the balance of sorrow

Give us joy to balance our affliction
for the years when we knew misfortune.


Psalm 90 is perhaps the quintessential summertime poem, a poem of opulent abundance, a poem of rich gift, a poem that screams of the endless possibilities of grace, the possibilities one can drink of and get tipsy on in the summer sun that never sets.

This particular tidbit, which I savor on the shores of the ocean on the barrier island strutting out into the Atlantic, strikes me as appropos of the current moment.

The psalmist assumes that we will know misfortune and pain. It is, perhaps, useless to ask to be spared.

What the psalmist asks of God is not that this natural part of life be spared us, that we become exempt from the human condition, rather what the psalmist asks is that we be given joy in equal amounts to our sorrow. That, even as we assuredly must drink from the waters of bitterness, that we be granted respite with sweetness. May we be delighted with the beauty of life in an equal measure to which we have been ground in life’s sharp teeth.

A good life is not one that is free from sorrow or pain, but one that is blessed with some measure of delight. There are wells of joy to be found, and may we, the psalmist prays, find those wells and be able to pull deep draughts from them in moments of our darkness. May the beauty we have discovered be enough to tide us through the pain. May the mountain heights we’ve reached, the quiet peaks where the sheep’s bleats fall into quiet of the wind whipping through the grass, tide us through the terrible valleys.

The pslamist assumes no spite on God’s part. Sorrow received is not personal. It is not merited, it simply exists and is to be borne.

But all we ask is: give us joy to balance the pain. May a year of misfortune eventually give way to a year of rest. And we will bear the brunt of sadness gladly.

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