Henri Nouwen: Joy and Sorrow

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For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life. One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning. Psalm 30:5

“Joys are hidden in sorrows! I know this from my own times of depression. I know it from my living with people with mental handicaps. I know it from looking into the eyes of patients, and from being with the poorest of the poor. We keep forgetting this truth and become overwhelmed by our own darkness. We easily lose sight of our joys and speak of our sorrows as the only reality there is.

We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness. Indeed, we need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.”

Henri Nouwen in Can You Drink The Cup? (Notre Dame: Ave Maria, 2006) 56.

These words seem to echo in my mind: “give each other strength and consolation”…”give each other strength and consolation.”

If you are like me, it seems like there is depression, poverty, darkness, sadness, and sorrow all around me. It’s hard to know how to respond.

My tendency is either to try to fix things or to try to avoid this cup. I am learning that the cup of sorrow and the cup of joy are the same cup.

I need to drink from it. And, as I go, I am finding that people need the gifts of strength and consolation more than anything, more than ever right now.

God, help us move generously toward those who suffer. Teach us to drink from the cup of sorrow knowing that joy will come in the morning. Amen.