SORROW: Surviving?

Dead Sea Sparrow

Sorrowful? Rejected? Fearful? Abused? Humiliated? Forlorn? Hopeless?

There’s a difference between sorrow and discouragement; hopelessness and sadness; self-pity and grieving.  Sometimes the line is hard to find, and other times, we may know the line, but that doesn’t make dealing with grief any easier.

Are we just surviving or thriving? Do we believe that GOD is out for our destruction or instruction?

Ever feel despised, rejected, sorrowful, or feel like grieving inwardly because of the tests you have faced alone? I know of someone who stood for what was right only to be rejected. He was demonized, the victim of false accusations and testimony, humiliated and framed. He was different than all of his friends and family in a unique kind of way. He was falsely judged by others. He was treated this way more from the religious people than even the non-religious. Those who claimed to be the most pious of GOD’s followers treated Him worse than those who didn’t claim to believe in GOD.  Many people didn’t give Him the benefit of the doubt, but just believed what backbiting tongues said.  He was deserted by His closest friends.

His name was Jesus. He endured all these things and he understands our grief.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:3

Jesus was so sorrowful and grieving to such a point that he was described with the title of “man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief”.    Jesus was perfectly sinless, but He had to live in a world of sinners. He probably felt so different, alone, and sad to be away from His perfect, loving Father.  He had to face evil every day.  He had multiple reasons to grieve beyond even persecution and probably far beyond what we can imagine.

Yet, we see Jesus going to His Father in prayer alone many times.  Even in His last hours before His crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Him praying alone to His Father.

“Is any among you enduring trouble or suffering hardship or evil? let him pray …” – James 5:13a

Sometimes we fellowship in Christ’s sufferings and it helps us understand Him better.  Sometimes we suffer, so that we can understand others better. Sometimes we suffer problems and sorrow because of our own foolishness.  Jesus never did, but He did have to suffer the shame, separation and rejection of bearing our sins, and by doing so, He felt forsaken and separated on the cross from His Father for the first time ever as though He was the guilty one when in fact we were.  He was hung in nakedness and shame and rejected by all men as a condemned criminal (which He was not).

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Yet Jesus prayed to His Father to forgive these people whose sin had separated Him from His Father. Instead of revenge or drinking alcohol or using illegal or prescription drugs or even committing suicide to cope with sorrow, Jesus was thinking of others … forgiving them … showing love to the other criminal who wanted to be with Him in His kingdom.   We need to do the same.  Instead of pitying ourselves or condemning ourselves or trying to escape our consciences through substance abuse, suicide, entertainment, or other means, we should be like Jesus and continue thinking of others. This is very hard, but it’s important to do.  The wrong type of sorrow can lead one to both physical death and defeat, and even spiritual destruction. There’s a difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.

“For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10

And it’s okay to cry.  Jesus wept when His friend Lazarus had died.  Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane not only for the needs of others but for His own grieving heart.  Jesus cried out to His Father in sorrow on the cross.  Sometimes, we need to cry out, pray, and show love and forgiveness to others in order to cope, instead of hiding from others or curling into the fetal position under our covers.  Instead of escaping our sorrow, we need to confront it with tears.  We need to understand that we are not alone in this world, geographically or in time.

Sometimes the wicked set snares for us, falsely accuse us, and throw stones.  I’ve found the religious crowd or worldly Christians are far, far worse.  Jesus spent almost half of His ministry fending off the religious rulers.  Think of Him the next time church members, your in-laws, or others begin to seek your hurt or when they grind their teeth into your already troubled heart.  His apostles, His prophets, and His judges have all been there. And not just in times of persecution such as Elijah who felt very low and alone or when Joseph was framed or when Job was tested, but also in times of punishment by GOD such as when David lost His firstborn and saw his son Absalom killed.  Or when Samson walked behind a grinding stone with his eyes put out.

Sometimes, life is like sitting in a rainstorm with a two-ton truck stuck in a ditch with no cellphone, no tow truck, and a long night (or several nights) ahead of you. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I mean.

Are you a child or teen whose parents are always fighting or divorcing? Are you ridiculed at school for trying to follow Christ? Are you despised for loving the Bible instead of Harry Potter? Are you humiliated by your friends simply because you find more pleasure in the Creator who gave His life for you than the trashy talk and lifestyle at school?

Are you a spouse who feels neglected, alone, always the ‘giver’ in the relationship, and in a dead-end, horrible marriage?

Life is like a covert intelligence agent who can’t talk to anyone about his troubles, except GOD, and He can’t point His finger back to anyone or even act as though He’s working for anyone.  He’s alone.  And if he is working for the cause of righteousness, he can’t pity himself or lick his wounds.  He has to move forward and ignore the lies, the danger, the enemies on every side, and stay focused and committed to doing the right thing, knowing that GOD is on his side.

