“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56 v 8.
Imagine what such a book would look like: it would be a huge heavy tome for there is a lot to cry for in this world we live in. It would be meticulously detailed for God sees the tears that no one else does. It would be well worn for such is the compassion of God that he would leaf through it regularly. And if you’re a Christian and part of God’s family it would have a page in it with your name written at the top, written in the same handwriting that wrote the Ten Commandments, for the author of this book of tears is God.
Underneath would follow a note of the first time you cried and then every single instance from then until now. Not a single tear would be unrecorded, in fact, if you think about it, this book would contain records you no longer remember but what passes from your memory does not pass from God’s. How little do you grasp this: that when you’re upset God cares, he cares so much that he writes it all down so he will not forget the troubles you face and the sorrow you feel in your heart. The least of all your tears are in his book; how much more the tears you shed over greater things.
“I slept but my heart was awake.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 2
In Songs of Solomon we have a glorious story of Christ wooing his bride, the church and as ‘the Love of Christ’ by Richard Sibbes will show you it deals with all aspects of the Christian life in its up and downs. In Chapter 5v2 we have a picture of a Complacent Christian: a Christian who sleeps, a Christian who is lethargic, a Christian who has grown lazy and apathetic in the fight of faith. I have been this Christian before and no doubt, knowing my weakness, I will be this Christian again. It is not a good place to be; in fact, and I don’t say this lightly, the most frustrating and, in hindsight, joyless times of my life where when I was in this sleepy state.
It is a deadly state to be in because you never realize at the time what a deadly state you are in. As the second part of the verse says: your heart is awake, you are still a Christian, you still love God, you still pray, still do Christian stuff, still acknowledge Christ as your Saviour, and you’ve probably fooled a lot of others and yourself that you’re doing fine. But you’re not; you can’t be for you have fallen into a spiritual sleep. The source of this sleep is always in sin, some worldly vanity that has distracted you and dulled your senses to the things of God. You begin to coast in your Christianity, neither giving it up nor putting much effort in. Your earnest desire is not to seek God out but be comfortable in life. Prayer and Bible reading become less important, spending time with God less necessary, church can become more social than spiritual, and you don’t realize it.
I don’t like suffering, I’m fairly sure this isn’t an uncommon view, indeed, pleasant suffering is an oxymoron. In fact, suffering sucks, whatever it might be whether physical, mental, emotional – there is nothing nice about being in pain, grief, sorrow or anguish. And there are those of you out there who are going through hard times and I’m not here to tell you that you should go around with a huge big happy smile on your face, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cry (for as the shortest verse in the Bible says: Jesus wept) and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t come before God and pour out your grief, pain, loss and trouble to him for such complaints he cannot helped but be moved by for the compassion and love of God is steadfast. This world we live in carries on it the curse of sin and this is made known with every ache of pain, every grief, every sorrow, every heavy beat of the heart, all point to the fallen nature of this earth and the men and women on it. And let’s face facts: it might not be alright, in this life at least there’s no guarantee that everything will turn out fine. It is through ‘great tribulation’ that we’ll make it to heaven as Jesus said. And it might seem cruel of me to talk about the joy of suffering when you you know is pain.
How then can there be joy in suffering? How can we both accept suffering for the pain it is and yet have joy? The first thing to stress is that this is not natural; this is not a human thing for the only joy a man could naturally find in suffering would be a false comfort. Outside of Christianity, outside of Jesus Christ, there is little comfort for those suffering other than the ‘sweet oblivion’ of death which is a terrible lie.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1 v 2-4
_ “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 3 v 23
To be human is to be less than perfect but it also so much more than that, it is to be fundamentally and permanently broken, it is to be wretched, pitiful and blind, it is to by default love self more than others and to want to be god rather than with God. When the Fall happened our relationship with God was shattered as we reached to be gods and since then we are fundamentally sinful, our very nature is sinful:
“the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Ephesians 2 v 3
_ “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favourable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Psalm 77 v 7 – 9
Psalm 77 is one of Asaph’s and as in all of his Psalms he’s brutally honest about his emotions and feelings. And if you’re reading this as a Christian then you’ve probably asked the same questions as Asaph. When trouble, sorrow, hardship, pain and suffering come your way and dark times come for your soul and the presence of God that seemed so close before is hidden from sight and all you thought certain is now unstable then you will ask along with Asaph: “Will God spurn me forever and never again be favourable? Has the steadfast love of God forever ceased? Have his promises come to an end? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in his anger shut up his compassion?”
Have you ever wondered if there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?
Yes, except those times I look in the mirror and think maybe not. Ahem. Levity aside the question begs an even more interesting question: what would life be like if it were only all about being really, really, ridiculously good looking? If all the world’s a cat walk and all the men and women are merely models? Imagine, if you will, what would life be like if the fashion industry was transposed over all reality. Horrifying thought isn’t it? No room for any other quality except personal attractiveness. The whole of humanity striving to be beautiful with no other aim, goal or desire.
Or let’s pick another scenario where life is all about money. Everyone is like those damn bankers. The only motivation in life is to be rich or die trying. Greed is the only quality worth cultivating. The poor are seen as ‘unholy’ whilst the rich are above and beyond anyone.
Now let’s put our minds to wondering what would happen if all of life was about being happy. Can you imagine how futile that would be? Searching high and low for happiness will only make you unhappy because perfect happiness is an empty promise and unachievable ideal.
What about one closer to home? What if life was all about you? If the only purpose to existence was you and you only? All that mattered was your opinions, your ideas, your ego, your feelings, your wants, your dislikes. If the earth revolved around you then selfishness, pride and self love would soon become the only attributes worth having. There would no room for love for love is inherently selfless. Well, that’s not quite true you would love yourself. I imagine life would be rubbish. I just need to think of the number of times I’ve let myself down to know that dedicated my life to me and me only would be an exercise in futility.