June 25, 2016

Let sorrow do its work . . .

When Jesus knelt in the garden prior to the awful sorrow of death, He prayed first a short question — should He ask to be delivered — yet quickly offered up His heart on the matter. Glorifying God was more important than anything else . . .

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28)

Chambers says that his own attitude toward sorrow and difficulty is not to ask they may be prevented, but to ask that the person God created him to be would survive the horror of sorrows. He says that Jesus was not saved from the hour, but out of the hour. That is, He went into the worst that could happen, willing that God be glorified in it, and through that horror He survived. He rose from the dead and lives forevermore!

Most of us don’t want any suffering in this world, but today’s news headlines are filled with it. As I read a portion of the psalms before this, my heart felt like it would break over the descriptions of the sorrow in the life of the psalmist and how they match my own grief for the godlessness in my world.

The suffering is not only real but seems to increase day by day. I want to hide in my studio and not read or listen to the news, but that is not how Jesus would respond. Sorrow is a fact of life and it must be met with the same thoughts expressed by the Savior in Gethsemane.

For Jesus, it led to triumph over death. For us, sorrow can give us triumph over self-centered sin. Along with Chambers, I say it can do that, if met with the attitude of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, it will turn us into whining, bitter people who have little compassion for others and a great deal of resentment toward God.

The wisest man, Solomon, said, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3) He knew the changes that happened in his own life because of sorrow.

Suffering can whack away the parts of me that do not look like Jesus, but it can also inflate the ugliness in me and make my sinful self the only thing other people see or experience. Success does not make me more holy, nor does mediocrity. As Chambers says, those who avoid sorrow become heady and proud, or continually complaining about something. I can be more like Jesus when sorrow routs out my sinful and selfish attitudes and makes of me a person who not only empathizes with the pain of others, but is available to listen and give aid.

Maybe that is one undercurrent reason that I resist the positives that come with the experience of trouble. I know in my heart that it will change me into a compassionate, caring person who has more time for others, and what I selfishly want is more time for me. 

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