“Not only preachers…but anyone who tries to express the Gospel in words, even if only to himself, has much to learn here. The weight of these sad times we must obey and must obey just because they are sad times, sad and bewildering times for people who try to hold on to the Gospel and witness to it somehow when in so many ways the weight of our sadness all but crushes the life out of it.  

One wonders if there is anything more crucial for the preacher to do than to obey the sadness of our times by taking it into account without equivocation or subterfuge, by speaking out of our times and into our times not just what we ought to say about the Gospel, not just what it would appear to be in the interests of the Gospel for us to say, but what we have ourselves felt about it, experienced of it. It is possible to think of the Gospel and our preaching of it as, above all and at no matter what risk, a speaking of the truth about the way things are.” – Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale


My mother-in-law is a hospice chaplain. Every day of her work week, she abides with those who are sick or dying or injured, she sits with their families and friends. Most of us run from sadness and pain, but she went back to school after her children were raised precisely because she felt called to sit in those thin places with the hope of Christ, bearing the ministry of simple presence and comfort. She carries sadness that isn’t hers to carry because most of us cannot carry these moments alone and yet there are so few who will make peace with our despair.


I’m learning to obey the sadness – not only of our times, as Buechner wrote above, but the sadness in my own heart and the sadness of our community – and this is hard for me.

Our culture makes little space for the mess, I know. We are expected to have it all together. Don’t let them see you sweat, keep your dirty laundry and un-sanitized stories to yourself, thank you very much. Be successful, look good, feel good.


I never know if it’s a nature or nurture aspect of myself but I’m very good at compartmentalizing. I can put things into boxes in my mind and simply leave them there. When I worked full-time, I never brought my work stress home with me, it simply stayed at work. When things were rough in one relationship, I was able to still engage in the rest of life by simply putting it into the proper box in my mind and leaving it there until it was time to address it. I have been able to bear great stress and grief while still engaging in my life, still taking care of my children, still getting up and functioning in my life. I could be in the midst of great darkness or grief, but most people would never have known it. I took pride in my self-possession, counting it as righteousness that no one knew my heart was breaking.

But when I began my major spiritual awakening in my twenties, it was precisely because of those boxes. They were too full. Too full of questions and doubts, too full of criticisms and bitterness, grief and anger and frustrations. I had crammed too much of my very real self into these inadequate compartments in my mind.  The crash was real because the compartmentalizing was real.

Secrets make us sick, I’ve heard. I made secrets out of my questions and doubts and sadness because I didn’t know how to simply sit with them. Even now, I fight against the urge to explain or pretend or ignore away the darkness. It’s uncomfortable to lean into the pain, to find God there in the pain and the questions, the doubt and despair.

I’m too good at pretending. I’m too good at compartmentalizing. I do not obey my sadness. 


This might be a dark side of growing up in the whole faith-movement of charismatic tradition. We over-realized the very real truth that “our words matter.” Of course they matter: speaking life matters. I still teach my children this lesson and strive to remember the power of my tongue. But as a tribe, we over-realized that truth until we didn’t know how to feel our feelings.

Only our most over-zealous preached it but it was an unwritten expectation running through a lot of our theology: don’t give in to the darkness, don’t name it, don’t give it power, don’t acknowledge it, don’t confess it, don’t be sad, don’t be mad, don’t be despairing. We believed our feelings and our circumstances had to obey our carefully curated version of the Word of God: we are more than overcomers, the joy of the Lord is our strength, death has no sting. So don’t grieve when death comes calling: they are now with Jesus. Don’t be sick: come down with a healing. Don’t be sad: the joy of the Lord is your strength.

And I can’t tell you the grief I carry still over the people that were caught in the crossfire consequences of that teaching, believing that their darkness or grief or sadness or despair or sickness was their own fault because they simply lacked faith.

What bullshit.

When their stories didn’t line up with our narrative, they felt shame and eventually disappeared.

I understand how we got there now. I do. I know it was one-part ignorance, one-part hope. I am still charismatic, I still believe in signs and wonders, I still believe that God is for us and that we were meant for shalom.

