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How To Sanctify Your Sorrow

What do we do with sorrow?

Yesterday I heard news about someone that brought me deep sorrow.

I felt sadness, heart-break, grief.

And I wondered — what does God want me to do with this sorrow?

Rejoice always?

That’s what Paul commanded — in Phil 3:1.

So does “rejoice always” mean “never sorrow”?

I don’t think so, because in 2Cor 6:10 Paul said the apostles were “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

So the command to rejoice does not mean we can never sorrow.

Opposite directions

But sorrow can take us in two opposite directions — either towards Christ or away from Christ.

The rich young ruler’s sorrow led him away from Christ (Matt 19:22).

But the disciples’ sorrow led them toward Christ (Matt 26:22).

So I wondered — how could my sorrow lead me toward Christ?

How can I sanctify this sorrow?

Holy and unholy

First I looked more closely at my sorrow — to see what parts were holy — and what parts were not.

Parts were holy —

  • I grieved that God had been dishonored
  • I grieved that I was not able to do more to help this person
  • I grieved for this person’s pain
  • I grieved for others’ pain

But part of my grief was not holy.  Part was about my image — how this situation could make me look bad.

Since that part of my grief was not holy, I confessed it to God.  I asked Him to forgive and cleanse me through Jesus Christ.

And I asked Him to help me stop seeking satisfaction in how others viewed me — so I could be free from the unholy part of my grief.

But what about the rest of my grief?

God is grieving with me

It struck me that since the rest of my grief was holy — it was not wrong.

In fact, God was pleased that I —

  • grieved over His dishonor,
  • grieved that I could not do more to help this person not dishonor God
  • grieved over this person’s pain
  • grieved for other’s pain

Which meant that I could draw near to God in that grief — I could fellowship with Him in that grief — and God would grieve with me in that grief.

Really?  Does God grieve with us in our griefs?

Yes.  When Jesus sees the widow whose only son just died, “he had compassion on her” (Luk 7:13).

Which means — He felt her grief, shared her grief, and grieved with her.

And I saw — that’s what God wanted to do with me in my grief.

So I asked told Him about my grief.  I asked Him to share my grief.  I grieved before Him — and with Him.

And as I felt that — it deeply affected me —

  • I felt the holy parts of my grief even more deeply
  • I felt a powerful closeness to God
  • I felt comforted by His nearness

But there was more.

It struck me that God is not just grieving with me —

God is rejoicing over me

I get that from Jer 32:41 –“I will rejoice in doing them good.”

So in this situation God was not only grieving with me — He was also rejoicing over me.

Why?  Because in this situation He was bringing me great good.

I don’t know all of what that good is.

But in His Word He tells us the most important part — He’s bringing me more of His heart-satisfying glory (2Cor 4:17).

So as I grieved, I also preached to myself the truth that God was bringing me great good through this sadness — the good of more of His presence.

And it struck me how important that truth was — because I could feel it putting a floor under my grief so it did not slip into despair.

Sanctifying your sorrows

So when you have sorrows, don’t —
  • Ignore them
  • Think they will go away in time
  • Dull them with alcohol or sexual pleasure or food
  • Despair over them

Instead —

  • Repent of the unholy parts of your sorrow
  • Fellowship with God in the holy parts of your sorrow
  • Trust that He is bringing you great good through this time of sorrow

And by God’s grace you will —

  • Be freed from the sinful parts of your sorrow
  • Experience God’s nearness in your sorrow
  • Be encouraged at what God promises to bring you through this sorrow.

Try this — and let me know what happens

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Category: Feeling Grief or Sorrow?

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8 Responses

  1. Katherine F. says:

    Thank you. Wow, so powerful. Sharing.

  2. Paul Walton says:

    Hey Steve,

    Timely post, I have been thinking lately about the emotion of sorrow and how it moves us to compassion, but after time we tend to forget, and move on with our lives. How many people watched the movie “The Passion of the Christ” and were moved to tears, but after some time, they went on with their lives not considering the meaning of Christ’s suffering.

    In fact, Christ told those who witness His crucifixion not to weep for Him, He doesn’t want our tears, He wants something more.

    “But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”-Luke 23: 28-31

    Jesus tells the people they’re in much worse shape than He is! Don’t cry for me, cry for yourselves! Cry because you are capable of this. Cry for yourselves because ultimately, if Christ does not get in the way of God’s wrath for you, then God’s wrath is coming for you. That is true sorrow, eternal darkness and suffering.

    Our rejection of Christ is worthy of our sorrow, no question about this, but don’t let it stop there. Don’t just feel bad for Jesus, understand your own place in God’s wrath. Turn from this world, cry out for your sins and repent, and then trust Christ to be your Lord, and your heart’s treasure.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Well said, Paul. Sorrow for our dishonor of Christ is surely appropriate. And that sorrow should stir us to bow before Him — and honor Him — as Savior, Lord and Treasure. Let’s live this with all our might, brother.

  3. Brian says:

    Steve,

    These are some great comments by yourself, Katherine and Paul.

    Having grief and or sorrow is not bad, although they can be painful for a time. We are told to bring comfort by sharing the grief of others. Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Further, Paul contrasts the effects of Godly sorrow with worldly sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7.

    Neither are grief and sorrow contradictory to joy when we’re told in James 1:2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”

    I am not certain that we’re always going to see what God wants to do with our grief, or at least to understand it.

    I feel that Paul Walton (above) summarized it best by saying “trust Christ to be your Lord, and your heart’s treasure.”

    Brian

    • Paul Walton says:

      Brian,

      Thanks for the kind words, but the truth is I have a very wise teacher in Steve Fuller.

      Paul

      • Brian says:

        Paul,

        Do not sell yourself short, the Spirit has given you some wisdom to share.

        Steve truly is a gifted teacher and shepherd and our Lord uses you, Paul, possibly even me, to sharpen and strengthen Steve just as He uses Steve in our lives.
        We are in this race together (1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.) yet like the three legged race, we support each other along the way, sometimes lifting, other times being lifted.

        Brian

  4. Paul Walton says:

    Steve,
    Just some final thoughts about human sorrow and godly sorrow and how they are very different at their source. Jesus source of sorrow was always when He was confronted with sin and unbelief.

    Jesus Himself weeps at Lazarus’ death, He weeps over Jerusalem because they refused to be gathered, and He weeps in the Garden before His final ordeal. He is a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief.

    “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”-John 11:33

    Jesus was moved to sorrow, not because John had died, but rather because after all the time He had spent with these whom He had taught and loved they didn’t truly understand that He was the Resurrection and the Life.

    He weeped over Jerusalem because of the hardness of the hearts of the people, and their refusal to repent. Godly sorrow is always in behalf of others, Christ never publicly showed sorrow for Himself for the suffering He would endure at the cross.

    Jesus never showed any public grief for John the Baptist death, because He knew John had been born again, there was no sin in John’s life to mourn. The unbelief that John showed at the end, Jesus simply reminded him as to what he already knew, the blind see, the lame walk, and the poor have the good news preached to them.

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