“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
—Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NIV)
Once we have the capacity to feel sorrow we remain indelibly connected with it. This is not about the acute sorrow of having lost a dear one or a relationship so much, or of having been brutally disappointed, as it’s about the generalised sorrow that we take with us in life. This is the capacity to grieve; yet not in a besmirching way. Of course, it’s the capacity of the mature to grieve without complaining. Yet we will all complain about sorrow. To go past complaint is our goal.
Sorrow takes us into another realm of existence. Her depths are cavernous. We could not have pictured going so low. Sorrow shows us a thing or two we never knew.
But we are not necessarily cheated by God in our experience of sorrow. No, it opens new doors; new doors of possibility through the ancient door, Peace.
Grief and Its Avenues to Peace
This is something unexpected that the grieving finds when they approach their grief openly. Little do they know that such a wise response is to pay handsomely. It is an investment in their understanding.
The initial reading of Ecclesiastes leaves us in two minds regarding sorrow. Did we ever see such connection between wisdom and sorrow, between knowledge and grief?
I think what the Teacher in Ecclesiastes means is that sorrow and grief, for the wise and knowledgeable, is no longer a threat. They have found in it a way of godly understanding. They have found peace, yes even in unmerited sadness.
And, of course, this is a strange peace. God hides the words from our vocabulary through which we would describe it, for descriptions are unnecessary. It’s all about experience. It’s all about relationship—we with God; we would ourselves. That is the gold.
Such gold always produces peace.
So whether we are having our first bout of acute sorrow or not is irrelevant. Once sorrow has touched our lives, and we, even simply in a few significant moments, have embraced that sorrow in God’s name, to suffer as Jesus did on the cross and to connect with him there, we access peace.
And if this promise is yet to be realised in our lives we know now it is worth searching for. This peace we speak about, once possessed in the memory, becomes part of us, as if we had known God for the very first time—as our most important relationship.
Sorrow is ironical. When we take it as openly as we can, seeking God in it, there is the door of peace opened to us. How we feel transcends our understanding. We simply experience it. We convert our sorrow into peace when we embrace the unremitting sadness. God meets us there.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.