Keeping Track of Sorrows

Let’s acknowledge that it hurts. At times it is a searing, sharp pain and other times it’s an underlying throb. Either way, something is missing. There was a Sunday before we headed back to Cambodia, that I was standing right next to my dad during worship. I had to sit down, as I was suddenly overwhelmed with loss, the burden of having to say good-bye yet again. All my dad could do was sit down next to me and share his own tears with me, both of us silently acknowledging that this hurt.

For all the verses that promise greater things to those who forsake family and friends, for all the verses that declare His great worth and eternal purpose, we still brush up against deep loss. Even as we proclaim that He is of course worth every pain of good-bye and loss of shared experience, we grieve.

I like to picture Jesus upon my arrival in Heaven. He will cradle my face and trace the tracks that tears have made. He will gently hold my hands, as He recounts each hardship, each good-bye, and each sleepless night. Jesus is not dismissive of our grief. The Bible is full of people who were laden with lament.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT) says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Every step we take is not only observed but also thought worthy of counting and recording. He remembers every detail and recognizes our grief as a real thing. David, the Psalmist, fully trusted God with his future, and still let his tears flow. He knew God was compassionate and was not embarrassed by his own tears.

Gerald Wilson says, “God may not have an actual bottle where our tears are kept or a literal book where sorrows are recorded, but He nonetheless remembers all the things that happen in our lives, including the suffering endured for His sake.”

I have found that it is not helpful to deny the grief of homesickness. If Jesus, in His sovereignty, still considers our grief worthy of being collected, shouldn’t we?

Since our return to the United States in 2014, I have learned that homesickness follows you. While I may be settled near family and do not have to say good-bye, I miss our previous home, Cambodia. Even three years on, I still have moments I grieve the loss of community we had there. I miss the flavors of a certain restaurant. I miss riding through town in the evening on the back of the moto with my husband. I miss dear friends.

I think no matter what side of the ocean I have lived on, the things I grieve the most are attached to the loss of being fully known. No matter where I am, no one can step into every thing and every place that has made me who I am. My family knows me best in my growing up years. There are friends who experienced college with me, teammates who lived and worked closely with me in Mongolia, China, and Cambodia, and now this new community we have in Minnesota is seeking to know our family. At times it feels a bit overwhelming to have so many pieces of you scattered around the world.

Those are the times I let myself sit in my grief for a while, telling God that it hurts. And He, in His mercy, sits down right next to me, and says, “I know. I know.”

Does it encourage you to know God collects every tear? What grief do you need to allow yourself to feel right now? What loss of “home” grieves you the most?

33 Comments

  1. Kim September 24, 2017

    I understand so much of this… especially the part of never feeling fully known. We are back and settled in NC (not our home state) and I never know how to introduce myself as my adult life feels like a hodge podge of places and faces that are beginning to blur together even for me.

    Sorrow for what is past is real and some days so heavy I don’t even know how I feel, if that makes sense. Hoping you can find your people in your new “home” and settle in a bit.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      That completely makes sense, Kim! We’ve been back almost 3.5 years now and the hesitation of how to introduce myself is lessening. But my past is such a huge part of me that at times it’s hard to reconcile the present with it. I hope you too can find your people in your new home.

  2. Hadassah Doss September 24, 2017

    So beautifully put! I especially like the image of Jesus cradling our faces when we get to heaven. I’ll tuck that one away for the next time the tears are flowing, remembering that He is my Comfort. Thank you, Danielle, foe sharing your sorrows with us. Looking forward to heaven with you where we will be fully known for eternity!

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      I look forward to being surrounded in Heaven with women such as you, Hadassah. I hope your adjustment to the USA is going okay–a bittersweet transition at times, I’m sure.

  3. Erika Loftis September 24, 2017

    Wow. Yes. I’m trying to allow myself to FEEL it all more. And I definitely feel the loneliness of never having been known. In our current place here in Chiang Mai, with the highest population of Ms in the world, it is lonelier than ever. We are all defending ourselves against the ever spinning door of “come and go”. And I feel the ache to be known. To be invested in. To not have to say “Name, organization, how long we’ve been here, what I do (or don’t)”… I’m tired of the script. It hurts to my toes to not see my nieces and nephews. To not be around for the BIG family “things”. And yes, God comforts, and Yes, He’ll bless us for all we’ve given up… but danged if the hurt doesn’t do a little damage. Sometimes, I don’t really want God’s comfort. I want all these things I’m missing…

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Oh Erika, my heart goes out to you as a sister who has been there. I remember becoming a bit numb when it came to making friendships because I was so tired of the revolving door. Being away from your family and not having the shared experiences with them is so incredibly hard. I’ll be praying for you as you lean into the ache of loss–He does desire to bring you comfort, and I do pray that you will feel His tender arms around you in these moments.

