We recently decided to sell our house. It was not an easy decision but a necessary one. When I got so sick a couple of months ago, one of the first things we considered was mold exposure. While I have had long-term symptoms from Lyme Disease, they were manageable until two years ago when I had chronic mold exposure in a house we were renting. I got very sick very fast.
This downfall seemed similar. We did testing, and while our house was likely not as bad as the house that had originally made me ill, it wasn’t the pristine environment I needed to heal.
Long story short we sold our house and also got rid of the large majority of our possessions (everything that couldn’t be cleaned thoroughly). This was drastic, but as I was reacting very negatively to items from our household, felt necessary.
It’s hard to explain how I’m processing this event – as well as all of the physical suffering, and the emotional load of seeing my children grapple with more change in their life. (They are doing very well, and are happy and contented. But not all of the transitions have been easy.)
There is a tension I feel between sorrow and rejoicing. I think I find that same tension in the Bible. We are told over and over again to rejoice, to praise God, to thank God. 1 Thess. 5:16 tells us to, “Rejoice always, ” and to “pray constantly” and to even “give thanks for everything.”
Taken out of the context of the rest of the Bible it could lead you to think that Christians are supposed to be constantly in a happy, rejoicing mood, with no room for sorrow.
But Paul in 2 Corinthians repeatedly refers to his sorrow. He shares that there was a time when they “were completely overwhelmed – beyond our strength – so that we even despaired of life itself.” (2 Corinthians 1:8) His love for the church at Corinth had also caused him to write, “with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart.” (2:4)
So here we have this tension in our faith that brings hope and light to our darkest days but also allows us to feel anguish and tears. A faith that allows for a world that can overwhelm us – to even beyond our strength. But yet it does so as we follow a Savior who is gentle and empathetic to our temptations and sorrows.
I feel the tension in letting both of those things be true – the troubled tears, and the thankfulness in everything – but I am not willing to let either go. I am not looking for Zen-like peace that doesn’t allow sorrow ever to penetrate, because loving in this world means you feel the pain of others. Being human means that you can feel deep, personal pain. I am also not willing to look at painful circumstances and say, “You have no meaning and God can’t work through you.” I know that even in these recent painful events, God can work.
I find Biblical support in the lamenting and the rejoicing.
Here, now, in these days, I am not focusing on lamenting certain losses. I do feel grief over precious items we lost, and that grief will keep popping up in the days ahead.
But in my sickest days, as I listened to my family take care of my three girls, I knew this – the life I wanted was with those three girls and my husband. The life I wanted was just out my bedroom door if I could only get well enough to join them. My life wasn’t in my house or being a homeowner, or in my little trinkets, or even in my beloved books. It was with the beloved people he gave me to care for.
So now that I have improved enough to join life again – albeit still with limitations – I don’t feel dragged down with sorrow. I can rejoice.
Losing your house and getting rid of most of your possessions is sad, yes. My heart hurts just thinking about certain hopes and dreams now lost because we sold our house. But the loss of your health and place in your family life is a far greater loss. That’s a loss I would feel great sorrow over if it were to continue.
I could concentrate solely on losses and those would become heavy indeed if I were to do so. But instead, I feel a blooming thankfulness in my heart for all that I still have. I am working on staying in that place of rejoicing moving forward – not because I deny our sadness, but because I feel that joy will be what keeps us moving forward and healing.
Psalms 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice: let them shout for joy forever. May you shelter them, and may those who love your name boast about you.”