Don't Waste Your Sorrows

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

None of us are immune to sorrow. A few years ago, I read a book by Paul Billheimer, entitled “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows.” It pointed out that if we don’t learn something from the sufferings and sorrows of life, we waste the experiences and become bitter instead of better.

The sorrows of this life come from physical pain, emotional pain, mental pain, and relational pain. Since we cannot avoid sorrow, let’s look at what the Bible says we should do when suffering and sorrows occur. Shockingly, one thing it encourages us to do is rejoice!

Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rejoice in our sufferings? You’ve got to be kidding! No, he doesn’t mean be happy. The Greek word Paul used means to “welcome with gladness”. In other words, welcome your sorrows with gladness, as you would a friend who comes to your home bringing good gifts.

God does not cause our suffering. However, there are reasons why God allows suffering, reasons which should cause His children to rejoice, knowing God will use it for good.

1. God wants every one of us to depend totally and completely on Him. Sometimes when things are going great, with no problems, no suffering, we don’t even think about God. We just think about how good we’ve got it! On the other hand, whenever we are going through a tough, sorrowful experience, that’s when we realize we have to depend upon God and we draw close to Him.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Watchman Nee was a saintly Christian in China, who wrote extensively. He suffered greatly for his faith in Jesus Christ. Watchman Nee wrote, “God’s great purpose is to reduce us. This is because any confidence in one’s own flesh is fatal to confidence and faith in God. God must bring a person to the end of himself before He can release His mighty power.”

2. Another reason God allows suffering is to show us the value of His grace.

Sometimes, we think grace was just something we received when we got saved. We forget that God’s grace is also for right now.

For example, Paul had this thing he called “a thorn in the flesh.” It was a messenger of Satan that God allowed to harass Paul so he would remain humble and dependent on God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Like the apostle Paul, when we have trials, pain, and sorrow, we pray, “Lord, take it away! Lord, please deliver me now! Heavenly Father, remove this suffering from my life!”

Then we wonder why He doesn’t take it away, and we wonder if He loves us. The reason He allows it is He wants us to realize the value of His grace and His power. That way, we don’t depend upon ourselves. We depend on His grace to make us strong when we are weak. When we are weak and empowered by His grace is when we glorify God.

3. A third reason God allows sorrows is because sorrows connect us with the pain and the suffering of Jesus. If we are to become like Jesus (a child of God), if we are to become one with Him (as in a marriage), we need to know and experience some of what He experienced. Now, Jesus suffered a lot. He suffered rejection, loneliness, betrayal, and physical pain. To be like us, Jesus suffered what we suffer.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

Again, Paul who learned much from suffering, writes Phil. 3:10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”.

“I want to know Him.” I like that. “And the power of His resurrection.” I like that. “And may share his sufferings.” I don’t like that. “Becoming like him in his death.” I don’t like that.

Unfortunately, we think the Christian life is like ordering a hamburger at Burger King. “I want a hamburger, but hold the onions and the lettuce.” Likewise, some people say, “I want the Christian life, I want forgiveness of sins, a home in Heaven, my name written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but wait!; hold the suffering, hold the being conformed to His death. I’ll pass on those.” No, friends, it doesn’t work that way. When you accept Jesus, you get the full meal deal or you get nothing at all.

Any kind of sorrow we go through is a connection point with the pain and suffering of Jesus. Don’t waste it. Our sorrows are meant for our good, to help us know Jesus Christ and become like Him.

4. Fourthly, God allows sorrows and suffering to correct us. He is a loving Father and therefore, He is treating us as His children.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, some sorrows in life are the consequences of disobeying God's Word. God has established inviolate principles, and if we ignore them or reject them, we do so at our own peril.

Deut. 11:26-28 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

Some sorrows are the result of deceiving ourselves and other people.

Galatians 6:7-9 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Don’t waste your corrective sorrows. Accept God’s discipline as His love and concern for you. Repent and receive His blessings instead of the pain, suffering, and sorrow of sin.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

We have no choice about the reality of suffering. Sorrows are going to come. The only choice we have in the matter is how we are going to react to them. We have three options. Two are worldly reactions that produce death. One is a godly reaction that produces life.

First, some people revolt in anger, which a worldly reaction. They are angry at God, saying, “God, why, did you let this happen to me?” They take the attitude of Job’s wife.

Job 2:9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

There are people in this community, who at one time, were in church worshiping the Lord. If you were to ask some of them, “Hey, why aren’t you in church anymore,” they would refer back to some sorrow in their past, when their marriage failed, or when their business failed, or when their health failed, or when somebody mistreated them, or some family member died. They would say, “How could God allow that to happen?” They are still angry at God and refuse to worship Him.

