Friday, September 6, 2013

Sorrows and Joy

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Psalm 32:10-11
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

This doesn't say that those who trust in the Lord won't have sorrows, it simply says that lovingkindness shall surround them - meaning that we will still...have...sorrows.  As Christians, we do come across suffering and sorrow, it is inevitable in a world infested with sin.  'Lovingkindness' is translated from the Hebrew word checed meaning "goodness, kindness, faithfulness" (Strong's H2617).  When we face sorrows, we will be surrounded by everything that God is.  If that isn't reason enough to rejoice I don't know what is!  We never, ever have to go it alone.  In our darkest moments and deepest valleys, He is there every step of the way!  

When I attend funerals of friends and family members, though I am sad, a part of me is rejoicing because I know where they are now.  My grandpa passed about 6 months ago and I remember sitting in his room the night before, holding his hand - I could just picture him easily walking next to Christ, remembering every good thing - two things he struggled with at the end.  I don't know how people handle death or tragedy without the hope of Christ, without that surrounding of lovingkindness.  I may not always understand what is going on, but I will always have the comfort and joy of God's goodness, kindness, and faithfulness holding me close to Him.

Most of the commentaries referred to our gladness and rejoicing as happiness.  I don't know that 'happy' is a word I would use when discussing sorrow.  It is too easily affiliated with being the opposite of sadness or sorrow.  'Happy' doesn't resonate well with me.  I keep returning to 'joyful,' though part of me still doesn't think that it satisfies, I think joy comes from a different place than happiness.  Joy comes from somewhere deep inside while 'happy' is just a surface emotion.  I think it is entirely possible to be sad and joyful at the same time, as noted with my grandpa's passing above.

Now that I have thoroughly discussed the fact that we do still have sorrows and struggles but that it is still more than possible to have joy, there are three more things I would like to discuss: how sorrows can lead to joy, the foundation of joy, and infectious joy. 

Let's look back on those that don't have the hope of Christ.  Their sorrows can be devastatingly overwhelming.  Sorrows can do one of two things: drive people further away from God or drive them closer to Him.  It is up to the individual which path they take.  My grandpa was one who was driven towards God in the midst of tragedy and I only learned of this after his passing.  Him and my grandmother lost a baby sometime after my mom was born.  It was then that my grandma noticed a change in him, his faith started to become real.  And then later, when my mom was nine years old, my uncle and my grandma were severely electrocuted.  Mom shared with us while discussing funeral arrangements with the pastor, that she remembers him crying out to God in the middle of the night while they were still in the hospital that he needed Him and couldn't do this alone.  Tragedy drove him towards God instead of away, like it does with many people.  And once your are driven towards God, you will receive His comfort and joy in the face of impossible situations.  You see, "They who are at first driven are afterwards drawn, and taught to know no delight so great as that of coming and keeping near God" (Expositor's).

But that is the key, we must keep near God!  You see, "man was made for [joy], but his [joy] must be founded on holiness: and holiness, as it comes from God, must be retained by continual union with Him" (Clarke).  In order to be joyful in the midst of sorrow we must be in communion with God.  It is the foundation of our joy and peace!  That doesn't mean just attending church every Sunday, that means we need to be in a living, breathing relationship with God.  We have to spend more than one day a week with Him, we have to study His word so we know what He has to say, we have to talk with Him (pray).  It's simple give and take; if we want to take from God, we have to give as well!  And by 'give' I mean our lives, we have to give Him our lives.  I believe that this is why David noted just exactly who should be glad and rejoice - those who trust in the Lord, are righteous, and upright in heart.

When we give Him our lives and we face tragedy, we are guaranteed His lovingkindness, His goodness, His love.  The arms that hold the universe will hold us in the midst of our troubles - isn't that amazing!?!  It makes me want to shout for joy as David noted in vs. 11.  And that joy should overflow like rivers in a rainy season.  Matthew Henry notes that when David says to shout for joy he is saying, "Let them be so transported with this holy joy as not to be able to contain themselves; and let them affect others with it, that they also may see that a life of communion with God is the most pleasant and comfortable life we can live in this world."  If you are joyful in the midst of sorrow, people will notice.  Just tell them where that joy comes from!  Let it overflow!

I stand back sometimes and just revel in all God does for us.  Even the little things.  I swear one time He helped me open a salsa jar (don't laugh...I mean it).  ;)  He is something else isn't He?  I just want to shout for joy and let the whole world know!

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