But also, there’s this: when I was sad, when I had real legitimate reasons for grief or despair or anger or any emotion that was perceived as negative or dark, I had nowhere to go with it. I didn’t know how to feel my feelings. And by refusing to name it or acknowledge it, sometimes the darkness simply grew. As my worldview has expanded to include more stories than simply my own, as I woke up to the world outside of my own experiences, I saw this even more clearly. Look at the real darkness around us: don’t pretend it’s not real.


I’ve been thinking of our Jesus. How he took the bread and tore it with his own hands: this is my body broken for you. How he poured out the wine: this is my blood poured out for you.

First the death, then the resurrection. We like to skip that first part. We like to think we can have the resurrection without the death.

“Abide with me,” the Spirit whispers to us. Can we abide in what is real?


I think this is why I was so quick to pick up Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. I read it while on my way to Haiti a month ago. She writes about “solar Christianity” – bright and full of light and happy – in comparison to the lunar Christians among us who find God often in the darkness. And I realised that I have often found God in both places. I’m not one or the other, I’m both-and. But I‘ve been slow to make peace with my lunar spirituality, unaccustomed to walking in the dark with patience. I’m still in the early days of holding space for the lament to deepen the joy.


This isn’t an merely an intellectual discussion for us right now.  I’m writing this right now because this is what is happening. It’s not a puzzle to be pieced together, it’s a full immersion baptism.

Bear with me.


We are in deep grief with dear friends in these days. They are in a thin place, we are bearing witness. We have borne witness with each other in the joys and sorrows of our lives over fifteen years of true friendship: now an end is nearing.

There is nothing to say now. There is only what is happening. This is life sometimes, don’t pretend or compartmentalize or ignore or placate. Simply obey the sadness. Speak the truth of what is happening. Not the truth you wish were real. Not the truth that ought to be. Not the platitudes or time-worn cliches to minimize grief.

Of course, it’s wrong, we weren’t meant for this. This isn’t shalom.

But this is what is happening – whether it’s right in our own homes or halfway around the world in Nigeria – and so we learn to obey the sadness and live into the Gospel in the midst of it, to speak the truth.

I’m not walking in the dark, not yet, but I’m learning to abide with it.


One night, my broken-hearted husband called his mother: what do we say? what do we do? what will fix this? there is nothing else to do. You do this every day, Mom, what do I do?

Sit with them, she said. There is nothing to say, stop thinking there is something to say to make it go away. It won’t go away. Sit in the sadness.


In which love looks like the pilgrim soul
In which you are not forgotten
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  • This is wonderful Sarah. I am the same as you. I bury my pain, I try to compartmentalise it, and I do it so well. We need to own our pain, own our shadow, sit in it, acknowledge it. Recognise it’s real. Brilliant post.

  • Nancy Hart WIcker

    Wow! I do not know you, but you are a beautiful writer. I have walked over this past year in some darkness over the past year, and I understand what this means so much. I have a child born with profound medical problems and special needs. Her name is Willow and her story is written here: docmama21.blogspot.com (written plainly, not poetically, like you). But I will tell you I love your writing. I especially love THIS. This is a message that as Christians we must get, because if we do not, it can be so damaging. Thanks. I hope to meet you one day but until then I will read your blog 🙂 Keep it up.

  • Ah, yes. As Victoria Erickson reminded me just this morning: “The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again.

    You must allow yourself to feel your life while you’re in it.”
    A beautiful, heartbreaking post, Sarah. (no contradiction there)

    • Love that quote, Kelli – I’ve never read that before. So good. Thank you for the gift of sharing it.

    • Amanda

      thank you for sharing the Victoria Erickson quote Kelli!! I struggle at times to do exactly that, to feel my life while I’m in it. I prefer to shove my head it the sand, or just out and out run. Thank you!

  • Denise

    This is beautiful and true. Although I’m not from a charismatic tradition, I spent far too long believing what you described: that to feel anything but joy and peace was a failure on my part, a lack of faith, possibly even a sign that I didn’t belong to God at all. It is arduous work to climb out of those ruts of thinking, but well worth it, and some days I can actually see that things are changing. Words like yours reinforce that hope. Thank you.

