COMFORT FOR SORROW ~
Part I ~ WHY ~
for sorrowful hearts from the Bible,THE WORD OF GOD.
There is no other place to go, but this is a study about ‘suffering’.
If you feel you cannot face that idea, at the moment just leave this page for now and come back later. God cares so much about you, He has promised to help you. Cry to Him in prayer.
there no comfort for sorrow? Nothing but heartaches and tears?
Is there no hope for tomorrow? Nothing but terrible fears?”
YES THERE IS COMFORT FOR SORROW-
THERE IS ~ MEANING ~ PURPOSE ~ HOPE~ REWARD.
There are many kinds or forms of sorrow.
This is our first reminder to you, because it is good for you to know that your sorrow is just as real as any sorrow that other people talk about. We may not touch on it in this ‘letter’ to you, but you need to know “No temptation [a form of sorrow] has seized you except what it is common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10: 13. Also as one of Job’s friends said, (5: 7), “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks, [from a fire] fly upward.” So please do not feel you are ‘different’ because you feel sorrowful in some way. You would not be human if you did not feel pain in some way, and sorrow is a very real kind of pain. So, dear friend, don’t hold back your tears, you are not alone.
THERE IS MEANING IN SORROW.
A. Understanding some causes of sorrow.
The first question we ask, when some great sorrow or trouble comes to us is, “Why?”
People since the beginning of time; have asked that question in one way or another.
a) Sometimes it is asked in anger, implying that it is not fair or right that any trouble should come to us. “Why me?” we ask, implying that I should not have this trouble or sorrow. Yet it is part of being a human being. We need to ask ‘why’.
We will give some answers to this question. We pray it will help you.
b) Sometimes it is asked in a genuine way, to see if there is a reason for the sorrow, so that by understanding the meaning of this sorrow, I can deal with it in a better way. Scripture is very good at answering this ‘why’ question. We will try to show you there is meaning in sorrow. It is good to ask ‘what is the purpose in this?’
c) Sometimes it could be asked in a way to show the reality of the situation we are in. This is how we understand Yeshua/ Jesus Himself asking on the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” His total experience of bearing our sin was focused for Him on the horrific concept of the Son being separated from the Father in the mystery of taking away the sin of the world! Yet we know, “God was in Messiah, reconciling the world to Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. We may ask the question ‘why’ so that we can reassure ourselves there is meaning in the whole situation. In fact this is what we should be asking as we accept what God allows.
why there is sorrow and suffering in the world, and in my life.
1. The Scriptural answers to a difficult question.
a) The great Eternal God’s plan at Creation was for this to be a perfect place for Him to have friendship with the people He made to pour His love out on! God is love, and love delights in giving that love away to those it knows. We can never understand just all that God’s great heart of love longed to give to the people He had made. He wanted to really be a loving Heavenly Father! We must not doubt it.
b) But Almighty God did not want ‘robots’ that would somehow automatically respond to His love. So He took the enormous risk, (even knowing how it would be used), of giving every human being the treasure of a free will to decide their own thoughts and actions. Many people do not understand this privilege. With it, God also gave a superior intelligence (above the animals), and the capacity to love, as well. Once God gave this gift of ‘choice’ He has never, never violated that gift. Not ever!
c) The right to choose meant that there had to be a time and place to make a choice.
We need never to get into discussion about the form of the test that God gave, Adam and Eve, as to what kind of tree or fruit was involved. This can be a way of hiding the real situation. God’s love needed to give us two things:
· The opportunity to choose to take God at His word, in TRUST.
· The opportunity to choose to OBEY what God had asked.
Because Almighty God is also pure rightness, and holy, He
had to punish those who chose not to trust, but who
doubted His love. Satan caused the doubt by questioning God’s
word. “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any
tree in the Garden?’ “ Sadly,
Eve’s reply showed that she knew exactly what God had said.
