Tears of Sorrow
February 1, 2023. Planning to start fresh with the new year, I opened a prayer journal that had been collecting dust for some time. I didn’t even realize I had written in it at one point. As I turned back the pages, I landed on an entry dated eight years ago. The entry took me back to a time when my heart was heavy, my mind was weary, and my tears flowed often. Tears of defeat, disappointment, discouragement, and—if I am being honest—maybe some distrust in my God. My heart was heavy with grief over years of infertility and the loss of two babies. My mind was weary and exhausted from fighting feelings of jealousy and comparison to other women who so easily were able to bear children. For almost four years, I battled bitterness and heartache, and I struggled to trust in God.
Over recent years, discussion and awareness of infertility and miscarriage have increased.
I am so thankful for the women who encouraged me through our journey by their experiences. One woman for whom I am thankful is one that lived some 3000 years ago on the other side of the world, in a place called Shiloh.
In First Samuel we read of a woman named Hannah, and her heart longed desperately for a child. Hannah and Elkanah tried for many years to have children and yet they had not received the blessing of children. Elkanah also had an additional wife, Peninnah, who had been blessed with children. Though the Bible does not explicitly say this is the case in this family, it was not uncommon for a husband of a barren woman to take a second wife to bear children in his name. Not being able to have children often brings feelings of inferiority; imagine how much more defeated and “less than” Hannah must have felt because her inability to conceive possibly led her husband to find someone who could give him children.
Not only does Peninnah have children by Hannah’s husband, but Peninnah also “provoked her severely, to make her miserable because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Sam. 1:6). As if the struggle of barrenness was not enough, Peninnah added harsh words, “year after year” (1 Sam. 1:7) to the point that Hannah was so distraught she did not eat. The Bible tells us that Hannah wept, did not eat, and her heart was grieved (1 Sam 1:8). She was bitter in her soul and she wept in anguish (1 Sam 1:10).
When we face trials such as the loss of a loved one, a lasting disease or illness, financial struggles, and fall on hard times, infertility or loss of a child, unfaithful children, marital problems, or loneliness, what is our default reaction? When we have prayed for years on end and have not seen the answer we are seeking, how do we see God at that time?
The psalmist in Psalm 77:7-9 questions,
Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Do we sometimes ask, “Why God? Why have You blessed her and not me? Do you hear my prayers? Do you not care about my heartache?”
When those thoughts of doubt and despair enter our minds, we must remind ourselves of all that God has done for us, as the psalmist did:
This is my anguish BUT I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your works and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people… (Ps. 77:10-15).
How did Hannah handle this heartache, bitterness, longing, disappointment, and discouragement? Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking (1 Sam 1:9). She did not cause a scene in the middle of the meal by throwing hurtful words back at Peninnah. She waited, and then she removed herself from the situation she was in, and she prayed. She poured out her soul to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:15). Hannah gave us a wonderful example of how to handle emotions and turn our cares over to God.
Many different emotions and actions can lead to tears: heartbreak, bitterness, self-doubt, loneliness, comparison, disappointment, overflowing joy, gratitude. Tears should not cause us to draw away from God, but rather tears should cause us to draw nearer to God. In all these situations, the answer remains the same: turn to God in prayer, remember the works of the Lord, meditate on His works and His word, and talk of His deeds.
God can heal the broken-hearted (Ps.147:3).
God can sweeten a bitter heart, as He sweetened the bitter waters in Marah (Ex. 15).
God’s word can remind you of your worth (Eph. 2:10).
God’s love and His family can fill the void that brings loneliness (Matt. 28:20).
God can encourage and strengthen you (Isa. 41:10).
God is to be praised and thanked for joy and blessings (Phil 4:6).
Sometimes we tend to keep our heartaches and struggles all bottled up inside, afraid to inconvenience someone else with our struggles and afraid to become vulnerable. If your eyes have been wet with tears, if your heart has been hurting, if your trust in God has wavered, I beg you to turn to God and trust in Him. Allow His children to help you bear your burdens (Gal. 6:2) by reaching out to a trusted sister and asking for prayers and for a listening ear. We are not called to carry the weight of heartache on our shoulders alone. Do not rob your Christian family of the opportunity to love you, help you, comfort you, and most of all pray for you and with you.
By Erin Moore