Sorrow And The Door To Joy

“As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter.”

George MacDonald, from Phantastes

    “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:2-12 ESV

Scripture tells the Christian to count it all joy when God gives us trials and sufferings and sorrows. It’s the way of the cross, and we shouldn’t hope for a different lot than our King willingly took on for us. And because sorrow in this life is the way of the cross and the way of the King, we can have a secure hope, as MacDonald profoundly put it, that sorrow will fling wide the doors of joy that sorrow herself may not enter. Let sorrow come, because God redeems it in the lives of His children – sorrow opens the door to the greatest joys, and God completes us with it.

I think what James gets at, is that God gives us even more of Himself through our sorrows. So, again I say let them come. Let them bring us more of God, and more of Joy than we would’ve had any other way.

Living in Wartime: 1 Peter 4:1-2 And The Good In Suffering

I wrote a post a few weeks ago on “Living in Wartime,” and this whole idea is still heavy on my thinking. This wartime mindset of the Church is central to the book of 1 Peter, which we’re nearing the end of in our Shepherding group. C.S. Lewis called it a “wartime mindset;” John MacArthur, in a sermon series on 1 Peter, calls it a mindset of “life without loose ends.” Engaging life with a wartime mindset keeps coming up even in my reading outside Scripture; I just can’t seem to escape it. So if this grows into a mini-series, you’ll know why.

Let me just clarify something. By a “wartime mindset” I do not necessarily mean doing battle in the culture wars. We Christians have to pick our battles very carefully on cultural issues. The Church is called to protect and proclaim the Gospel first, and above everything else. And sometimes Christians tend to make Jesus into a warrior against every avenue of sin popping up in the culture, at the neglect of spreading the Gospel, which is the only thing that will actually change people and kill sin. The kind of “wartime mindset” I’m talking about is the humble longing for Christ and focusing of priorities that happens when a war is going on. During a war, people tend to value different things (usually better things), and people don’t waste their time with “loose ends.”

But enough soapboxing.

1 John 4:1,2 (ESV) says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

There is a blessing in suffering, or as Peter might say, when Christ’s sufferings are produced in our lives. When living a life of obedience to God brings difficulties and sufferings in this sinful world, there is real, solid good in it. Christian suffering during a time of war (physical or spiritual), cuts ties with sin, and cuts worldliness out of our lives. So there is also good in not always trying to avoid suffering. In suffering, especially during a time of war, sin goes from the Christian, and the Christian longs for Christ. May we fix our minds this way.

In the novel Cold Mountain, the main character Inman reflects near the end of the book on what war had done to him:

“[Inman] had been alone in the world and empty for so long…and so he believed everything that had been taken out of him might have been for a purpose. To clear space for something better.”

In a culture that grows increasingly post-Christian and hostile to the Gospel, may God expose what we love more than Him, and replace those things with Himself. May He continually give us the right priorities in this broken world, as we long for Christ’s appearing, when “His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).