A Study of Sorrow
We should be interested in what the Bible says on every subject. The Bible is not just another book, it rather originated with God (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). Therefore, the teaching of the Bible and all it says relative to every conceivable subject is truly accurate and factual. By "sorrow," we have reference to, "Distress caused by loss, affliction, disappointment, etc.; grief, sadness, or regret: (Random House College Dictionary). I might suggest at the outset of this study, that the Bible presents sorrow in a very challenging way. Consider Paul’s statement:
"10: As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6).
Biblical sorrow is such that both sorrow and rejoicing can simultaneously be experienced on the part of the Christian. Sorrow as experienced by many in the world usually controls, removes, and precludes such emotions as rejoicing. The Christian has a hope that is static and looks beyond the momentary happenings of this life (Heb. 6: 19). Sorrow can be debilitating, unjustified, caused by sin, and even justified, I submit.
Sorrow for the lost. Every sincere child of God experiences sorrow for the lost and desires their salvation (Rom. 9: 2, 3). Having this sorrow does not blind the concerned as to the facts of the matter. Paul aptly expressed it when he wrote:
"1: Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2: For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3: For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10).
Christians not only have grief for the lost, but they "…hold forth the word of life" in an effort to see the lost saved (Phili. 2: 16).
Sorrow over sin. One major cause is sin, either directly or indirectly viewed. Biblical repentance is of the nature that it is accompanied by sorrow. In fact, godly sorrow effects repentance (2 Cor. 7: 10). Even sorrow produced by sin can turn into that which is destructive and spiritually negative. This happens when a person repents, but cannot let go of their guilt. Observe Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians regarding the brother who had sinned, but had been restored:
"6: Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7: So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8: Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him" (2 Cor. 2).
When repentance is truly experienced, the child of God needs to move on and not be burdened down over their remorse. In the case of sin, sorrow can be good, precipitating repentance, but if it is not controlled, sorrow can be counter-productive, even causing total spiritual destruction.
Wasted or unjustified sorrow. Some sorrow is a totally wasted and useless experience. I say this because there are cases in which the initial sorrow should not have existed and certainly should not have lingered. A case in point involves one of the problems prevailing in the church at Thessalonica:
"13: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (I Thes. 4).
These brethren should not have been grieving to the extent that they were. Their saved loved ones who had died in the Lord were not at a disadvantage pertaining to future life (vs. 15, 16). There can be instances in our lives that involve sorrow, but should not. In the case of the Thessalonians, ignorance of God’s will and teaching caused their sorrow (vs. 13f.).
Sorrow at bad news. When Jesus informed the disciples that one of them would betray him, they were saddened. Their response was one of personal concern expressed by, "Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 26: 21. 22). The very idea that one of the chosen group, the special twelve, would do such a horrible deed seems almost more than they could take (vs. 20-26).
In the case of the twelve, bad as the news was, it also had a very positive result. Without Judas’ betrayal, Jesus would not have, "…tasted death for every man" (Heb. 2: 9)The old saying, "Every cloud has a silver lining" can often be true, but we must be alert to such.
People respond to bad news differently. When the news is such that could negatively reflect on us, we need to do as the twelve and ask, "Lord, is it I?"
The matter of parental sorrow. All godly parents have known sorrow from time to time. Some of the most sleepless nights that I have ever had in involved sorrow over a child, a child who had entered adulthood and was making some bad choices that I knew would affect her all her life (bad marriage). I think most parents can relate to the following:
"43: And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44: But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45: And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46: And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47: And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48: And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke 2).
Again, in the case of the young child Jesus, Joseph and Mary’s sorrow was not needed, but they did not know at the time. Based on the knowledge they possessed (their son was missing), they responded accordingly. Hence, we can even today have sorrow, not knowing all the facts, but the sorrow is appropriate, nonetheless. Grieving over children can certainly bring one low.
Sorrow as the result of duty. One mark of maturity and adulthood is the ability to acknowledge and accept responsibility. The absence of this ability has caused many psychologists to be concerned at the immaturity of many today. However, even duty can be accompanied with sorrow. Regarding Jesus in the shadow of the cross, we read the following:
"7: And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38: Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39: And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26).
One does what one must do, but such does not mean there is not sorrow. However, knowing sorrow will be encountered does not cause the faithful to turn away from duty.
Sorrow as the result of riches. Material gain can be a blessing and afford the person greater opportunities to do good and glorify God (see Gaius in Third John). More than not, though, riches come with many sorrows attached. Paul thus instructed the young preacher Timothy:
"6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8: And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9: But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12: Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (I Tim. 6).
In the setting of the materialistic age in which we live in America today, many would be rich. While money can be a valuable tool for those with understanding, riches can and usually do destroy the unknowing. Many think that money is the answer to all their problems. When they acquire some money, their problems are only multiplied. Some of the most unhappy people are those classified as the upper middle class. Regarding many, we are reminded of the words of David: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Ps. 119: 71). It is true that the only time some look up, if you will, is when they are flat on their backs!
Regarding our study of sorrow, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the teaching of two additional verses. First, there is I Peter 5: 7. The verse reads, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." The other verse is Revelation 21: 4. It reads, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."