[We believe that Almighty God created a man and a woman with absolutely perfect bodies, minds and abilities. This means we understand the descent of mankind into so called primitive, ‘stone-age’ people after many years of sin in the world. However there is NO one who does not have the capacity to rise to where God wants them with His help.] So all sin is our own choice - not to trust or obey God’s clear Word, and this is where all sin, sorrow and suffering comes from. We need to believe this.
e) ‘General sin’ in a sinful world causes the innocent as well as the guilty to suffer. This is the world we all - now live in.
f) This means that God Himself suffers to see the foolish and sinful choices we have all made throughout the whole of History. But He chose to find a way to turn the tragedy into blessing, and this gives real meaning to all suffering and sorrow, now. This is what the whole of the Bible story is about it is HIS-story of help and healing and meaning and purpose and blessing -for us all! It is only through Him!
2. Understanding the LINK between sin and sorrow is important.
The ‘FALL. All human beings as well
as Nature was ‘infected’ by sin and God’s curses on
each one involved, in what is called, ‘The Fall’.
You will have read it in Genesis chapter 3. So savagery among
animals, (many of whom became carnivorous –meat-eating
predators) and thorns and prickles and no doubt harmful
micro-organisms against plants, animals and man, developed at the
time of sins entry into the world. This is explained in Romans
chapter 8: 19, “the creation waits in eager expectation for
the sons of God, [His children by faith in His Son, Yeshua/ Jesus] to
be revealed. [At the Return of Yeshua/ Jesus]. For the creation was
subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will
of the One Who subjected it… We know that the whole creation
has been groaning as in the pains of child-birth right up to the
This clearly means that we are subject to problems of all kinds; - weather, sicknesses, disasters, change, age and decay – all because of the entry of sin and disobedience to spoil God’s loving plans. Some of the changes were gradual, such as the length of mankind’s' lives, from nearly 1000 years to around 100 or less. So all this helps us understand some of the reasons for sorrow, which we simply have to accept. In His great goodness, God has helped people to treat many sicknesses and help us to protects ourselves from some natural problems, like cold or heat, and use all kinds of modern developments, many of us are grateful for. However sickness, age and finally, physical death are now one of the certainties in life. Work became man’s hard lot, just to survive, and all human beings share this burden, bringing the problem- (often not recognised as a serious problem) of tiredness, which leads to depression, anger and frustration. Sleeplessness is worse than hunger.
b) The FLOOD. Another cause of change in the natural order of the world, from what it was at Creation, was ‘The Great Flood’. Scientists are discovering the effects this had worldwide! See Genesis chapters 6 – 9. It is possible that God allowed a massive change in the way the Earth revolves. Before the Flood it seems the world had richer levels of oxygen, (which means modern methods of carbon dating according to oxygen in a natural specimen cannot be gauged at the same level as now.) Also the pressure of the atmosphere was quite different, which was why large dinosaurs could move their heavy bodies around freely in the virgin forests. It has been suggested that the changed atmosphere stopped most of the solar radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface. But after the Flood the much higher UV and x-ray levels have caused a slow degradation of our DNA. Apparently less than half our DNA is actually expressed now, and the rest is referred to as ‘junk DNA’. The whole atmosphere was at a stable level, as there was no wind, rain, hail, or snow, but the whole ecology encouraged lush growth. Genesis 2: 5,“For the LORD God had not sent rain on the Earth and there was no man [needed] to work the ground, but mists came up from the Earth and watered the whole surface of the ground”. Desert areas did not existent before the Flood.
c) BABEL! The social sorrows that have resulted from two serious events should not be minimised, but both were the results of evil actions against God. The first was the sinful actions of Noah’s son Ham, which brought forth a curse on all his descendants. However the major change in mankind’s relationships came with the rebellious acts of Nimrod and his anti-God plans to “build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole Earth.” This was in direct disobedience to God’s command to ‘fill the Earth’. Sadly territorial disputes and racial wars have brought untold sorrow ever since all over the world, and seemingly never more than in these last centuries.
Having knowledge of the reasons and ‘meaning’ of these forms of suffering may not seem to help us, but when we know the great Creator, Himself came to live in this kind of world, we can begin to have an understanding of the meaning/reasons God has allowed for some kinds of the world’s sorrows.
3. Yet in reality often we suffer because of a lack of TRUST and OBEDIENCE.
a) Often, if we are honest, we suffer because of our own choices!
· Sometimes we do not act wisely, avoiding known risks, or places of trouble.
