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Ecclesiastes 7:3 – Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. (NLT)
Never had I witnessed sorrow bring such a transformation.
When times of deep sorrow strike, many choose the road of bitterness toward God. "If God's as good as you claim, why did … ," they ask. And I've wondered the same thing when traveling roads of sorrow. Not James. I was his pastor, but he and his wife rarely attended church, nor had I ever been to their home. Only through the grapevine did I know that they had marital challenges.
Late one evening, I received a call about a wreck involving James' wife and young son. She had swerved to avoid a deer, ran off the road, and crashed. She was banged up and in shock. Her infant son was dead.
Following the funeral and several days of intense grieving, James began attending church regularly — actually, every time the doors opened. Soon, he walked the aisle, rededicated his life to Christ, and requested baptism. He continued to grow spiritually, and within a year of the accident, he was serving as a deacon in the church. Sorrow had refined him.
What wise King Solomon says in today's verse seems ludicrous. Who in their right mind would rather have sorrow than laughter? But his conclusion is accurate: sadness has a refining influence.
Periods of sorrow remind me that I have little — if any — jurisdiction over most of what happens to me. Through hindsight, I see how I could have changed the course of some of my travels, but most of them were outside of my control.
Knowing that God has a determinative and permissive will helps. Some things will happen because He has determined that they will, while others occur because He permits them — even though they aren't in His perfect plan. Understanding this on my part requires faith and admitting that I can't always understand God's ways. They are higher than mine.
If I respond correctly, sorrow will refine my relationship with God by moving me closer to Him. Knowledge that He's in control will replace worry and anxiety. I'll plunge deeply into His Word and run to Him through prayer. Sorrow can also produce a greater level of perseverance and patience. After all, I have a hope that unbelievers don't have.
Let's not allow the sorrow that comes from living in a sinful world depress us. God loves us and is in control of our life events. If we let Him, He will refine us through sorrow.
Prayer: Father, when times of sorrow encroach upon our lives, help us to trust You to use them as refining tools which will enable us to grow spiritually. Amen.