Keeping Company

Keeping Company

“A great sorrow and a great fear had come into all the world, and the world was changing. Our minds were driven out of the old boundaries into thoughts of absolute loss, absolute emptiness, in a world that seemed larger even than the sky that held it.

nearness of God when we think we are alone“Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it. Those years of the war were not a blank, and yet during all that time I was waiting. We all were waiting…moving in wide circles around our sadness.

“The pleasures that came then had a way of reminding you that they had been pleasures once upon a time, when it seemed that you had a right to them. Happiness had a way of coming to you and making you sad. How can you be happy, how can you live, when all the things that make you happy grieve you nearly to death?”

* * *

These excerpts from Wendell Berry’s moving novel, Hannah Coulter, beautifully reveal a woman’s deep reflections on life. Here she’s pining for her soldier husband in WWII, but the words touch a chord for any who have suffered loss.

What resonated with me is the “waiting” Berry describes, the suspension from living life, and how happy things sometimes intensify the sadness.Continue reading



I happened to be in the second row. Only a few dozen people usually came to the evening service. The worship music provided a space of solace, quieting the rush of the day. With my eyes closed, I listened, waiting for anything the Holy Spirit might say.

KerzenlichtOn the screen of my mind, I saw a woman wearing a large amber-colored stone in the shape of a teardrop. Too heavy to be jewelry, it seemed like a burden around her neck. The image was distinct, but fleeting. After a few seconds, it vanished. Had I really seen something?

And then a phrase interrupted my thoughts…a weight of deep sorrow.

The music ended, and the pastor asked if God had given any impressions that might encourage everyone. I stalled. Hearing God for others was a new concept to me. After a few people shared, I drew a deep breath and raised my hand. I described the heavy stone and how it seemed more like a yoke than a necklace. My voice sounded shaky.

“And what do you think it represents?” the pastor asked.

“An amber teardrop…the color, the shape—maybe something from the past,” I offered.

the rapt of comfort“Something that’s keeping someone in continual sadness…a weight of deep sorrow.”

The pastor gazed at the people in the rows behind me. “Does that mean anything to anyone?” His tone was kind.

I lowered my head slightly. The room went quiet. Perhaps it had just been my own imagination—making something from nothing. I felt a little foolish. No one responded, and blood rushed to my face. As the service continued, I avoided eye contact.

Several days later, my phone rang. Continue reading



Several months after my friend Terry died, I pulled out an Early American songbook to play something familiar on my piano. It was an ordinary afternoon. I started with the marching chords of The Battle Hymn of The Republic. As the opening words streamed through my thoughts, I considered their meaning—as if for the very first time.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord… 

I realize those printed lyrics aren’t going to have the same impact on you as they did on me that day. It’s hard to describe the rush of emotion that came over me. I couldn’t play another note. I folded my arms on the piano and wept with great sighing sobs.

It was so unexpected.

The cross of GolgathaThe Holy Spirit suddenly overwhelmed the grief rising up in my heart—with hope. He melded together His plan for good with my earthly disappointment, surrounding me with a tangible presence of love. I was undone.

In a way, the cross itself was an intersection love, hope, and sorrow…

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

God is known for surprise visits.

Depressed woman on a benchHe moves us beyond the natural to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the loneliness of sorrow to the fullness of His love. He doesn’t give up when we do. Author Gregory Boyle calls it the “no-matter-what-ness of God.”Continue reading