· Sometimes we deliberately choose to hurt ourselves through taking wrong substances into our bodies or getting into wrong activities, such as fighting, etc. We cannot ‘blame God’ for what we have deliberately chosen to do wrong.
b) Sometimes we suffer because of the wrong and sinful actions of other people. Murders, wars, terrorism, rapes, unjust imprisonment, false accusations are some of the evil acts God sees. This is such a great cause of sorrow and suffering in the world at this time, and it is especially directed against those who are true Christians, in rising persecution all over the world. Sadly, we believe it will get even worse. God grieves over this!
“All the world’s sorrows forced through the channels of one Human heart.”
There is only One heart this could be true of: the heart of Yeshua/Jesus.
c) One of the hardest forms of suffering and sorrow is to see others suffering – especially if they are close to us -whatever the cause or reason may be. This is worse if we feel helpless to help them, physically, mentally or spiritually.
C. THERE IS PURPOSE IN THE MIDST OF SORROW.
1. There is some comfort for sorrow if we see a PURPOSE in it.
It is one thing to understand something of the causes and meaning of sorrow in the world. But we believe even in the worst of sorrows, God can turn it to a blessing, which we can grasp, if we are willing to accept it. The only true answers for finding a purpose are in the same place as the reasons why sorrow is allowed by God in this world. It is only in God’s Word of Truth. If I or others can learn from this it is help.
we can offer some places to find meaning and purpose in the midst of
2. How God’s PURPOSES can be seen in special times of suffering.
As we have explained, God has remained true to His own decision to give us all a free-will even though He knew we would use our strong wills to disobey, let alone trust Him in everything. But being the Loving and powerful God He is, He also has found a way to use these facts of sorrow and suffering for our BLESSING!
a) The most amazing example of this, was to even send His only Son, Yeshua/ Jesus/ Isa into this world like it is to suffer with us! No other ‘god’ has done this, let alone, to the point of suffering such a cruel death! Not a ‘painfree’ sudden death, but lingering in hours of excruciating physical agony and naked exposure. With the derision of another victim, the ridicule of religious leaders, the indifference of hardened Roman soldiers, and seeing the awful sorrow of confusion and distress of His friends. Legally, on the human level, 21 rulings of the Jewish tradition were ignored in His trial, thereby initiating a most unjust sentence. But of course the most agonising suffering for Him is far beyond our understanding. Isaiah foretold it so clearly and must have been shocked at what his own Jewish hands wrote in the 53rd chapter. “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we (ignorantly) considered Him stricken by GOD… But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities. The LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all!” And why was this? Because again a fair and just God had to find a way to punish sin, so He did it in His own Son! So perhaps Yeshua/ Jesus’ greatest suffering was to have to bear (carry) my sin on His sinless soul! Talk about sorrow and suffering! “Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer…” If ever there is meaning and purpose in suffering this is where it is demonstrated perfectly!
b) In God’s economy, or ways of doing things, He has also made it a purposeful thing for us Believers to suffer in different ways, simply because He loves us!
· How many people have only turned to God for His free ‘Salvation’ – total forgiveness for sin and spiritual new life, when some form of suffering made them stop and think about the meaning and purpose of it? “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word,” the writer of Psalm 119:67 said.
· In the same way, God often uses pain and sorrow to correct and discipline us, like a loving father should. Do you know I counted more than 40 times where ‘discipline’ is mentioned in the Bible from Deuteronomy to the last Book! Revelation 3: 19 says, “Those whom I love. I rebuke and discipline”. It is good if we accept this. In acceptance, lies peace.
3. However God allows sinful people to suffer the consequences of their sins.
a) This maybe in this life and is often the direct consequences of wrong living, taking alcohol or drugs, eating unwisely, indulging in evil sex, mixing with cruel and unprincipled gangs or terrorists and fanatical religious zealots. “All who draw the sword will die by the sword,” Jesus reminded His followers, even as He was being arrested, and could have called up a Heavenly army in His defence. But it was not the time for Him to do that. There are examples in Scripture of suffering for sin.
b) But there will be a very just and deserved time of suffering final punishment for all who sin against God, by not trusting or obeying Him, in God’s time at the end of the Millennial Reign of King Yeshua/ Jesus Messiah as explained in Revelation 20: 12. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Evil in this life (without repentance), and its just result, -are inseparable.