It’s easy to despair. Or blame others. Or blame yourself. It’s easy to quit.  It’s even easier to quit when you put yourself out on a limb, and those who you think will be there to support you most are the very ones who let you down the most.

However, while we may sorrow, as Christians we should never despair, pity ourselves, give up on life, or escape using mindlessness or sinful vices.  This will only lead to more issues and despair.

Instead, we must pray, pray, pray, and read the Bible. I have found the Psalms to be a great blessing to me when I’ve walked through great sorrow, fear, and anxiety of the soul.  We must find ourselves in the presence of GOD again where there is peace, joy, and companionship.  We must reach out and forgive and love others, and show them the redemption found in Jesus Christ, and none of this is easy. It’s even more difficult when we have to show love to fakes in our congregations or community who pretend to be the most pious, but who in reality are unloving, unhelpful, condemnatory, or ungracious when we need them most. When you hear the platitudes of people acting pious, but who you know will never pay for your auto repair bill when you need it most, we can become cynical. Avoid this trap. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, and press on, because WE ARE NOT ALONE.  He is always longing to spend time with us.

Perhaps your son was just diagnosed with cancer and your world is shattering.  You can cry, and feel sorrowful, and pray, and read the Psalms, and then start doing it all over again. And even when those in your congregation are uncaring, Jesus cares.

Perhaps you were saved out of a life of sin and were excited about the work of GOD, but then found yourself bitter at the hypocrisy around you and falling back into sin again.  We can’t blame others, but don’t despair.  Talk to Jesus.  He loves you.

Perhaps you started out soul-winning and reading the Bible as a teenager, and now you are in the corporate world, completely away from GOD and perhaps even divorced and living in fornication with others.  Don’t continue.  Talk to Jesus and turn from your present course.

Perhaps you are a missionary and your wife has left you and everyone in your supporting congregations are making ugly rumors about you that aren’t true to justify their own sinful, evil lifestyles and choices.  Look to Jesus.  He’s not condemning you, and He’s the judge.  He’s the same Person who saw the wicked hearts of the religious crowd and even some of His own disciples who began to question whether a handicapped person was being punished for their sins.  He’s also the same One who healed the handicapped person.  He loves you.

Perhaps you set out in life begging GOD to use you, longing to have a ministry to as many people on the planet as possible – perhaps millions or even billions – and not for self-aggrandizement, but just out of solid love and compassion and kindness for others.   Instead, now you sit behind bars for a stupid mistake. Don’t lose hope.  Talk to Jesus. Jesus is the same One who saw the repentant heart of an adulteress woman, and turned away those hypocrites who were there to exercise ‘justice’ on her.  He’s the One who also was perfect Himself, but chose not to condemn her but rather He forgave her.

Perhaps your spouse was just killed in an accident.  Look to Jesus.  He can carry you through as He did a friend of mine who went through this very thing.

Perhaps you have now lost your house, your wife, your children, and all your possessions to a fire, and have given up on life.  Perhaps you’ve turned to alcohol for an escape.  Talk to Jesus. Cry for a bit. Read the Word.  Get on course.

Perhaps you turned down a career in the entertainment world to avoid a sinful way of making a living, but now you have been jobless for a year after doing all you could to find a job and those in your congregation are not helping you with your bills or encouraging you or taking you to supper or loving on you. Instead, they’re the ones who are gossiping about you and throwing ‘stones’ at you.  They’re the ones assuming the worst instead of the best.  It’s a test.  Don’t despair. Look to Christ. Many have been there before. Remember what Jesus said?  He said we should take no thought for tomorrow for our heavenly Father sees even the sparrow fall, so we know He watches our every test.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Life is a Test of our love for GOD.  Jesus said that many who are first in this life will be last in the next life. He also said that many who are last in this life will be first in the next life.  Therefore, if you are walking close to GOD and you still feel like last place, then rejoice!  Many have been where you now are with those problems that seem so rare to your life, so unusual and unique to you, but remember that Jesus knows your every anxiety, fear, and despairing thought.  Look to Jesus.  He will never fail you.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

When you are on-track with GOD, and you know you are doing everything you can, you can sleep in peace, knowing that GOD is in control.  Even if you face overwhelming challenges and reasons to fear and doubt, you do not have to do so.  You can look to Jesus instead.  And when a tsunami is facing you or an earthquake is splitting all around you with mile-deep chasms, you can rest in Him.  Because He loves you.

“… God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” – Psalm 46

GOD wants us to thrive, not just survive. He is not out for our destruction, but our instruction. Why? So we may be able to avoid eternal destruction in some cases, and so that we may learn more of the lessons He has for us in life in other cases.  May His grace, peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness be yours today as you look to Him.