Celebrate Sorrow

Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 8:7-12

“It is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal, and to send presents to those in need; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (The Living Bible)

It was a momentous day for Judah. For the first time in their generation, they read the laws of God as given to Moses. In an instant their spiritual eyes were opened to the truth-and how far they had strayed from it.

They wept incessantly. The Israelites were sorry for their sins and the sins of their ancestors and desperately wanted to make it right. Ezra and Nehemiah reassured the people that while it was ok to be sad over their sin, they shouldn’t live in that state of mind.

The truth of God’s word should bring repentance, but that repentance should give great joy as God’s mercy is celebrated. Celebrating the goodness of God should cause worship, and worship should create an outward focus on the needs of the world.

When I look back on my life, it’s tempting to live in a state of despair and regret. However, God is not glorified in my incessant weeping. Jesus doesn’t tell me to live in sorrow, he tells me to, “Go, and sin no more₁”. Ezra puts it well, “What hope could we have if [God] gave us justice₂?”

I rejoice that I have not been given the justice I deserve. That joy strengthens me to share the redemptive, transforming message of the Gospel with others.  I may weep for a moment but I’ll rejoice for eternity.

  1. John 8:11
  2. Ezra 9:15
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Affliction: My Teacher

 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 (NIV)

Affliction: My Teacher

“I never knew the meaning of God’s word until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best teachers.” –Martin Luther

It has been said that Psalm 119:71 is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 which tells us, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Affliction often catapults us into God’s word to find comfort, understanding, answers, to make sense of our circumstances, or to find wisdom to make the next major decision. Without that painful affliction we would not have experienced that faith deepening moment with which God spoke clarity into our hearts. I would venture to say that affliction may even be one of our greatest teachers-often bringing us closer to Christ than any other situation could. In fact, our sanctification often comes through our deepest pains. We need to be at a place of trust where we can say with joy and confidence, “It was good for me to be afflicted!”

No one looks forward to pain or affliction, and certainly we don’t ask that God shower afflictions on us in order to draw us closer to Him, but we can be certain that when we do experience painful circumstances that God is most definitely working them in a systematically ordered way for our greatest good, that we might better learn His decrees. Ask God to open your heart to the character he wants to build in you, and the blessing he wants to bestow on you or others through your trials. You may never fully understand, but you can find rest in trusting His Divine wisdom.