THERE IS HOPE &
REWARD IN SUFFERING & SORROW.
a) For true Believers whose trust is in God through Yeshua/ Jesus, only.
is when the meaning and purpose of sorrow and suffering come together
in a precious way. Because the reality is that there is no life on
Earth without some form of suffering. Even when we see a
meaning and accept that God can turn it into a precious
result on Earth -without the beautiful expectant hope
of the Bible -it would still be very hard to bear. But the hope is
-of fruit and richness even, as a result of the sorrow! This
is based, however on our relationship with God through our Saviour.
b) And there is more, as they say! Because knowing all these things also has an encouraging aspect to help us to be brave and patient right now, like fragrant ointment on a wound. 2 Corinthians is a wonderful book of encouragement in sorrow.
It became the most read book of the Bible by a missionary doctor kidnapped in Iran and held for 18 months. A key verse is in 4: 16: “therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, [here] but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!” I am ashamed to say there was a time when I moaned, “LORD, I’m sorry, but if this is Your idea of ‘light affliction’, it isn’t mine.” But when we receive the promised glory, we are going to be so overwhelmed and even a bit ashamed, and we will find ourselves saying, “All this- for that little bit of sorrow? Oh, why didn’t I trust God more!”
This is how Paul explained it in Romans 8:17 & 18. ”Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Messiah, if indeed we share His sufferings in order that we may share HIS Glory! I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” How about that!
Dear friend, if you have patiently read this far, I do trust this will encourage you.
SO ALL THIS MEANS THERE IS COMFORT FOR SORROW!
A. There is MEANING – answers to ‘Why’.
B. There are real REASONS – but only in the Bible.
C. There can be PURPOSE – if we accept the reasons.
D. There is HOPE and even REWARDS – because God is Love.
a) God allows real suffering.
to those He has chosen, called and commissioned to serve Him. It is
all part of what we have explained above. It is the result of sin in
this weary wicked world. And it seems, sometimes that those who are
closest to God, can suffer the most. Many in the New Testament times
right up to today, know about what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians
6:3-10, especially God’s servants. “…giving no
offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed, but in all
things approving ourselves as the ministers of God! In
much patience, afflictions, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in
fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness,
by the Holy spirit, by love unfeigned, by the Word of Truth, by the
power of God. By the armour of righteousness on the right-hand and on
the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as
‘deceivers’ and yet true, as unknown and yet well known.
As dying and behold we live, as chastened and not killed, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” I am not sure which translation this is from, but it was part of a letter from those ministering in a difficult place in the M.E.
b) Being a Believer is hard! The reality is that being a Believer in Yeshua/ Jesus was never meant to make our lives on Earth easier, though it has brought wonderful blessings to so many. But in the end the comfort of God’s moment by moment presence with us, is the real blessing. Knowing HIM, loving HIM, serving HIM, is great comfort to us all. Can I add, that it takes time – just as growing a good fruit tree does… So be patient with yourself – and others, too.
There are hundreds of books about finding ‘comfort in sorrow’. Hopefully, we have only touched on the important things. One thing we have learnt from one writer, (Dr Paul Bilheimer*) in his book, “Destined for the Throne”, is that this life is a special preparation for those in God’s Royal family to serve from the Throne with Him in Glory! No wonder another book is called, “Don’t waste your sorrows” because if we could see what God sees, even sorrow – or maybe especially sorrows are an investment in His great Coming Kingdom! It seems one of Yeshua/Jesus’ first messages was for sad and even disheartened people who longed to know GOD. In Matthew 5 He says:
How blessed are those who mourn – for they will be comforted.
How blessed are the meek - for they will inherit the Land!
How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
–for they will be filled.
How blessed are those who are persecuted because they pursue righteousness
- The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” [From the Jewish N.T.]
Please forgive us if our words have not brought comfort to you.
How could they? They are only seeking to underline the precious
Messages of God’s Word, in the Bible.
We plead with you to seek Him and His answers, there.
[* Dr Paul Bilheimer’s books published by Bethany House Publishers.]
Part II of this study will focus on specific kinds of suffering.
Also ‘HOW’ we can find comfort for each one.