What Sorrow Finds
When I hear Fernando Ortega sing, “The
sky is raining tears tonight my brother … The moon has covered up her eyes
my sister …” I can’t help thinking of September 11th. It was a day
of terror and tragedy. It would have been entirely appropriate for
the sky to rain down tears and for the moon to hide its face.
In July of 2002, as I was thumbing through
a publication for Christian bookstores, I came across an article that said
only about 25% of the U.S. population still wanted to think about September
11th. Sales of books on the subject had supposedly reached their
peak. The majority of people were ready to get on with their lives.
Though this is commendable, I wonder if we lost something by trying to
get back to “normal” so quickly.
Events like September 11th put us in touch
with a fundamental reality of our existence. Though we would never wish
for them to happen, they highlight in a horrific way that life is tragic.
Scottish minister Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) explains, “The basis of human
life is tragedy. It is difficult to realize this until one gets through
the experiences that are on the surface of life, and we discover we are
built with a bigger capacity for pain than for joy, that the undertone
of all our life is sorrow, and the great expression and revelation of God
in the world is the revelation of the cross, not of joy.” If life
then is tragic, why is it so?
In a word, it’s because of sin!
If we believe the account in the book of Genesis, we must acknowledge that
prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience; there was no death or any of the
other maladies we associate with this life. Before sin entered the
world, they enjoyed uninterrupted communion with God in a paradise on earth.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul
makes it clear that death is a consequence of sin. “Sin came into
the world through one man, and death as the result of sin” (Romans 5:12a
Amplified). When Adam sinned, life became tragic! From one
act of disobedience flowed all of the terrible and painful events this
world has ever known.
It’s not as though God just left us alone
once this happened. God made our tragedy His own through the cross
of Christ. Through this tragic event God made it clear for all time
that He is with us. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy of
Isaiah: “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with
us’” (Matthew 1:23 NASB). We are not abandoned.
At the cross Jesus took upon Himself the
sins of the whole world. He paid the price for us and in so doing
took the sting out of death and all that is a part of it. Through
Him we can now experience a reality that transcends tragedy—a relationship
with God that will last forever. He gives us new life—a life that
continues beyond the grave. Its home is in heaven where it will never
again know any of the sorrows of this life.
Too much of the time we are caught in
a whirlwind of activity that barely gives us time to think about these
things. Though it may have been short-lived, September 11th may have
caused much of the civilized world to stop and reflect on what really matters.
Again as Fernando Ortega sings, “It takes
the rain between the lines to know what sorrow finds.” It’s
through tragedy that we discover that sorrow is a better teacher than levity.
The “Preacher” tells us that “sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness
has a refining influence on us” (Ecclesiastes 7:3 NLT). C. H. Spurgeon,
one of the greatest preachers of all time, had a similar testimony: “I
am afraid that all the grace I have got out of my comfortable and easy
times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny. But the good that
I have received from my sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable.
What do I not owe to the hammer and the anvil, the fire and the file?
Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house.”
“Sometimes it takes a storm to really
know the light.” The Scriptures teach that a sorrow that causes us
to embrace what Christ has done for us leads to life. “For God can
use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation.
We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance
is the kind that results in death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT).
“I was just passing through and taken
by surprise / between the black sky and the blue / I love you.” Tragedy
often takes us by surprise. It often is the beginning of a painful
journey. It’s a precious thing when you can look up and say, I love
you and mean it when your sky is dark or a dreary gray. “Between
the black sky and the blue,” we learn what sorrow has to teach us.
The title of this article and the words
in italics are taken from Storm by Fernando Ortega. You can contact me
with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.