  4. Jerry Hibma September 24, 2017

    Danielle, as always your writings deeply touch my heart and soul. The losses you describe are so well said and described, yet as you also said many losses can only be expressed with tears.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Thank you Uncle Jerry; I really appreciate your words.

  5. Sarah September 24, 2017

    “I think no matter what side of the ocean I have lived on, the things I grieve the most are attached to the loss of being fully known. No matter where I am, no one can step into every thing and every place that has made me who I am.”
    When I read this, I did a double-take because it so beautifully and exactly encapsulates my grief as a Third Culture Kid. It’s so hard to know that, no matter where we are in the world, the people we come into contact with won’t be able to fully understand every facet of who we are. But THANK GOD Jesus does! THANK GOD Jesus sees the grief that comes with it and stores it up! I am infinitely thankful for the comfort we have in knowing our Sovereign God cares about every tear.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Yes, Sarah! Thank God that He sees you completely and knows you completely. His knowledge is infinite. Thank you for sharing pieces of your heart around the world.

  6. Addie September 24, 2017

    This is so beautiful, thank you for your words!
    “At times it feels a bit overwhelming to have so many pieces of you scattered around the world.” <– YES! This reminds me of the last series of goodbyes, when I flew from airport to airport, to bus to train, stopping along points I've lived before on my journey back across the world to where I currently serve. I was teary at the first farewell, and each one pulled at my heart a little more. But, how comforting it is to have a Father who understands, who is right there beside us – thank you for this reminder.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Wow, what a journey that must have been, to recount your steps across the world. For me, it’s good to hear from women like you who know what it feels like to have so many pieces scattered around the world. It helps me to feel more whole. Praying that you find continued comfort in the Father who understands all.

  7. Jonna September 25, 2017

    I miss family. My parents are getting older and while they have been able to visit us in South Africa every year that we have lived here, I know that this won’t last forever. I miss grieving with family when they go through hard times. I also hurt for my kids as they struggle with homesickness and belonging and wondering what life would be like if we had never come here. We are 6 years in, and while so much of our life here feels familiar and right, I find myself wishing the ocean wasn’t quite so wide and our two worlds could be a bit closer.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      That ocean does seem so big at times, doesn’t it? Aging parents, trials back home, children growing up in a foreign culture–all difficult things! May you also feel His comforting presence as you sit in this grief and then move forward.

  8. ruth September 25, 2017

    Your description of weeping in church alongside your dad.. That was my entire family at a church who’d given us 10minutes to share about life and ministry in Cambodia. Not a church who we’d previously know but one that had journeyed with my parents in recent years, they had some idea of the cost to our family of our 10+yrs apart in commuting to M life. A regular after service prayer time during the last song became a holy space were each of us stood before God and opened our hearts to show the loss and grief of entering another period apart. For this to happen in the context of church worship felt a really honest admission to this church that we ached for time together, as well as a plea that they continued nue to journey with our parents and siblings. Love that Jesus sees all, thanks for the reminder. It takes me by surprise that the depth of my longing for family and close friends increases with the years on the field. Thanks for writing this, was well timed balm for my would today.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      What a meaningful moment you had with the church! How much could the church really minister to the hurting and grieving by just crying with them?! It reminds me of the writings of Paul and how he spoke so clearly about his longing to be with the recipients of his letters. I’m glad that this post was a balm for some aches you are currently experiencing.

  9. Sarah Hilkemann September 25, 2017

    Danielle, thank you for sharing these thoughts! As several have already said, I really resonated with the loss of truly being known. I think that’s part of why Velvet Ashes is such a gift, because other people get how our hearts are filled with lots of place and experiences and longings (you were the one who introduced me to VA, so THANKS!). I’ve been learning more lately that God cares about my grief. Thank you for pushing me to think more about that through your words today!

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Thank you Sarah! I’m also very thankful for VA and for the daily reminder that my experiences are not unusual and are indeed shared by so many amazing women.

  10. Shelly September 25, 2017

    Danielle, the image of Jesus meeting us in heaven and taking our face in his hands, running a thumb along the tear tracks…Beautiful. I instantly cried thinking of the deep tear tracks of the last few years. Like so many others, I feel the loss of being known. With the death of my mother just over a year ago, I feel more estranged from things back home with my family. She was the courier of all the news, my stalwart intercessor and cheerleader, one whom people will tell me even now “was so proud of me.” Alongside loss of being known, this grief pulls at me yet.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Shelly, I grieve for the loss of your mom and all of the things she did and meant to you. The loss of the person who has known us the longest and deepest must be so hard to navigate. You are known and you are loved, Shelly, and the deep tear tracks on your face are so precious to our Father.

