1 John 3:1–5
If tears were indelible ink instead of clear fluid, all of us would be stained for life. The heartbreaking circumstances, the painful encounters with calamities, the brutal verbal blows we receive from the surgeon or an angry mate, the sudden loss of someone we simply adored, riding out the consequences of a stupid decision—ah! Such is the groan and grind of life.
At the time of this writing, there are families less than one hour away from me with no homes to return to tonight. A freakish landslide swept them away like a sand castle at high tide. Not a fire. Not an earthquake. Not even a warning tremor. Just an unheard-of sudden slippage of soil and fifteen million dollars of damage . . . and unerasable memories. I dare you to ponder their plight for two minutes without being ripped apart inside.
A letter arrived today from Portland. Nicely typed. Carefully worded. But behind the print, bone-deep grief:
My life has been turned upside down in the last two years and God has not left me much time to catch my breath! My husband was killed in a military plane crash in Greenland a year ago, and I have two young sons, 7 and 9, who are my responsibility alone now.
My phone rang in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. With a quivering voice the young man who chose not to identify himself began:
I have a gun. It is loaded. I plan to use it on myself tonight. Somebody told me you could help me. I don't see any reason to keep on living and failing. Tell me why I shouldn't kill myself. [He began to sob.] Talk to me, fast . . .
Dear old Joseph Parker, a fervid pulpit orator and fine pastor and author for several decades, said it well three years before he died:
There's a broken heart in every pew. Preach to the sorrowing and you will never lack for a congregation.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was right. He personified Sorrow as a mother "with her family of Sighs." And so she is. Stooped and weary of the monotony, yet ever bearing more children only to sigh and cry and die.
Without God—end of message. Finis. Termination of misery. Curtains. It is here humanism puts its final period. It is here philosophy takes its last bow. The only encore to death, to borrow from Robert Ingersoll's words of horror, is:
"the echo of a wailing cry."
But that need not be the end. Life, with all its pressures and inequities, tears and tragedies, can be lived on a level above its miseries. If it could not, Christianity has little to offer. Jesus is reduced to nothing more than an apologetic beggar at the back door with His hat in His hands and a hard-luck story you can take or leave.
No—don't you believe it! It is upon the platform of pressure that our Lord does His best work . . . those times when tragedy joins hands with calamity . . . when Satan and a host of demons prompt us to doubt God's goodness and deny His justice. At such times Christ unsheathes His sword of truth, silencing the doubts and offering grace to accept, hope to continue.
Hear Him well:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Not a reluctant hunch. Not some fairy-tale dream . . . but an accomplished fact as solid as granite and twice as sure—overcoming victory claimed by faith!
Is it for everyone? No. The majority? No. Read it again. It's only for those who are "born of God" . . . only God's born-ones are the overcomers.
Does it mean, then, that we won't have sorrow? No. It means we'll be able to overcome it . . . live in His victory in spite of it. How? By faith, just as He promised. By staking my hope on the absolute assurance that He is aware of my situation. He is in charge of it . . . and He will give all the grace I need to sail through it, rough seas and all, one stormy day at a time.
Sorrow and her grim family of sighs may drop by for a visit, but they won't stay long when they realize faith got there first . . . and doesn't plan to leave.
Life, with its tears and tragedies, can be lived on a level above its miseries.