There was a season of my life when it seemed like weeping willows were suddenly sprouting on every corner. At the time, I had just taken up a new habit of running and can remember having to duck my head and step carefully on the trails so as to not tangle my feet on their branches. An artist like DaVinci or Monet probably would have been inspired by their presence. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of girl who thinks poetically about things like pollen. I’m more prone to believe the trees are just standing in my way.
That’s exactly how I feel about sorrow—it had better stay in its own lane. I wish my experience with sorrow was only as extensive as a good cry at the end of a sad movie. But the truth is my shoulders have been crushed by the weight of grief, leaving me to feel like a weeping willow: arms fallen, exasperated, feeble. I’ve tried not to give myself over to the weight of my sadness for fear I won’t be able to stand back up again.
It’s easy to see why we call them “weeping” willow trees. They were first given their name because of the way rain falls from their branches resembling tear drops. However, they grow best near water, able to absorb large quantities of water during floods. In fact, when strategically planted beside ponds, they can even help to prevent ground erosion. And in a way, our sorrow is like that too. Avoiding it may appear to be the best survival tactic, but taking it in and then bringing it honestly before God is one way He strengthens and grows us.
Protect my life, for I am faithful.
I used to think weeping willows looked like crippling sorrow, the kind you never fully recover from. They seemed to be consistently sad, their branches swaying on the ground in the wind. Yet, now I wonder if the posture of a weeping willow tree isn’t so much a picture of what sorrow does to us as it is an image of what we’re to do with our sorrow. Heads bowed in submission to the Lord, we can expose the depth of our sadness to Him without hesitation.
All the nations you have made will come and bow down before you, Lord, and will honor your name.
Despite their appearance, weeping willows are one of the fastest growing trees around, gaining up to eight feet per year. This rapid growth may be one of the reasons they have a relatively short life span. But to me, somehow this signifies the promised end of our sorrow. While the layers of sadness that fill us here on earth are many, joy is our eternal posture.
Give your strength to your servant.
Sorrow stretches us in ways we probably wouldn’t ever choose for ourselves, but it strengthens us all the same. Deep sorrow makes way for great joy. By His grace, may we embrace the sorrow that seems to stand in our way, allowing it to remind us of God’s kindness, of how He strengthens, comforts, protects, and renews us. In this way, our hope and joy are not far off and distant, but present with us each and every day, just as He is. Amen.
Bring joy to your servant’s life, because I appeal to you, Lord.