  11. sarah September 25, 2017

    I was feeling unexpectedly weepy and homesick tonight, and then opened up VA for the first time in a couple weeks and read this. Perfect timing!
    Today has been one of those weird days of hitting the full spectrum of emotion- feeling so deeply grateful for a whole community of friends that have developed here over the last couple months and also intensely longing for my family, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by feeling both of those things so completely and simultaneously. 🙂

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      A lot of life is paradox, is it not?! Emotions can come in waves and I’m always thankful that there can be peace even in the paradox of jumbled emotions.

  12. sarah September 25, 2017

    Also, just after another round of goodbyes about a year ago, I discovered this verse to “Be Still My Soul” that I never knew existed:
    Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
    And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
    Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
    Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
    Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
    From His own fullness all He takes away.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      That is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

    2. Shelly September 26, 2017

      This is a sweet verse to this lovely hymn. Thank you for sharing it and thus reminding me of it.
      (On a slightly different note, this reminds me of those 3rd verses that too often get skipped over in worship to get through the songs more quickly. And I find that 3rd verses are often the most powerful ones.)

  13. Gina Butz September 25, 2017

    Love this! Thanks for sharing your words with us. Beautifully written.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      Thank you, Gina!

  14. Katie Rose September 25, 2017

    Thank you for this. I’ve been back from my South Asian home for almost two months now, and the grief is just now starting to hit me head on, knocking me over and down into depression. I think the biggest thing for me right now is allowing myself to cry and feel, even though it hurts so much and it also feels very scary and out of control. I’m immediately (this weekend) moving into a new city, with a new job, and the onset of adulthood amid all of this transition feels simply too much. But I know who it is NOT too much for. Thank you for the beautiful picture of him tracing these tear marks–something I have to believe that he is doing even now, where eternity interrupts my present reality where the rivers of abundant life are sometimes made up of these tears of his saints.

    1. Danielle Krouch September 25, 2017

      That is a lot coming up to handle, and you are right, it is NOT too much for Him to handle but it is still incredibly hard at times for us to fully believe that everything is for our good and He will help us through. I hope that your grief lessens. Beautiful image your wrote in your last sentence and I’m going to be pondering that for awhile.

  15. Joanna September 25, 2017

    Wow. I feel like you penned words to my thoughts and feelings. We are transitioning back to the States, and it is not easy. We have averaged one move per year over the course of out marriage. And that is the deepest loss for me…is not feeling fully known. There are pockets of people around the world who know me so deeply, but I have to start over. Again. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for reminding me to grieve these losses too.

  16. Corinne September 25, 2017

    Reading everyone’s posts after reading yours, Danielle, shows how important it is to–as you say–consider that our tears mean something to God. It is a sacred trust when we share our sorrow with our Savior. I had anticipated that kind of sorrow. Purposefully grieving the losses of leaving dear family and friends became part of my ‘rhythm…. God mercifully met me each and every time and I could truly say, “You are worth it, Lord!” But then came the last 4 years of ‘doozies’ that I never saw coming. One huge and very much UN-anticipated loss upon the other that there has been no recovery from. Grief is a companion now, not just an occasional place I go to with God. And yes, I have experienced so much of ‘not being known’ that I almost daily find myself entrusting that loss to the Lord. But something new has come: He has promised me, as I continue to walk with Him in sorrow, that each day now is my opportunity to KNOW HIM! This has begun a fresh quest for me… more thrilling than when I first became enamored with the Lord! Grieving is a means to meeting Jesus in the deepest places of the dark night and finding more tenderness and warm light than I have ever known. Isn’t that just something??!!

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  18. Mae October 11, 2017

    Danielle, Thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts from the Lord, and thanks fellow ministry sisters for sharing your hearts. It had brought me great comfort to read it all and know there are others that feel this same way! We are a ministry family that has moved around just in the united states, but share the same grief of “not being fully known”. It has stung my flesh that the people in our newest ministry dont want to hear my stories of other ministry places and friends. Recently, it has been a great struggle for me, and I spent much time asking the Father to help me through and not get bitter, or envious of those God doesn’t call to move around. Just a few months ago i heard a speaker at our pastors conference share on grieving loss, first time i related it to moving around. Then last month, when in a deep time of prayer, calling out to God about this grief – Jesus said to me “do you not think i know about leaving “home”, i left Glory to come to earth!!!!” It was so comforting! he truely understands! and now here is your beautiful article, such wonderful comforting truths!
    I thank you all for being willing to follow Jesus wherever He calls, and I ask our heavenly fathet to come minister to us as we are “strangers in the land”. God richly bless you all!!

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