  • Melissa Vanden Bout

    Dear heart. Yes, this is a Holy Spirit ministry–abiding. Thank you for sharing what you’re learning.

  • Yes and yes and thank you.

  • Carolyn

    Thinking of you.

  • Oh, the dangers of compartmentalization. Goodness I’ve been there. I’ve been there to the point of losing my father and saying a lot of “I can’t do this” because, like you, all of my boxes were full. Learning to acknowledge sadness–to obey it, as you said–is such an important and healthy thing that so few of us do when so many of us need it so badly.

    Thank you for your beautiful words (and for even further motivation to read BBT’s newest book)!

    • It’s a gorgeous book but a hard one to read and absorb quickly. I might be staying with that one for a while in my thoughts.

  • I stumbled upon this phrase, ‘obey the sadness of your time’ in college. It has been one of my most treasured gifts, a mentor giving me words for sadness and permission, even an imperative push, to pay attention to the sadness along the way. I think it’s helped me learn lament even as I was in the Vineyard Movement in the days when we were high on holy laughter. I knew obeying sadness was holy, too. “Don’t name it. Don’t give it power.” Oh my – yes, how many times did I hear it and believe it. But now I see that God is stronger than the names we call out, and God is strong enough for the sadness, too. I’m with you on the lunar side of things.

    • You lead me here, so much, Kel. Thankful for our friendship and the ways you teach me.

  • Sarah

    I will never forget the hospice nurse who sat with me as my gran was dying. I’ll never remember her name, but I’ll never forget that she was there. She talked to me about the deaths she had witnessed as I prodded her a little, completely curious about her line of work.

    This piece you’ve written feels like permission to grieve in a wide open space, rather than closed up in a closet somewhere. And perhaps joy will find me sooner in the wide open….

    • That’s my prayer, Sarah. So thankful for people like my mother-in-law and your hospice nurse. What holy work.

  • Mick Silva

    Holding, abiding, sitting with you. Thank you for your words.

  • sethhaines


  • Christy Ingebretson

    “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment
    of confusion or despair, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and
    bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing… not curing… that
    is a friend indeed.”

    ~Henri Nouwen

    • Always loved that quote. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Jo Inglis

    I sat with a friend yesterday & we as a church family are sitting too. My husband sat with the Pastor on Sunday after the service because he needed someone to sit. We are stunned & mostly don”t know what on earth to say. The darkness is real, thank you for reaching out from your thin place.

    • Thank you, Jo – so thankful for people who know how to sit.

  • Amanda N.

    I, too, lately have been thinking about sitting with my sadness, and I find myself drawn back to this poem by Rumi:

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

  • Mickey Grooters

    Sarah, thank you for opening up the compartments of your life in such a fearless way- over and over again for in so doing your words shape reality for the rest of us and help us to see and articulate. I know you have strong support groups – folks who know and love you and are standing with you as you walk through the thin place with your friends of 15 years– and you are showing up – and trying to be honest in real ways– Know that I pray with you—-

  • Thank you, Sarah. I’m also sitting with my sadness right now, as well as reading Brown-Taylor’s book. It’s timely, and I feel God might be calling me deeper into the darkness so I can understand this better.

  • Cheryl

    I totally understand this; we were one of those families that simply “disappeared” from church, in part because of those kinds to teachings. It’s also why I never returned to church, and why, among other reasons, I won’t ever go back to an evangelical denomination, or ever discuss the issue of healing. So much damage was done in the name of “faith”, that it took me a good decade to unravel my own faith from the careless words of well meaning christians.

    • I wish your story wasn’t so common, Cheryl. I am so sorry for what you’ve experienced.

  • Melanie

    Thank you. As I approach the 7th anniversary of my mother’s death, and still miss her like a lost limb, this is timely and comforting.

    • I’m so sorry, Melanie. Praying for you this morning, too.

