(This was written way back in March… I forgot to publish it!)
I’m sorry that Jason is the comedian on this blog, and my entries seem to be… well… not funny. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love to laugh… most days, I love life. I find humor in many things, and love sharing that with others.
Recently, though, what has been moving my heart has been heavier and possibly painful things. These thoughts are the most honest reflection, and what is currently most honoring to the work that God is doing in my heart.
There is a quote in a book that I am currently reading again, from Frederic Amiel: “The more a man loves, the more he suffers. The sum of possible grief for each soul is in proportion to its perfection.”
The first part touches me in particular: “The more a man loves, the more he suffers…” To choose love, I think, is often to choose sorrow. For me to really love the people around me, I must choose to suffer with them and allow myself to feel the pains of our imperfect relationships. To really love you, I have to choose sorrow over hardness. Every time I am hurt in our relationship, I have a choice: I can either accept or reject the sorrow. If I reject it, something else will take its place. Either hardness of heart, anger, contempt, apathy or something else not good for me. Authentic love chooses sorrow…and therefore suffering.
When I am honest, it is amazing how much of life and relationship with others revolves around avoiding sorrow and suffering. I don’t want to acknowledge my sin, so I avoid relationships where it comes out. I don’t want to admit that I need you, so I distance myself when there is conflict.
King Solomon said, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
I believe this is true because our world is fallen. As we see the world around us, and interact authentically with others, the more that genuine sorrow is increased. True, there is much beauty and redemption that God graciously allows us to see, but sorrow is often increased as truth is embraced.
I think this is why denial is such a pleasant reality for some. Even Christians are often tempted to trade the truth of a broken world for a stubborn unwillingness to acknowledge hardship… it’s more pleasant, less painful, and feels more “Christian”.
Consider Yeshua. As we near Passover and Good Friday, it’s especially appropriate to consider His response in the garden of Gethsemane. He says to His closest friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
Have you ever thought about that? He says His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. We say all the time, “I’m starving to death!” and other similar exaggerations, but He is the Father of Truth – I believe He was being literal.
The sorrow He experienced is one that we cannot begin to fathom. He could’ve chosen to deny the truth of the cost, or the reality of the intense pain He was about to suffer, or even the necessity of the sacrifice. But instead, He looked at it head-on, considered the joy that was set before Him on the other side, and chose to endure the cross, scorning its shame. (Hebrews 12:2)
He was willing to acknowledge the intense amount of sorrow He experienced. A sorrow that overwhelmed His soul to the point of death.
John Piper reminds me that I must constantly battle the propensity I have to fall into sinful, hopeless despondency, but the example of Yeshua shows us that sorrow itself is not sin.
In fact, our attempts to avoid truthful, godly sorrow are often what lead us into sinful choices of self-protection or soul-numbing denial.
Bringing these ramblings back around to my original point, each day I experience what seems like a thousand hurts in my relationships. In each of them, I have the choice to accept the sorrow it brings, or to replace the sorrow with some emotion designed to deflect and avoid pain.
The first choice, while painful, leads me into true relationship with God and others. The second leads me further into a protective fortress of my own design, where genuine love is sacrificed for self-preservation.