Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Escaping from the desert of sorrow

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 22, 2021

It’s tempting to try to “fix” the loneliness of widows, and in the past, I attempted this myself. “Why don’t you take a class, volunteer or travel?’ Then when I found myself wandering through the desert of sorrow, I realized easy solutions miss the heart of the matter.

In truth, loneliness isn’t a problem to be solved, but suffering to offer to God. The first step, however, must be truly accepting God’s will, which I thought I was doing when I became a widow, when in reality, I was pushing back against God with all my might.

There’s the song “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” about a woman turning over control to God “‘cause I can’t do this on my own.” Often we believe we’re surrendering, when in fact we’re still telling God where to turn and when to brake. That’s me.

Surrendering to God’s will isn’t something that happens once and for all. This act of loving submission must be repeated often: “Lord, I surrender myself to you. Please take care of everything.”

We dread going to the doctor for fear of the results. “Lord, I surrender.” We’re scared of being alone in the future. “Lord, I surrender.” We’re worried about a relative who’s in a bad place. “Lord, please take care of everything.”

Some of us say the Lord’s Prayer everyday: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But what do these words mean for us personally?

They are a call to place our plans firmly into God’s hands. A call to discover the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

Have you ever tried to help a child tie her shoes and she protested “I’ll do it!” and turned away from you? In many ways we are like that with God, who sees us as children.

In his book “I Believe in Love,” Father Jean C.J. d’Elbee writes, “In your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask yourself, ‘What shall I do? How shall I do it?’ listen to Him saying to you, ‘Let me do it.'”

He suggests we pray often, “O Jesus, I thank You for all things.” This means that if we blunder, we can still thank him, because even our failures can give way to something better. Wasn’t Jesus seemingly a failure, as he was dying on the cross?

The hardest part is thanking God even for loneliness and other suffering. How can these deeply painful things give way to something better?

In “Contemplative Enigmas,” here is what Father Donald Haggerty writes:

“It can happen that the opportunity for a great offering to our Lord coincides with a time of great personal pain. And who of us can say whether we are approaching such a day, when God’s love for us, for example, will entail a shocking loss of…a spouse or family member, or even one’s child.”

Only recently have I begun to see God’s hand in everything, including my beloved’s death. The hardest words to say are, “Yes, Jesus, even his death, even the greatest loss of my life, I offer to you as a prayer.”

After a devastating loss, there is a necessary time to grieve, which differs for each person. Later, however, we may realize God is inviting us to a closer union with him through a deeper prayer life. Over time, loneliness becomes peaceful solitude, where we discover the closeness of God.

When we offer our suffering to Christ as a prayer, it helps us escape the desert of sorrow and becomes a balm for other suffering people. Let’s pray to hear his voice saying, “Let me do it.”

Artwork is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef. Her email address is