  • oh Sarah. YES. This makes me dizzy with…with something. It’s a truth that maybe I’ve been too afraid to call out. Thank you. “Of course, it’s wrong, we weren’t meant for this. This isn’t shalom.”

  • What a wonderfully purple post, sister…for I consider you an honorary member of the Order of the Purple Martyrdom…where we sit with each other in our grief and pain and brokenness. Thank you for allowing us to sit with you….

  • April Fiet

    Thank you for this, Sarah. Not long ago I led a Bible study on Jonah 2. Someone shared some serious pain with the group…and everyone jumped in with platitudes that really only made the people who said them feel better. I think it unnerved people when I spoke up and said that sometimes we can’t find the reason for the pain. Sometimes we don’t see the redemption. All we see is hurt. And we know that somehow God will sit with us in the hurt, and that our God isn’t unable to sympathize with us, cry with us, be there for us. I hope that for the person who was hurting, that there was a release in knowing that her pastor doesn’t think she has to have it all together. I hope, but of course I don’t know.

    Anyway…in that Bible study (leaders guide written by Dr. Carol Bechtel on Jonah and Ruth) there was such an insightful section about how we so often pray in the dark. We don’t truly see where we are or know what we need. But we pray and we try hard to trust. And even though we are in the dark, we aren’t alone. I’m not doing it justice at all, but I really loved the idea.

    Thank you for this post, and prayers for you as you sit with dear friends in the sadness.

  • I really appreciate these words, Sarah. So few in Christendom are willing to “hold space for the lament.” I’m glad that you are.

  • lndwhr

    Oh Sarah. This is beautiful. I am learning these same things. Thank you. You always put into words what my heart feels.

  • Missy

    Oh dear Sarah. We are sitting with you as you sit.

  • Gillie Ruth

    Sitting in our home group with closest friends. One has breast cancer, one has leukemia, one has -Alzheimer’s, one has COPD, and diabetes, one is caring for grandchildren deserted by their father, one has an acquired brain injury, one a terrible divorce, another left by his wife, one has severe asthma and diabetes, one couple has lost two adult sons within months of each other, as nearly didmy husband and me. One has asbestosis of the lungs. We are financially bereft for now, several have adult children walking bad paths. We meet and meet and greet with love, we make bad jokes about our problems, we share our joys, we make plans to see and encourage each other, we grieve, we feel pain, and it is in this pain we experience that we can share, and will be there for each person, or partner or family as needed, and accept that life is body, mind and spirit, all wrapped up in people. Experience pain, embrace it as a tool to use to help and understand others. We all can use a casserole, but none of us need platitudes! My tiny, tiny miscarried twin baby is in Heaven with my beloved mum who died, far too young of leukemia, that makes the future seem so much more comforting. I won’t be going to a strange land, I’ll see My Loving Lord and bubby. 🙂

    • What a beautiful picture of community, Gillie Ruth, thank you for sharing that.

  • Gillie Ruth

    Had to add, I prayed for my sons to meet tough times before they were grown so that their faith might be tried and tested by then. I have seen too many young people grow up in comfortable circumstances who can’t really see what they need God for, not deep down, and fall away as life becomes real. I grew up in great joy and great sorrow, and wouldn’t change that because it gave me heart, hurt, healing and experience. Hang on, the bigger the chasm in life, the greater the relief to know God is there. It takes constant vigilance to keep Satan out of your mind-set, but, pray on, cry, and say a million thankyous to Christ every time you feel down. A little jolt of joy from above is worth more tha gold, fine gold on those occasions God sends one! The attack has started, I need teaching days soon to keep my registration, I’m very sick now, can’t get to schools etc, little panic, read my own words……lol……..pray, and if I don’t look to see how God will deal with it….that is my peace faith, if I try to think of how….no peace. Wordy today, must be the asthma medication!

  • Mia

    Oof. I thought the concept of “Don’t say it out loud! It might come true!” was unique to my upbringing. Bullshit indeed!

    Another brilliant post, Sarah.

