I pulled into the gas station and turned the ignition off. Fumbling in my purse for a debit card, I was startled by a tap on the window. My heart stopped momentarily, then sank at the sight before me.
It was him.
My once beautiful, bright-eyed, curious, funny, witty, son was standing there with a big gulp in his hand and a half-hearted, crooked smile on his face. That Big Gulp was probably the only nutrition he'd had for the day.
We exchanged hellos and hugs before he looked me over, and I looked him over, each deciding to say nothing about what we saw.
I saw glazed over, vacant eyes underneath a hooded jacket that he, forever ago, started hiding beneath. I saw listlessness and defeat, combined with a hint of prideful arrogance. It was that wall that said: "I am what I am. Don't go there." I saw small-sized jeans and a tattered shirt with cigarette burns, hanging, like a tent, on his young frame with bones protruding from beneath.
He saw my broken-hearted, imploring eyes that always asked the same question: "When are you going to quit."
The awkward exchange lasted not even a minute. It always ended the same way:
"I love you, mom."
"I love you too."
As I watched my son drive away from the gas station, a sob escaped my lips. Whatever my schedule may have been for the day suddenly gave way to an overwhelming sorrow. I found myself led back home and under the covers of my safe, warm bed.
I can't tell you the countless times this scenario played out in the earlier days of my son's ongoing addiction. I never knew when he might show up unexpectedly. My severely bandaged heart would just begin to mend in his absence when he would show up, once again, his addiction facing me squarely in the eye. The conflict was never-ending: I missed him terribly, yet I couldn't bear to see him. He rarely came to ask for anything except maybe a shower or to do laundry.
Mostly he came to find our love. To make sure it was still there.
I have known the level of sorrow you must be feeling over your current circumstances. You wake up thinking your tragedy is just a nightmare, only to discover you are starting all over again, enduring through one more day. You find yourself sleeping too much or sleeping too little. Social outings become scarce. You no longer know what to say, and your friends don't either. You've stopped taking care of your temple. You know the one I mean. That place where Christ lives? In doing so, you've convinced yourself that even He doesn't want to live there anymore. Do you find yourself whispering:
Lord, is your love still there?
Once your hope is gone, your faith falls, and so do you. This is the picture of worldly sorrow. So, what is Godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow? (2 Corinthians 7:10)
I have a personal quote I leave on my dry erase board at home. It says: "It is okay to be sad. It is not okay to be hopeless." It has been on that board for so long, I doubt it can be erased without quite a bit of elbow grease! I leave it there to remind me never to go back down that dark, faithless path of not trusting God. No matter what life's troubles bring, it is never an option to lose hope.
There is a song by We Are Messengers called, "Maybe it's okay." The verse: "Maybe it's okay if I'm not okay 'Cause the One who holds the world is holding me," brings me to tears every time I hear it played.
You see, at one point in time, I so desperately needed permission to be sad. To let it all go. To tear my heart out unto the Lord. Sometimes, sister, we just need permission to weep.
THIS is Godly sorrow.
Holding the sorrow deep inside the crevices of our heart is NOT Godly sorrow. This is how the world teaches us to grieve.
"Smile! Push down those tears and press on!
When asked how you are, say ‘I’m fine!’ Don’t bore us with details!
We need to look strong and capable at work!
Don't let them see your weakness!"
This, my friend, is worldly sorrow, and it is not beneficial to our well-being. Stuffing things down is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. This type of sorrow leads us to make decisions based on anger, anxiety, and depression. We soon find ourselves under the covers of darkness, making us unaccountable to the One who comforts. After all, how can the Holy Spirit be expected to groan alongside us if we won't come out of hiding?
Pretty soon, this unworldly sadness leads to hopelessness. We mask it until we succumb to it, and eventually drown in it. Before we know it, we've already lost sight of the life preserver in the deep waters of anguish.
This NLT version describes 2Corinthians 7:10 best:
"For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There is no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death."
Godly sadness is sharing our sorrow with the Holy Spirit. In the groanings, the Spirit guides us away from hopelessness, the worldly grief that separates us from God and sends us hiding under the covers. He sends us, instead, into faith and trust in God. By laying our sorrow at God's feet, the Spirit acknowledges that we are repenting away from hopelessness and trusting Him to care for us.
Only a few years ago, I was trapped in a net of worldly sorrow. I pushed people away. I stopped taking care of myself. I hid under my safe, warm covers for temporary relief. This worldly sorrow caused me to spiral so far away from God and His hope that I began to drown. Thankfully, The Holy Spirit threw me a life preserver amid my deep pain, and He taught me how to groan to Him, the One who loves me so much more than the world ever could.
I turned from that old way of life and found new life in the hope that Christ provides. My son still lives in bondage to addiction. I still have sorrow. Godly sorrow that points me always to Him. I strengthen my relationship with Christ each time I bring Him that sorrow. In return, He has given me what I once thought impossible; a strengthened relationship and bond with my son and an unwavering peace when I'm with him.
These lyrics from "Maybe it's okay" sum it up perfectly:
"If I didn't know what it hurt like
To be broken
Then I wouldn't know what it feels like
To be whole."
Through the bitter sorrow, I found the sweet fragrance of hope that resulted in helping me find my son again and helping him find a renewed me. Through brokenness, I know what it is to be whole. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know…