Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week Thirty-Seven - Sorrow

 “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind…”  Deuteronomy 28:65
This is a portion of the judgment placed on the children of Israel as they were forewarned that they would be scattered among the nations.  It is a repeat of the same warning from Leviticus 26:16 where the Lord says that this sorrow is a result of their failure to keep his commandments.  The definition means fainting, pining, and languishing. They would find little joy and no real rest and comfort in the nations among whom they came to dwell while they remained outside the command of God. 
As we look not only at the history of Israel as recorded in God’s Word, but also at the recorded history of mankind, we can see this is true.  Most everywhere the Jews have settled has brought them disruption, fear, trembling and actually sorrow of mind because they know that Israel is their home.  They continually live as foreigners, even in nations where they are born.  They pine and languish for their mother country – for Jerusalem and home.
This paints a picture for us New Testament saints as well.  Here we have no country.  Our home is heaven.  We, too, can find ourselves pining and languishing as we wait to cross the river.  Romans 8:23 tells us that we also, “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
Another way to look at this is to remind ourselves that if we are living outside the command of God – living carnally or sinfully, we will find ourselves fainting, pining and languishing.  We will not find the rest and enjoyment we think sin affords.  We will be more like Lot, who vexed his righteous soul by living around and interacting with the wickedness of Sodom.  Sin does not bring comfort.
Is your mind sorrowful?  Do you find yourself pining?  Best be asking, “For what am I pining?”  My heavenly home – or – because of sinful choices?

 “Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.”
Job 6:10 

Poor, old Job.  He is in the midst of a most perplexing and disheartening trial.  One he truly believes is not of his own making.  Of course, he has no idea about the conversation between God and Satan.  As he sits with his less than comforting friends, he tries to figure out just why all this grief has come to his life.  He says, “I would harden myself in sorrow…” 
It gives us the idea of steeling oneself against the hardship.  But, according to Barnes, that is not the true explanation.  Because the word definitions are related to leaping and exulting, it is better understood to mean that Job is ready to exult or rejoice if he were permitted to die. “He would triumph even in the midst of his sorrow, if he might lie down and expire.”  He is well and truly finished. 
We would probably feel the same if we were in his shoes.  But we can praise the Lord that He didn’t give Job his request.  There is a long way to go from chapter six to God’s responses in chapters thirty-eight to forty-one.  We would have been so much the poorer had Job not endured his trial.
I can see two warning that might apply here.  First, steeling ourselves against or in the face of hardship is not what God has in mind for trials.  We are better to cast ourselves upon the Lord and stay supple and willing than to allow hardness or bitterness to overtake us.  And, second, we need to recognize that God has a purpose and plan in every trial.  Even those that we feel might actually overtake cannot - if we stay focused upon Him. 
Later, in Job 13:15, Job comes to a more healthy attitude, one that has personally carried me through many trials, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
Are you enduring serious trials?  Stay supple.  Avoid bitterness.  Allow God to have His way and surrender your trial to him.  The whole story isn’t finished yet!

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”  Ecclesiastes 7:3
The definition of sorrow as used here might surprise you.  It would read:  “Anger, vexation, provocation and grief are better than hollow laughter.”  Most of us equate sorrow with grief and loss.  We have experienced death of a loved one and know the depths to which the soul plunges as it works its way through the grieving process.  But to think of sorrow as anger, vexation and provocation takes a bit more.
Is God really saying that anger is better than happiness?  Or that to be vexed and provoked is better than a peaceful and joyous life?  Swindoll says, “…Solomon is not advocating that we trudge through life with tears in our eyes and frowns on our faces.  Rather, he is advising us to soberly reflect on the brevity and destiny of our lives.  This exercise can lead to a lifestyle marked by wisdom and satisfaction.  On the other hand, those who refuse to deal with death, and who live their lives pursuing pleasure, are foolish.” 
God knows that the “easy path” is not the best path.  He knows that if we seek to live frivolous and shallow lives it will not produce the strength of character necessary to equip us to face the harsh realities of life.  Barnes says, “The mind which bears itself equally in human concerns, whether they be pleasant or sorrowful, must always be glad, free, and at peace.”  He also translates the word sorrow to mean seriousness.
So, if we really want a happy, joyous life, we must be willing to equip ourselves with qualities that will create true joy.  Conscientiousness and circumspect living are better choices than frivolous and superficial lifestyles.  Grief and difficulty will not kill us, but equip us to live richer and fuller lives.


“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  II Corinthians 7:10
 Here we have two types of sorrow.  Godly sorrow, which is from above – directed or diffused by God, and worldly sorrow, from below – sorrow as a result of sin or living in a sinful world.  Godly sorrow produces life.  Worldly sorrow produces death.
The main story behind the two books to Corinth is Paul’s instruction on handling sin in the church.  He had written a stern letter and it had achieved its purpose.  The Corinthians had repented.  Theirs was not just a passing regret, but rather a true sorrow for sin.  It was genuine repentence.
The Bible gives us two good illustrations concerning these two types of sorrow.  We can read of the reaction of Judas, who sold our Lord.  His was a worldly sorrow.  This Bible says he “repented himself”.  This means that he was deeply regretful.  He did not repent, but rather, he committed suicide.  Peter, on the other hand, also guilty of denying the Lord, “remembered the word of Jesus…went out and wept bitterly.”  (Matthew 26:75) His was a genuine repentence.  He was restored to ministry and relationship.
To repent means to change one’s mind.  Christians need to repent when they are aware of sin in their lives.  Not in order to be saved again, but in order to restore close fellowship with God.  That is the way of godly sorrow. 
If a Christian practices worldly sorrow, they will find themselves bound by grief and annoyance.  They will experience affliction in their soul.  Rest will not come until they change their minds and turn from the sin that is grieving them.
The way of restoration for us all is repentance.  We must come to agree with God that He is right.  We must allow the Spirit to convict us and bring us back into a right relationship.
Are you wallowing in your own self-pity or sinfulness?  Do you, like Judas, regret your choices, but fall short of repenting and leaving them behind?  Are your choices producing life or death to your soul?


“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22
The definition of sorrow in this verse takes another twist.  It means pain, hurt, toil, or hardship.  This verse brings great joy to my heart.  It tells me that the things God brings to my life, the things he gives me, are for my enrichment.  He does not add pain and hardship.
I have been so blessed throughout my life.  God has brought so very may blessing to me – amazing things I did not deserve – and with each one I knew it was from his hand and for my benefit.  Nearly all of them came without my seeking them.  They were just blessings that fell into my lap and I knew they were from the hand of God.  Sometimes they have been huge monetary blessings – like the time we were informed that $15,000 was in an account in our name.  That really happened!  And some of them were simple – like when God cleared all of my appointments because He knew I needed a day off.  Some were answers to the secret desires of my heart – like the time he sent me to see the Great Wall of China.  And others were confirmations of his love – like when a friend calls or a letter arrives that gives my heart a boost.
The truth is that I do not have to labour to be rich.  I am already rich in Christ.  The depth of the richness in which I have the privilege to dwell cannot be dimmed by the wealth sought by this world.  All of the world’s struggling to climb the ladder or create a fancy lifestyle comes with pain and hardship.  Resting in Christ, allowing him to be my wealth and to provide my needs, affords me a confidence and peacefulness than no amount of cash could purchase.

Are you struggling to gain something?  Does peace elude you?  Are you aware of God’s blessings upon your life?  If not – maybe you need to stop and look for God’s hand.  It is there and it does not come with sorrow.

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