    • Nope, there’s a few of us out here rattling around, I’m afraid. And thank you.

  • Tried to buy that book over the weekend but the bookstore didn’t have it in and I want the hardcopy not the Kindle version. I learned at age 9 to walk with my lunar self. What was harder to face was an Evangelical world that wanted me to “get over it”. And sometimes, they still do. Now, though, I’m old enough to not care what they think and bold enough to walk the path God put me on. No matter what.

    • Amen…here’s to us old women who walk boldly and don’t care what others think! 😉

    • Yes, isn’t this the truth. I am thankful for you women like you who lead us well.

  • Kaitlyn

    Thank you, sister.

  • R W

    When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness in remarkable ways….
    …So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering- which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway- perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able- entering the mystery and looking around for God.
    Pity can be nearsighted and condescending; shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.
    …The mystery of God eclipses the darkness and the struggle. We realize that suffering calls our lives into question, not God’s. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us.

    -From the intro to Job in the Message

    • I used to not like the book of Job. I’m coming to love it and appreciate it as I get older. Thank you for sharing this.

      • R W

        I totally hear you….I think the thing I’m starting to like about it is how honest Job is. God lets him be honest, and gives him answers. Even though they’re not maybe what Job wants to know….God hears him out. Thank you 🙂

  • “Sit with them, she said. There is nothing to say, stop thinking there is something to say to make it go away. It won’t go away. Sit in the sadness.”

    This is the best advice!

  • Joni Byrd

    I agree, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. This is a blog post I wrote about the identity of God being reflected fully in Heaven…not fully on earth. I think that is why true saints will always walk with some bit of sadness in our hearts–because our world is broken without His presence ruling. I am learning to live with joy in the blessings intermingled with sorrow for the sheer depravity in which we live. Thank you. https://www.facebook.com/FromTheJourneyCWB/posts/619119041514387

  • I am choking on the words. Drowning in them. Thank you for speaking. In the waters, too.

  • Thank you for this. I know this story.

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  • Sister on, Dear Sarah! These are words ringing true with my heart this week. I have realized, over several months, that I allow my extrovert nature to cover my real feelings. When I try to just sit in sadness and let it be, I feel like I have to explain myself to every single person I know. It’s exhausting. Without knowing I had done it, I built a life pattern of just putting what I really felt away for later. I don’t compartmentalize very well, so that turned into sad nights alone on my couch and losing sleep. Now that my life is not so alone (because this beautiful man sits beside me on the couch now), I’ve had to learn to feel whatever the feelings are and not let one side take over the other. Thanks for these words. They make me feel less crazy out here on my own.

  • Trish Finley

    Thank you. I needed to hear this today. It reminded me of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus. There was that wonderful happy ending, but before that Jesus cried.

    I referenced and linked to this post at the end of my blog today – I hope you don’t mind.

  • I totally get
    what you’re talking about. I struggled with intense depression during my
    senior year in high school and beyond (due to a deep heartbreak and
    health-related issues), and I had no concept of what it meant to
    acknowledge and heal from sadness because the church didn’t talk about
    those things. Darkness grew and almost consumed me. Luckily, I found
    some Christian friends during college who were really honest about their
    own pain and suffering and encouraged me to seek help. So I went to
    counseling, and I began to put words and memories to the sadness. I
    began to finally acknowledge and express things that were harbored deep
    within my soul. And when those secrets are released, when sadness is
    expressed, healing eventually comes and the darkness can’t hold you any
    longer. I’m still very much on the journey to wholeness and healing, but
    I’m so glad I’ve learned to give a name to the sadness, the pain, the
    grief of life.
    This also helps now, as I’ve been dealing with the murder of a dear friend, and often I just have to sit in this sadness that I don’t even want right now. I don’t want grief, but it’s there, and I have to learn to sit with it–and to learn how to sit with others in their pain. That’s what pain does–it helps you learn to help others through their own. I’ve become a much more compassionate human being because of pain. So I don’t run from the darkness anymore. I’ve learned that God is indeed near.

