“A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” I was absentmindedly chopping potatoes; Luke was at school, and Anastasia was happily unloading the Tupperware drawer. Suddenly, that snippet of a verse from Isaiah 53 was running through my head. Although I’ll admit that I have been the last few weeks, I wasn’t at that moment feeling particularly sorrow- or grief-filled. But for whatever reason, God chose that moment to give me those words. “Acquainted with grief.”
To be honest, when I think about that phrase as it describes Jesus, I’m tempted to think, “Yeah, but not this grief. He can’t understand this sorrow of mine.” Do you do that, too? It’s fitting, I think, that I was suddenly struck with that thought on the threshold Holy Week. My suffering and sorrow worse than His. My grief more unbearable than That. Really?
I trust I’m not the only one that thinks that way some days. I’ll admit (dare I say confess?) that I’ve been reading the Hunger Games books this week. The tale of an astonishingly creatively repressive government, devising ways to slaughter its citizens, is appalling and nauseating…and thankfully fictional. But what of the places on earth where governments do just that? Where citizens are in fact murdered by violent dictators and appalling regimes? Forget my silly unbearable suffering; isn’t theirs beyond His understanding? Surely. I’m not much for comparing sufferings (here are my thoughts about that, if you’re curious), but surely those persecuted citizens’ suffering is worse than mine. And surely He doesn’t understand theirs.
Writing has long been my escape. But unfortunately, despite a more-powerful-than-ever need for solace in my life, this isn’t the season for me to write. As I chop potatoes, I am solely responsible for all of my children’s needs, day and in and day out; my phone is never far from my pocket, anticipating as I always am calls from various people in official capacities, deciding innumerable details about my life and my children’s; my ministry is ever and always on my mind, either in the forefront with planning to do and curriculum to write and emails to answer, or percolating in the background, ideas simmering and sputtering at all hours. And I most want to write about what I know, what I experience; but there are some seasons of life when those things are not fit for public consumption, for recording on the page or the screen. Not for now. Those things are mine alone, and not to be shared. Except.
Except when I heard (did I hear it, exactly?) this snippet of a verse from God, here on the cusp, the very edge of the week when we revisit and re-learn just what it means that Jesus is in fact acquainted with all our sorrows and griefs, more intimately than we could ever imagine—when I heard that, I couldn’t help but write it down. To remember. And to share. For the days unlike today when, in fact, I am overwhelmed by the sorrows and griefs that I deep down believe to be impossible for anyone else to understand. My suffering is not my own. Maybe that will mean something to you today—or another day—too.
And as I attempt to deflect the tears from my potatoes (good thing I planned to salt them anyhow), I’ll thank God afresh for that, for Holy Week, for the reminder that—try as I may—I can’t possibly own those sorrows for myself.