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I cannot pretend to imagine the depths of despair and sorrow a slave must have endured. I would be the first to admit that my troubles are trivial in comparison. However, all humanity faces sorrow and sadness in various degrees. Back in 2001, I was trapped in a life of self-destruction. I was struggling with deep depression, despair and drug addiction. I found hope in a program called Teen Challenge and began a spiritual journey of renewal. Upon completion of the program I began an internship and styed on as staff for four years.

Working with men struggling with addiction is a daunting burden to shoulder. A journey to sobriety is a lifetime task and you never reach your mark until your breath is taken from you. Until then you wake every morning making a choice to live life in a new way. In so doing you must face your demons as they come and there is no lack of them. When you choose to work with addicts you must be willing to help them work through their burdens as well as your own. There is no reprieve from suffering.

If this happens to build fortitude within you the victory is short lived because you must factor death into the equation. Giving yourself to the service of those facing addiction means you will stare the reality of human mortality right in the face. I have lost more men to addiction than I care to count. Sadly, the losses never get easier to live with and you find that a funeral is just another aspect of the job.

About six years ago I remember praying and asking God why life must be filled with such pain and wishing he would relieve my burdens of sorrow. Despair was not relieved but what came was a deeper understanding of what it means to grieve.

As I stated before, no matter your walk of life, sorrow is not in short supply. It is a reality that we all must face everyday. These African-American Spirituals have reminded me of a reality I learned many years ago. In order to live well you must learn to grieve well. We will never find reprieve from suffering. We then must learn to embrace it and work through it, or we will never experience peace.

I will never forget the pain my wife and I faced when we had a miscarriage. The knowledge that we had lost our baby seemed to suck the very breath from our souls. It was like being hit by a great wave and being trapped in the undertow you are pulled into the sea to suffocate and drown. I remember hearing that if you struggle against the undertow you will surly drown but if you relax and allow nature to take its course you have a greater chance of surfacing safely.

When the wave of despair hits me I have found it best to allow it to crash over me and let it carry me in its undertow. I allow the feelings to saturate me and soak deep into my very soul. It takes some time but eventually I surface and find that I am safe and I have survived. In that knowledge I find peace that life can still go on. Never has happiness felt so blissful as when you feel it after having truly felt what it means to grieve. Once you have fully surrendered yourself to the sorrows in life you then have a contrast in which you can base happiness. Only then can you experience peace.