    • I’m so terribly sorry for your loss of your friend, Teryn. Thankful that you have had such good friends and for your compassion. We need more of this.

  • I would say I’ve learned to become a both-and Jesus-follower. I prefer the light. But when I was pushed into the darkness, I saw God there with a clarity that was unparalleled. I no longer fear the darkness as I used to.

    I love seeing what God does in you, friend.

  • Amy Hunt

    confession gives way to grace. and this is what He desires . . . a confessed heart, even of sadness.

  • Pam Kelly Moore

    Thank you for this from the bottom of my heart!!

  • Susan Irene Fox

    Sarah, authenticity is how we best abide in the Holy Spirit. Our God is everywhere, and He walks with us in the darkness, even though we feel completely alone and abandoned. My only comfort during those times are those great, angry,weeping psalms of David, knowing that he traveled those deep, dark places, too. I’m convinced weeping alone in the darkness is good for the soul. My own convulsive, grief-letting seems to create a needed space for Him to slowly, eventually fill again with light.

  • BritW

    Your posts make me think. And I mean deeply, way, waaaay down. But it’s a good thing.

  • Allyn

    I have struggled with this so much, how we are never allowed to just say “this is real, this is hard, and I am hurting deeply.” We moved to NYC last fall in a rush, and left behind the only life I’d known in TN, and I can hardly talk to most people back there and be honest about our struggles, our loneliness, our exhaustion. We know we made the right choice, but that is never a guarantee that it will be sunshine and rainbows. We are taking advantage of what we can, but people seem to think of this as an extended vacation, and instead it’s the hardest life we’ve known so far.
    Friends who listen without giving a pep talk of cliches are a rare blessing. I strive to be that friend, and appreciate so much the few in my life who will just listen to me.

  • Alicia

    I’m experiencing this now with my growing son. He’s 11 and growing up is HARD to do. In his school, these past few weeks, he’s been learning the atrocities of war…Hitler…Auschwitz…evil. Last night the sadness was too much for him to bear. I knew I had to just sit with him as he cried over babies and children and adults he never knew, that suffered unimaginable horrors. It’s too much. It’s too hard. I’m overwhelmed for his life, sometimes. I want him to be able to feel the sadness and not put it aside, but how do we LIVE? I was reminded this morning of the verse about coming to Jesus when we’re weary and heavy-laden…His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He will carry the sadness, the unbearable burden. It’s the only way we find rest for our souls. I can’t wait to remind my son of this. I want him to feel the sadness. It IS so sad!!! But, the burden, he can leave with Jesus. And, then we can live.

  • thelifeartist

    coincidentally, frederick buechner shares a video on his Facebook today about suffering and sitting with people in the midst of theirs… i’m praying for you now, sarah bessey, and the sad times you are bearing witness to. <3

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  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    I love these words, friend. And I am glad I stopped studying to read them. It is so true that something that happened 30 or so years back in our evangelical church culture that taught feeling sad made us unfaithful and joy joy joy is the only feeling we ought carry in our bag each day. I’m screwed all the time, that’s not where I live at all. This is not shalom. I love you and I love your beautiful and gentle way of sharing truth.

  • I’m thankful I didn’t have any customers come up to my teller window while I was reading this today. I was in tears, haha. So good, Sarah. As I’ve processed my own story as a sexual minority, and opened up my heart to others weighed down by the suffering in this world, I’ve truly found that human words can never do justice to the pain we bear. The answers are never sufficient, but I’m so thankful for the relationships that carry us through the dark times in our lives. People bearing the image of God. Christ in flesh. The incarnation in a sense continuing through His people, through grace and love amid our grief and amid the silence.

  • Oh Sarah, this makes me think of Mary and Martha. Martha especially has really captured me in the last few years and she seems to make her way often into my thoughts and writing. But there is a part after their brother has died when people come and console. They just came, just sat, perhaps wailed.
    Thank you. We don’t do this well and I’m learning to do better.
    Love you, sister.

  • Sarah,

    You are Charismatic and I am Pentecostal and I believe that some times people become so immersed in the Holy Ghost, that he takes their hands and writes his heart to all of us. I feel like I just read a letter from Jesus Christ.

