a sin, in fact I think sometimes God uses this time of pain to help us grow. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us (7:3). It is important to understand what Solomon’s metaphor or refining is here. When raw copper is harvested it is black in color and not very usable. It is then put into a refinery where it is melted down repeatedly until all of the impurities were out of it, and the copper was in it’s purest form and also at it’s most valuable.
You see friends, God takes us through trials and tribulations because He knows it will help us to grow in our Faith in Him. It certainly is not always fun, and when those trials come we should not ever close up and stop talking with our fellow Brothers and Sister’s in Christ. Let’s now go back and look at some more lyrics from “Everybody Hurts:”
“Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand. Oh, no. Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone”
This section of the song reminds me very much of the message of Romans 12:15-16 where Paul writes to the Church that “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! (NLT)
That is one mistake a lot of Believers make when someone is suffering or grieving within their midst. We think we know it all sometimes, and make stupid statements like “God has a reason for what you are going through right now” or “Well, [insert name of deceased family member here] is in Heaven now so they are no longer suffering” While statements like that may be true, they are not helpful to a person who is grieving! That certainly is not ‘shar[ing] in the sorrow’ or even an attempt at living ‘in harmony with each other.’
What should we do then you ask? I find that often times it is much more beneficial for me to listen and let the person who is grieving talk. I re-assure them that it is okay for them to feel angry, agony, grief, and or despair. There is no wrong feeling when it comes to times of hardship. In the examples I have shared above we see God fearing people and even Jesus felt deep anguish at points in their lives. I also tend to simply give people a hug and let them know that I will do anything they need. If they need a meal, I’ll be glad to cook, if they need a ride somewhere, I’m glad to drive them. In this way I demonstrate to them that I don’t know it all, and never will claim to, but I am glad to listen and to help in any way I can. The Church is supposed to be a safe haven for people and it is supposed to be a community. We are supposed to enjoy each others company and share in each other's joy, but we must also never cease to bear one another's burdens as well.