Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing
This world is sometimes called “the vale of tears.” Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” but He also said, “In me ye [shall] have peace.” (John 16:33) The way to heaven is through tribulations. Those whom John saw standing before the throne and the Lamb arrayed in white robes and with palms in their hands, were one day where we now are; and thank God, we, coming up through great tribulation, shall some day be where they are. While man in this world will meet with sorrow, he can by the grace of God always rejoice. Alum thrown into muddy water will clarify it. The grace of God thrown into a cup of sorrow will turn it to joy. Sorrows are needful. It is only a barren waste where there is no rainfall.
We have sung, “No days are dark to me.” This can indeed be true, but it is not to be taken in the sense that there will be no clouds nor rainfall. Show me a man who never has a cloud to float across his sky, and I will show you a man who has not faith enough to see clearly in the sunlight. It is those whose faith pierces through the cloud and keeps the smiling, sunlit face of Christ in view that have the truest, sweetest joy. Their rejoicing is in the Lord. By bravery and force of will some may shut themselves against sorrow and soon become insensible to it. But the heart that is steeled against sorrow is in all probability so callused that it cannot experience joy. Those who know the deepest sorrow may ofttimes know the fullest joy, and that in the midst of their sorrow. Do not harden your heart against sorrow, but look to Jesus for that balm which heals, that grace which sustains, that comfort which gladdens. Some have thought that true joy consists in never having a sorrow; that those who have sorrow have not found the way of peace. In this they err. Those who never have a sorrow rejoice because they have no sorrows, but some who have sorrow have learned to rejoice in the Lord. This is truest joy.
“Sorrowful,” said one who was crucified with Christ, “yet alway rejoicing.” (2 Corinthians 6:10) He never once denied having sorrow; nay, he said, “I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart.” (Romans 9:2) But he also said, “I glory.” (2 Corinthians 12:5) It was the deep sorrow that made him most like Jesus. He had feeling. We sorrow, but, he said, not “as others who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) The world knows a sorrow that the Christian does not know. Christians should be careful lest in hardening themselves against feeling they do not render themselves incapable of feeling compassion, sympathy, and pity.
Let the tears flow. If you keep them back, the fountain will dry up. May the Lord pity those who have no tears! Jesus wept. The apostle Paul said, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears.” (2 Corinthians 2:4) Oh, that unfeeling heart that cannot suffer, that dry heart that has no fountain of tears! It weeps not over the sorrows of others and consequently cannot rejoice when others are joyful. Only those who weep can truly rejoice.
You rejoice because you and your family are in good health, because your friends are smiling upon you, because circumstances surrounding you are favorable, because you have an abundance of good things to eat and of clothing to wear. But your rejoicing is only in earthly things. We are to be grateful for these things, but they are only the sea-foam of joy; the water lies beneath. True joy is to rejoice not only in the Lord, but also with the Lord. Rejoice in those things in which Jesus and the angels rejoice. When your goods are being wasted, you find your deepest joy because God is being glorified.
If you cannot weep with angels, you cannot rejoice with them. See that aged pilgrim: his has been a hard and stony way; loved ones have gone one by one from his embrace; riches have taken wings and flown away; sorrows are multiplied; trials are many; burdens are heavy; he is footsore, sad, and weary. Angels are bending over him weeping. Can you weep with him and them? They comfort him. The sadness of his heart begins to die away; hope begins to dawn. The dawning of the hope causes the angels to rejoice. This is truest joy. Rejoice when souls are saved; rejoice when hearts are gladdened; rejoice when God is praised. This is the true source of purest joy. But it is only those who are capable of suffering deeply with the sufferings of others, that can truly rejoice when their sufferings are turned away. The more we are like Jesus, the more we have of His Spirit, the tenderer will be our hearts and the more deeply will our souls be moved by the sufferings of others.
When some dear friend has proved untrue; when some loved one has gone astray; when the death-angel has left a chair vacant at your hearthstone and deep sorrow lies upon your soul, then it is that you feel nearer to Jesus. You feel ripe for heaven. The world has suddenly gone out, and you have cast your eyes upward. Do not try to keep back the tears; let them flow. They are pearls in angels’ sight. It is the tears of the child that touches the heart of the parent, and prompts him to give comfort to the little one.
