SORROW AND SIGHING
“Isaiah 35:10 “…and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (NIV)
Do you find yourself sighing a lot these days? Maybe you haven’t noticed or given it much thought. Sighing is an interesting automatic function of our breathing. When I read this verse the other day, I started thinking more about it. What is a sigh?
A more scientific definition would be “a deep, long breath about twice the volume of a typical breath, most often involved with your emotions. It also serves as a critical stretch to keep your lungs working properly.” Did you know that if you don’t sigh, your lungs will eventually stop working, as more and more of the little “balloon” cells collapse? Scientists don’t know for sure what triggers a sigh, but sigh we do!
In fact, some studies have shown that if we breathe in one state for too long, our lungs become stiff and less efficient at keeping us supplied with oxygen. Throwing in a gasp, or a yawn, or a sigh every once in awhile actually provides relief to the lungs and helps us keep breathing efficiently! Only God could have thought of that!
On average, humans sigh about twelve times per hour, and animals even more frequently. Oh, yes, my dog sighs! If you have a pet, pay attention to this! When they curl up to take a nap, or settle in to go to sleep at night, they suddenly “snuffle” or sigh, indicating a completely relaxed state of contentment. Occasionally, I find myself doing this!
Sighing is most frequently attached to our emotional state. It’s an automatic way of relieving stress and anxiety or expressing positive emotions of relief or contentment. It can also indicate an emotional state of frustration, discontent, or resignation…like when you can’t figure out a puzzle!
By now, you’re likely wondering what in the world this has to do with being a widow or processing grief?! Personally, I’ve often thought that this state of being a widow, and this journey through grief is one of the biggest puzzles I’ve ever had to try to figure out! The questions I’ve asked God about why this happened and how I’m going to live through it would probably fill an entire library! I’ve found myself sighing a lot while processing this grief.
Some days I sigh because I’m frustrated with a challenge in front of me; some days I sigh in resignation to my present situation. Some days I sigh because I’m just tired….tired of too many demands on me; and other days when I’m feeling more grateful for blessings, I sigh as an expression of contentment. I sigh when I want to share something with Dave and realize he’s not here. I sigh when I look at my To Do list!
There are a number of times that the Bible says Jesus sighed: when the religious leaders asked for a miracle (Mark 8:12), before healing a deaf man (Mark 7:34), when the disciples didn’t understand about the bread (Matt. 16:11). Jesus sighed every once in awhile when his followers simply didn’t understand that He was trying to express the works of heaven in the language of earth!
Sighing is a gift from God that gives a physical response to our grief. Life is not (and never again will be) what it was; life is not what we thought it would be; life is where we find ourselves at the present. When those emotions build up inside of us, sighing is the way God has given our body release the pain and hurt that we feel but have no words to express it.
Sadness and sighing most often seem to go together. It’s at times like this that another scripture speaks to our hearts:
“…and the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26
God understands those sighs that come from the deep place in my heart, the ones that spring out of the loneliness and sadness that cannot be expressed in words. He identifies with those deep sighs and intercedes for us at those times.
Sometimes as I pray, the sense of grief and loss are so overwhelming that there are no words to tell God what I feel. It’s at those times that I know the Spirit is deep in my heart listening to the emotions of my soul and expressing my grief to the Father. I can reach out and hold on to Him. God hears our sighing in those moments, and He understands.
The great promise, though, is at the beginning of this post. There will come a day when all those who have been redeemed of the Lord will enter into a place where sorrow and sighing will not only be absent but will FLEE away from us! We will sing again! Joy and gladness will OVERTAKE us! What does that mean? I think it means this. Those little sparks of joy that we feel from time to time, those moments when we can smile, those fragments of song in our hearts – they have all been trying to catch up to us as we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. They have been trying to break through the darkness with very little success. But the day will come when we walk out of the shadow, and into singing and joy and gladness again. What an amazing promise!
Until then, keep sighing! It’s your gift from God to help you through this time!
Your comments are welcome. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to share this with anyone who would be encouraged.