    A hospice nurse, my daughter, her husband and myself were present with my first wife when she died. She checked Jane’s heart to confirm silence, then we just sat quietly. I looked toward the nurse and asked, “do you feel a presence?” and she replied “yes”. After a few minutes, the strength dissipated as if someone/thing left the room and we began to move around.

    My wife’s death ended three years of cancer operations, chemo treatments, radiation, agony and (for me) times of crushing DARK despair. In those few moments after she left, that experience changed us. My daughter, her husband and I experienced our God in a way we never had and it helped heal and comfort us. AND it came out of P A I N with N O explanation WHY.

    Thank you for being a conduit.

  • As I read this yesterday–while I was right in the middle of it–I got some pretty bad news from a friend. Your piece gives me courage to feel my sadness, to give it space, even the selfish parts of my grief. And yet, as my friend made me promise, to praise. Not with trite words or empty attempts to fix things or stuff emotions, but with the knowledge that this is a holy place.

    Thank you, Sarah.

  • Alissa Maxwell

    This resonates with me. I have recently been wondering if I am avoiding feeling deeply – perhaps I am a compartmentalizer as well. And the phrase “thin places?” Marvelous. Just saying those words feels like fresh breath to me. Acknowledging that some parts of our life can feel rich and full and yet in other parts we may be walking (or sitting) in thin places. Thank you.

  • pastordt

    Amen, amen, amen. That MIL of yours is one wise woman. I am so sorry for this hard thing, Sarah. Praying with you for freedom to lament, for obedience to the sadness, for enough – just enough – light in the darkness to offer a hand, lend an arm, sit in the silence.

  • I’m taking a break from the blogosphere but I just had to come on and read this. I have been thinking on these things over the past four years. My parents are very much solar and charismatic and I am very much lunar (loving that metaphor, btw). There is a real problem with our narratives clashing, particularly in the context of my chronic illness. I’m sure you can fill in the rest.

    I have had a few blog posts swirling in my head on these themes, but it hasn’t been the right time to write them. I feel like I’m not ready yet to write them. But I just read this and maybe I’ll point people here instead. You say it all pretty much perfectly.

    Thank you, kindred-spirit Sarah-girl. X

  • I am a lunar Christian. I am drawn to grief. I see God in grief. Well . . . I see him in the aftermath. I want to be around when people are grieving, and walk with them towards the aftermath.

    But I am not perfectly balanced. I could use a little more of the solar Christianity to help me breathe again, because I don’t compartmentalise well at all. And meanwhile, there are children to raise, and friends to love, and heaven to gaze at, and ice cream to lick, and sunny days still to come . . .

    Thinking of you and your friends.

  • Jennifer

    My heart needed this today. In the biggest battle of my life and desperately trying to contain / ignore my grief. Perspective is a great thing to have, until you have it to the point that you think you are not worthy to deal with your own pain because the world is hurting. This helped me to understand it is Ok to grieve…it is healthy to let it out and work through it. Thank you.

  • Elizabeth Schultz

    Sarah, my Mother-in-Law is also a Hospice Chaplain, I resonated with so much of this post, as my husband and I have called her so many times to ask for help in the darkness. Her advice is always the same…sit with them. Be with them. You don’t have answers…you just bear witness to loving them by affirming how dark it is, but that they are not alone in that. Several years ago Matt (my husband) and I were walking a similar road to what it sounds like you are walking. Dear friends of ours, who were our age and who had young children our age, faced the unthinkable in a terminal cancer diagnosis for the husband of this couple. It was the first time a peer of ours, a fellow young campus minister at the age of 30, would die. We learned through this painful, painful time to never underestimate the witness of just sitting with the pain. The sister of the wife of this couple, who was not a christian and actually very skeptical and hesitant about this weird faith of her sister had found, spoke at the funeral. To paraphrase, she said…”Being in their home, in those last days, and watching all of these people come in and sit with him, just sometimes resting a hand on his arm, or rubbing his back, or washing his body….I finally understood this Jesus they all loved. For these people were foot washing people too.” …..it has been over ten years but my tears just typing a small part of this story are again flowing. You and your friends are in darkness, but light is surrounding you as well. I will be praying for you all.