It is the tears of the Christian that touches the great loving heart of God and moves Him to give that solace which only Heaven gives. David said in a time of deepest sorrow—his son was seeking his life—“It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction [tears], and that the LORD will requite me good.” () Hezekiah was doomed to die. The prophet told him to set his house in order, for he should die, and not live. The dying man turned his face to the wall and prayed, “I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” (2 Kings 20:3) And he “wept with a great weeping.” This touched the heart of God, and He said, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee.” (2 Kings 20:5)
If the heart of God’s saints were a deeper fountain of tears, more sick people would be healed in these days. Around are the sick and suffering, but alas, how few tears! When saints have so deepened into God, cultivated such a tenderness of heart, and become so deeply compassionate, that they will “water their couch with their tears all the night” (Psalm 6:6) at the sight of sick persons, they will get answers to their prayers. To such God will say, “Behold, I will heal him.” If tears will not reach God, the case is hopeless. Esau sought for a place of repentance and sought it with tears, but could not find it. The mentioning of tears here implies that the addition of tears to earnest heart-seeking has influence with God. Jeremiah in his lamentations for fallen Israel, said, “Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1) He knew that if anything would avail with God, it would be tears, therefore he wished that his eyes were a fountain of tears, so that God might be moved to save Israel.
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5) There can be no harvest from seed sown unless the seed is watered. As you go out to sow seed in the Master’s field, water them with your tears if you would have a joyful harvest. May God save His people from unfeelingness of heart! A soul with no tears is a soul with no flowers. There is no verdure where there is no water. Those who are not deep enough in God to shed tears over a lost and ruined world are not deep enough to shed tears of joy over a soul’s salvation. Out from the depth of His heart Jesus cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34) When did you shed tears over lost souls? Do you ever have a Gethsemane? Is your pillow ever dampened by tears shed for a doomed world? Do you ever go out beneath the starry sky and with outstretched arms cry in the severe pains of travail, “O lost souls, lost souls! how often would I have gathered thee to Jesus, as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, but ye would not”? Only those who have deep travail of soul for the lost can fully rejoice when the lost are found.
One of the apostles said he served the Lord “with many tears.” (Acts 20:19) A heart from which flows no tears is not a heart that is wholly imbued by the Spirit of God. Tears of compassion for the suffering, tears of warning and entreaty for the lost, tears of joy for the saved, will flow through a perfectly holy heart as freely as water through a sieve. Sunlight perforates the blocks of ice from the center outward; so the love of God perforates the heart to its depth and lets the tears of affection, pity, and sympathy flow out.
Do not try to escape suffering. Do not shut your heart against sorrow. It is the bruised flower that gives out the sweetest scent. Open thy heart to God and let Him bruise it, let sorrow flow in and break it, that sweetness may flow out. When the poet sang:
“I no trouble and no sorrow
See today, nor will I borrow
Gloomy visions for the morrow,”*
he sang not of sorrow for souls lost in sin, nor of needful heaviness through manifold temptations, nor of sorrow awakened by the suffering of others, but of that sorrow which arises from the world through distrust and separation from God.
There is a sorrow which comes through Christ. It is as the refiner’s fire, purifying the soul and binding it closer to God. Such sorrow detaches the heart from the world and from self, and hides it in God. It is impossible for the soul to approach any degree of nearness to Christ only through sorrow and suffering. In my own experience my heart once longed for deeper grace. My whole soul breathed out, “O Jesus! give me more meekness.” For a few days a heavy cloud of sorrow lay upon me; when it had passed away, I had an answer to my prayer.
I would have you beware of that unfeeling state in which one has no sorrow, and mistakingly attributes its absence to grace. Grace helps us bear sorrow, but does not harden our hearts against it. Sorrow brings us to a throne of grace for grace and grace brings us joy, so that we have joy in sorrow. No other joy is so sweet as this. It is the real and true joy of Christ.