Secondly, some people resign in apathy, which is also a worldly reaction. Their sorrows cause them to give up trying to resist temptation and living a life blessed by God.

Luke 22:45-46 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

For example, some men were playing golf one day and invited a beginner to play with their group. To tee off, the novice addressed the ball, swung the club, and missed the ball completely. He tried it again. He swung the club and missed the ball completely. The other men encouraged him to keep his eye on the ball. So he swung the third time, and again, he missed the ball completely. Then he bent down, picked up his ball, and said, “This course is too hard for me.”

That’s what some people do. They take their eyes off of Jesus and they give up saying, “Hey, this Christian life is just too hard for me.”

Hebrews 12:3-4 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

The third option is to rejoice! But so many times we say, “Well, I don’t feel like rejoicing.” However, this is the truth about rejoicing. It’s not about how you feel. You welcome what God is going to do in your life. You determine how you’re going to obey and trust God. You make a choice to focus on Jesus, to be thankful for His blessings, to trust Him, and to rejoice in the Lord’s steadfast love.

Initially, rejoicing is a hard option, but it is the best option and the one God wants us to choose. Even while we are grieving for a loved one who has died, there is the choice to stay focused on our loss or to begin focusing on the blessings we had. Yes, there will be times of weeping, but we can rejoice that we had someone to love and for the many joys we experienced, because to have loved and lost someone is better than having never experienced love at all. We can also rejoice in the companionship of the Holy Spirit while we are grieving, and experience His comfort and love. Later, you can comfort others in their similar sorrow with the same comfort you received from God.

To rejoice and be thankful in all circumstances, we must focus on Jesus instead of the present pain. God is trying to do something in us, and through us. Don’t waste your sorrow. Welcome it with gladness and let it produce in you what God intends.

Again, we find what God intends to produce through suffering in Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Notice the things suffering produces. Number one, it produces endurance. Any time you go through a bad experience and you hang in there, it produces in you a commitment to endure adversity. That is a very valuable characteristic. We are going to need endurance during these last days.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:12-13 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In a marriage, romantic feelings rise and fall. But, it is that commitment to stay together that is the most valuable aspect in a marriage. You keep loving your spouse even when you don’t feel like loving them. The same is true with your faithfulness to God in those times when you are going through suffering. Even in the darkest hours, you stay committed to the Lord, and you don’t quit. That’s endurance.

The second thing suffering can produce is a character like Jesus. God is more interested in our character than our comfort.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

When we go through trials and sorrows, we must realize God is trying to build His character in us, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which can be summed up as agape love—God’s love in us.

John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

I am looking in the faces of a lot of people today who have some pruning scars. God allowed that to happen because He wants you to be fruitful, to be filled with His love. John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  

The third thing suffering produces is hope.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

The God of all grace will restore you and strengthen you. Because God has brought you through the past, you have hope and confidence He is going to carry you through whatever sorrows you experience in your future. The sorrow will pass and afterwards you will be stronger and better.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

To simplify this lesson, think of sorrow as a boiling pan of water of adversity that we all must enter. It could be a death of a loved one, a breakup, a financial hardship, or some other trial.

Are you like a carrot that seems strong, but once you are in the boiling pan of pain and suffering, you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Or are you like an egg that starts with a malleable heart, but it changes with the heat? Your shell looks the same on the outside, but on the inside you have a hardened heart.

Or are you like a coffee bean? The coffee bean is crushed before it is placed in the hot water; that is two adversities that bring pain. If you are like the coffee bean, when multiple sorrows come, by the grace of God, you change the boiling water (the adversities) by releasing the fragrance and flavor of Jesus Christ. You produce something good that brings praise, glory, and honor to Him. That should make us rejoice! Let’s all welcome sorrow with gladness and make coffee that glorifies Jesus Christ!

However, it’s impossible to be like the coffee bean unless we are in Jesus Christ and He is in us.

John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Are you experiencing a sorrow this morning? Have you had a difficult time reconciling your sorrows with the idea of a loving God? Don’t waste your sorrows. Without Jesus, you will be like the carrot or egg when adversity comes. Worldly sorrow will overwhelm you and make you bitter instead of better.

Therefore, become like a coffee bean. Ask Jesus to abide in you by believing in Him as Lord and Savior. Confess your faith publicly, repent of your sin, and then die to yourself in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will empower you to rejoice in your sorrows and produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Jesus Christ.