  • Krystal

    I have often felt like the odd ball, because I have the inability to contain my emotion. Growing up in the church , I was told to stop crying when I share my heart… my parents never knew and still don’t know how to deal with me. It was Christmas day, 1997, and I was in the Philippines on a missions trip. Jesus spoke to me and said, “Have I made a mistake in creating you this way?” How could I argue with that? with Him? That was the first time I embraced my vulnerability. The first person who gave me permission to be me was my husband, who explained that my heart is so big my eyes can’t contain it. I know I share my heart and soul, and I know people look at me at wonder what’s wrong with her? But I also know the pain of not being allowed to share, and to have no one to cry with… my two miscarriages were almost more painful because I was so alone and told to ‘Move on. It happens.’
    Your words bless me so much.

  • Stephanie Hough

    Have you read this post, Sarah: https://dlmayfield.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/the-ministry-of-watching-sparrows-fall-to-the-ground/ ? It’s been rattling around and around my head for days now. I’ve never really thought of sitting in sadness as being holy work – a way of partnering with Jesus. These are good (but hard but comforting) thoughts. Thank you for your post.

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  • janetb1

    Well this just spoke to my heart Sarah. Thank you for posting this. A friend and I just met for a walk and lunch and this is what we were talking about.
    We are tired of the Christian answer to things….I just want to be happy. When you say that to Christians they will say that is a feeling and usually they add the joy of the Lord is our strength.
    Enough people. Enough.

  • Brad J

    well said. so needed. may you, and all us, grieve well and embrace the power of the gospel in ‘those’ places.

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  • Joy Tripcony Short

    Sarah, your words are so fitting, as we just found out my brother chose to end his life on Mother’s Day. Our whole family is full of believers, and I am grateful we do have the hope of the resurrection for my brother and for us to be reunited with him again. And yet, I am seeing how “religion” is somewhat preventing myself and others from really feeling what we need to feel right now. As we cleaned out his apartment yesterday, I felt such anger, which then lead to guilt, which then led to overwhelming grief. My emotions scare me and make me feel ashamed, like I am not “trusting God enough”, and I can’t help but wonder if my brother, a long time believer, may have felt some of this shame at the end, and obviously felt like he needed to hide it and be strong, and finally decided he couldn’t be strong enough for this life. Today, I will choose to obey the sadness, and let these emotions take their course.
    Thank you for allowing the Spirit to give you the words that I needed to hear today.

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  • aninchofgray

    Thank you, Sarah. This speaks to my heart.

  • Deb Anderson Weaver

    I have sat long with those in darkness and pain, and although I am grateful for the privilege, I am longing for more light. Acknowledging true, hard, dark feelings even while we search for light is a big step.

    Deb Weaver

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  • Wow! I am learning so many of the same things! I love how you put it in words: to abide in the dark and feel my feelings, to obey the sadness. I, too, have been a great pretender and compartamentalizer until it all got too heavy and I collapsed by the weight of it all. I thank God for letting me fall apart so know I can be true to the real me.

  • Amanda

    I just came from a world (so not a Christian one) in which it was not ok to deal with emotions or talk. So I too, learned to compartmentalize and “stuff.” Eventually, the brain, the heart, the emotions run over, and the struggle now is to not let them spill over onto the next generation, so I have to let God work out that dark stuff with me and sometimes that dark feels so much like sludge. and yes, when folks are going through, it is best to sit with them, be with them, like Christ is with us.

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  • alisonnicole

    Beautifully written. I am one of those who learned that expressing negative emotion was not an acceptable option in the Christian world. Now I find myself in an unlearning phase with this and a whole host of other untruths I collected along the way. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  • anon

    ” don’t confess it, don’t be sad, don’t be mad, don’t be despairing.”
    WHAT? Where did you go to church?

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