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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Rejoicing: oddly not the biblical antidote for sorrow

“Jesus wept.”

He was “a man of sorrows acquainted with deepest grief.”

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified…”

In the garden He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

Have you ever wondered why the Bible never records that Jesus laughed? I have been wondering that today. We know He went to a lot of parties, but the Bible never says He laughed. Though He was filled with the Holy Spirit whose fruit is joy and never once “quenched” the flow of the Spirit through Him, He was still recorded as “a man of sorrows acquainted with the deepest grief”. Why?

We can rest assured that He never participated in any ungodly revelry at the parties. One of the ways we know this is when adulterous women would get mocked at these parties, He would stand up for these women.

This is an odd introduction to what I was otherwise going to write about today.

A few weeks ago, I woke up on a day I had devoted to mourning and allowing myself to be comforted. I had been invited by friends to a service which was about mourning, and I was to mourn and be comforted that day. As I went into the time I set aside in the morning for talking to my Savior, I was presented with an assignment. It blindsided me as I hadn’t been pondering the epistle to the Philippians recently. I was to read Philippians and see what Paul told them not to do. Yes, he told them to rejoice, but what was the rejoicing to replace?

Once I was presented with this challenge, I had a fairly good idea that I wouldn’t find that they should not weep or mourn. As I read, I found that even Paul himself admitted to writing a part of Philippians “with tears”. If it would have been weeping that he was instructing them against, he would have been breaking his own instructions as he gave them.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Paul did not tell the Philippians to rejoice as an antidote for mourning. Had he done so, it would have been ineffective. (We will get to that later.) He told them to rejoice as an antidote for complaining. Rejoicing may seem to be the opposite action as mourning, but it is not its antidote. Rejoicing is the antidote for complaining.

So what is the antidote for mourning? From a purely biblical perspective, I am pretty sure it is two things: comfort and good news. I can only think of one place in Scripture where God scolds someone for mourning. This would be when Samuel mourned King Saul before anointing King David. God asked him, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?”

I am sure there may be other instances. This realization has only been with me a short time. I haven’t managed to search the entire Scriptures concerning it. I know He often tells people to weep. I also know there are plenty of instances when God turns mourning into joy with comfort and good news. Simply think of Mary weeping at the tomb. And check out these passages from Isaiah:

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed…”

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I would go on, but I have had an exhausting week. It was really good but really exhausting. I simply can’t think any harder right now.

Perhaps you wonder: Why does she always talk about mourning.

1.) I am a woman of sorrows acquainted with at least a small portion of grief.

2.) I have been really hurt by the mainstream American church that often seems to guilt people for grieving or not getting over grief quickly enough. In the Western world where grief and sorrow are seen as “negative” emotions, we quickly try to rush to get to something that feels better instead of knowing that to be human means we will experience sorrow. The most perfect man on earth was acquainted with deepest grief.

I think the greatest grief for Jesus must have been seeing all the brokenness around Him. Can you imagine being that perfect and righteous and seeing so many people glorying in their sin around you? I can’t. The more I follow Him, the more sin grieves me. What would it be like to not have a sinful nature and see such unrighteousness?

Comfort is a beautiful and effective antidote for sorrow. I have received a lot of comfort from friends recently. Comfort does what rejoicing can’t. Good news does what rejoicing can’t. Comfort and good news can exchange for us the “oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”.

So the next time one of your friends is mourning (not complaining), feel free to “mourn with those who mourn”. Perhaps you will bring comfort to their soul and be an instrument in turning their sorrow into joy.

How do you interact with grief? Do you try to cover it with busyness? Or do you perhaps simply try to not acknowledge its existence by making “positive” confessions? What sorts of things do you think it is “godly” to have sorrow about?


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