When you think about the life of Jesus, Paul and Jeremiah and David and the Psalmists what do you see? Do you see a group of well-content men who soaked up life and all it has to offer? Do you see a group of men who “lived life to the fullest,” and savored every moment? Or do you see a group of men whose trademark is suffering?
Friend, reread some of these verses:
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race,”
Notice Paul has to preface his statement with a declaration of truth. “I speak the truth… I am not lying.” Paul had to prepare his readers for what he was just about to tell them.
This familar passage shows what misery our Savior was committed to. In vs. 3 He is called the “man of sorrows,” in vs. 10 it says the Father was pleased to “put Him to grief.” When we look at the life of Jesus we can scarcely find an example where He is not somber and serious. Sometimes we are tempted to think He was too serious, too severe when the situation clearly did not call for it.
“To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. But I am full of the wrath of the Lord, and I cannot hold it in.”
This shocking passage speaks for itself. Strange. I have never heard any sermons on this passage…Finally consider,
I’d like you to read it in full, slowly. I will make one note here- in vs. 1 he says “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.” This is both his first thought and the last pleasant or happy thing he will say. The rest of the Psalm is filled with sadness. Indeed it ends on a downer: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.”
Why Bring This Up?
Why do I bring this up? Is it because I am a perpetual killjoy, a hater of fun? On the contrary, I enjoy fun as much as the other person!
But may I ask you, reader, are you quick to read over these passages? Are you quick to skip over to the happy sections? Are we quick to explain away these sections, or to rid them of their visceral force? Do we not do God a diservice when we quickly attempt to balance these heavy sections out with a happy or encouraging thought? Notice, Psalm 88 doesn’t end on a happy note…
Are we so content to always be chipper, and to always end on a high note? Perhaps we are just terrified of being sad. The truth is, we are all terrified of sadness. We are trained to think of sadness as unhealthy for us, inherently dangerous and always to be avoided.
Indeed, godless despair is to be avoided. Nevertheless Christian do you mourn for the lost? Do we weep over the sins of others? Are we able to make sense of these passages or are they simply at a loss to us? Do we see no redeeming value in grief? –Deep grief? long-lasting, godly grief?
In Christ, there is both sorrow and joy (2 Cor 6:20), tears mixed with hope and deep seated trust. I am not advocating an artificial somberness, a life lived without joy, or a self-imposed austerity. But I would like to reclaim the heart-felt, unabashed, godly sorrow for the things that matter. Live joyfully, but don’t shortchange sorrow. In the words of James (4:9-10),
“Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”