I don’t generally enjoy sharing negative things about myself or my circumstances to others.
Growing up in the church, I tried to keep my sorrows, sins and flaws close to my chest, only putting my best foot forward, as the saying goes.
Even now, I have tried to carefully curate my life before others, only showing the best of me, never the worst; always my virtues, never any vices; only the good times – the joy, the happiness, the sunshine – never the dark clouds of depression.
I have kept those to myself. I have pushed aside sharing the sorrows and struggles in my life – or at least sanitizing them before they are shared.
But the Apostle Paul corrects me when he writes that the Christian walk is one of being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
His words showed me that the pristine image of myself I want others to see is nothing more than a distortion of myself, hiding and protecting the real me.
I have often simply remained silent, declining to share deeply personal prayer requests – even with my closest friends and family – for fear that they would look down on me, knowing that I struggle constantly with fear, doubt and anxiety, or that I often become depressed and lethargic when I look at how often I have stumbled and struggled in my walk with Christ.
If Paul says my life as a Christian is to be described as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, then amputating sorrow from joy when walking with others means I’m only sharing half of who I am.
I seek detours around my sorrows, thinking them an inconvenience, a distraction on my joyful destination. But when I seek to run from my sorrow, or tuck them away in the recesses of my heart and mind, I can miss what God would have me learn not only about myself and Himself, but also about others whom God has placed in my life.
I return often to an evening a few summers ago at the home of one of our elders at Commerce Community Church. We were studying one of John Piper’s books, “Future Grace,” together.
One evening that summer, Leland Moody shared his thoughts on a particular Bible verse that comforted him greatly during his battle with cancer. He was suffering; the cancer was taking his very life. So he didn’t mince words when you asked him how he was doing. But his sorrow was always tinged with joy for tomorrow and the hope of heaven.
That evening he shared with us a section of Scripture on his heart.
2 Corinthians 1:8, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
He told us in plain words that’s what it felt like often during his battle with the cancer that would eventually take his life. But he didn’t end there. The gospel never ends in sorrow. So he continued reading through verse 9:
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
If, as Luther states, suffering introduces a man to himself, then Leland introduced himself to us that night when he shared how God was working on him in the midst of the darkest moments of his life.
I thank God for the witness of Leland. I have never read that verse without thinking of the faithful witness of a man who was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
And if the Christian walk is meant to be made in community – which it is – then we severely impede our growth in Christ when we fail to share our sorrows with our fellow church members. It sounds easy, but sharing our struggles and sorrows is quite difficult. Especially for the amount of pride I still harbor within. It’s messy and time consuming, it opens us up and makes us vulnerable, asking others to understand us, our sorrows, and our struggles, not knowing how they will react when we share the deepest part of ourselves.
But this is the way God calls us to walk: bearing one another’s burdens in humility. Sharing our sorrows alongside our joys reminds us that we are human and this world is not our home.
Our progress to the Celestial City of Heaven itself will take us through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, through plains of ease and the slough of despond.
But Christ has blessed us with those in the church to walk alongside with, giving a helping hand, and receiving a helping hand, as we travel to our eternal destination.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3).
He can be reached at email@example.com