"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" ~ Psalm 56:8
Author Sarah Walton knows what it means to suffer. She, her husband, and their four children have been on a difficult journey that has included special needs, chronic Lyme and co-infections, and financial difficulties, for years. In her new book, Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life, Sarah shares their story and points readers to God, who holds all their tears in His bottle.
In 2017, I was introduced to Sarah's story when I read Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Suffering, which she co-authored with Kristen Wetherell, and I've been following Sarah on Instagram ever since. I was excited when she shared about her new book, and I was invited to be an advance-reader and on the launch team.
Tears and Tossings is probably Sarah's most vulnerable book so far. It is about one-hundred pages long and is composed of nine short chapters. The fact that Tears and Tossings is concise is a strong point, as many suffering people, especially those with chronic illnesses, don't have the energy to read much.
Chapter one begins with Sarah introducing her story, and each of the following eight chapters focus on God holding our tears in a certain situation – loneliness, grief and loss, hopelessness, pain, waiting, fear, and shame. Finally, in the concluding chapter, Sarah ties everything together and shares how we all are all spiritually sick and in need of a Savior.
This book is for anyone, but Sarah wrote it especially with non or nominal Christians in mind. And she did a good job with that – the book tenderly shares the gospel as she shares her own story, starting with a scene in a psychiatric hospital at age seventeen. She was desperately hurting and wondering whether or not God was real and if so, if He really loved and cared about her personally. She needed something or Someone to give her a reason to go on, and thankfully, in that hospital room, her life's trajectory was forever changed when she encountered Jesus.
Sarah's chapter on loneliness probably touched me the most. In it, she shares about the day a bottle showed up at her doorstep with Psalm 56:8, the theme verse of the book, rolled up inside. The timing was perfect because she was having a very difficult day as her son with special needs was having a chaotic episode. Sarah shares, "Not only was I physically alone, but the longer our son’s challenges lasted, the more isolating it became. Very few could relate to our specific circumstances and most barely knew they existed." But the bottle and the Bible verse were a reminder that she really wasn't alone, that God was with her, and that He saw all her grief and pain was holding her tears in His bottle.
I also strongly resonated with the chapter on waiting, as I have been chronically ill for nearly seven years. In that chapter, Sarah shares her own experiences of waiting and reminds readers of the Biblical story of Lazarus, who was deathly ill. In that story, Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, but He waited to come to them. By the time He arrived four days later, Lazarus was dead, but Jesus had a purpose in delaying and showed His power in resurrecting him. To quote Sarah, "Jesus chose to wait—not in coldness or indifference, but in love. He was showing them the miraculous power and glory of God through the waiting."
Sarah also writes, "Maybe, like Jesus’ delay in coming to Lazarus, he has something greater in store for us. Maybe he wants to give us peace in knowing there’s a purpose in our waiting. Most importantly, maybe he wants it to lead us to search for hope and life in Jesus, rather than putting our hope in what we’re waiting for—just as he did for Mary and Martha."