Sorrow Upon Sorrow
By Angela DiCostanzo
Genesis 42-45, Philippians 1-2, Matthew 26
Writing from prison, Paul mentions a friend named Epaphroditus whose life was spared from a serious illness. Paul says he himself was spared from “sorrow upon sorrow” as if the death of this friend would have been too much for him to bear with the other hardships he was experiencing.
Similarly, in Genesis 42-45, it is said repeatedly that Jacob would likely die if he lost Benjamin as if his heart could take no more after the sorrow of losing Joseph and the other griefs of his life. His condition must have been fragile, both physically and emotionally. Genesis 45 says that his spirit “revived” when he discovered that Joseph was still alive as if his spirit had been close to death.
Sorrow appears again in the faces of the disciples at their last Passover with Jesus when He tells them that not only will He be crucified but one of them would betray Him. Soon after, Judas betrays Jesus with a sickening kiss, and all the other disciples abandon Jesus. Peter weeps with bitter grief after he betrays the Lord he had promised to stay with to the end.
In each passage, we encounter sorrow upon sorrow including imprisonment, separation from family and friends, fear of death, dread of losing those we love, anguish at our own betrayal of those who love us, and many of the other heart-wrenching conditions of human life. When sorrows heap upon sorrows, we feel that one more grief may literally be too much to bear.
In such times, I have prayed for relief. My prayers were often reduced to simple pleas: “Help me!” or “Lord, have mercy!” For the first time in my life, I realized how precious it is to pray to One who knows from experience what unbearable suffering feels like. In Matthew 26, Jesus is described as “sorrowful and troubled” as He prays before his arrest, and He says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Like Jacob, like Paul, like us, Jesus felt so distressed that it seemed He could have died from sorrow.
There’s no one who can be trusted to help us through suffering more than Jesus Himself. As Paul awaited his fate in prison, he relied on prayer and “the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” for strength to live or to die well. Let us pray also for the help and strength which Jesus can supply.
Sorrow on sorrow
Too heavy to bear
Christ, have mercy
Sorrow on sorrow
Too great, too profound
Lord of Mercy