When Sorrow Strikes
By Fred D. Jarvis
It was one of the blackest and most tragic days of my life. I was in Guatemala, one of our mission fields, when I received an urgent message to call my wife at our mission compound on the Texas-Mexican Border. I could not help but wonder what could be the problem that merited this emergency call.
Never will I forget the shocking words my wife sobbed out to me over the phone: "Honey, Paul has been killed in a motorcycle accident." God gave me grace not to weep. I did not want to add more to the flow of my dear wife’s tears at the sudden death of our son.
Our 26-year-old Paul was engaged to be married. I had expected to marry him. Instead, I had to go to bury him. About the same time, my brother Henry Jarvis, who has served with us as a missionary for many years, was rushed to a hospital stricken with cancer. A few days later our problems were multiplied when my wife’s wallet was stolen with considerable cash and irreplaceable pictures of our deceased son.
I have been a preacher and missionary for over 50 years and had often tried to comfort others in their sorrow. I shared with them the precious truths of God’s Word and tried to explain that everybody had to face sorrow, suffering and bereavement. Tragedy, hurt and pain are a part of our human experience. Before, however, I had only known bereavement from the experience of others. Now I had joined the comrades of the valley and learned firsthand the sharp pain of death and the hurt of shattered dreams. How sweet to know that problems are a part of God’s plan and purpose.
In sorrow we hear the Master,
He soothes the shattered soul,
And when we turn to Jesus,
The pieces are made whole.
When sorrow strikes a person,
He has a place to go,
In the arms of Jesus,
The One who loves us so.
We may not know when sorrow strikes,
Or when the rains may cease,
But in the midst of all the storm,
The Savior gives us peace.
Thank God that even when the valley is full of foes we can raise our sights to the hills from whence cometh our help. Truly our disappointments are His appointments. Trials are not meant to cripple us, but to complete us. They drive us to our knees, and bended knees keep us in good standing with God. It is in the fiery furnace that we learn the lessons of faith.
How true that unless Christ helps, we cannot cope with life’s difficult situations. Trials can make us bitter or better. We must get rid of all bitterness at all costs before we can enjoy the full blessing of God.
We Learn Best by Trials and Tears
Sometimes the more testings, the more blessings. We are richer forever by tests, trials, tears and temptations. Tests make us more fruitful and useful. Afflictions are not what God is doing to us, but for us. He does not save us from trouble, but in trouble. Adversity is the prosperity of the great. We learn best by trials and tears. Afflictions clarify and purify the soul. The greatest adversity is to have no adversity.
The best lessons of life are learned under the hot iron, in the lion’s den, or in the fiery furnace. Greatness comes from facing giants and conquering them. We grow strong through stress and struggle. Christian maturity can be measured not by the quantity of our problems, but by what we do with them. Problems are less important than our response to them. Let us learn to concentrate less on our problems and more upon our Savior who can solve them.
God is a Master Craftsman and His touch can mold our lives into a thing of loveliness and beauty. He knows how to bring out the best that is in us. It is never enjoyable to be in the furnace of affliction, but it is often God’s best way to burn out the dross and to bring out the purest gold.
Life is made up of sunshine and rain; pleasure and pain; darkness and light. Joy follows sorrow. Peace follows a storm. The stars shine brightest in the darkest night. Rainbows follow rain.
Rubs, snubs and drubs are part of life, but it is the hardships that make the man. No mill, no meal; no sweat, no sweet; no pain, no palm; no cross, no crown; no clouds, no rainbows; no hurt, no help; no gall, no glory. Afflictions are shadows of God’s wings. They deepen and develop us, as nothing else can.
The school of affliction always produces the best scholars. Knowing the fellowship of His suffering is one of the greatest blessings in life. Christ proves His power in our problems more than in any other way. God’s power is greater than our predicaments and pressures.
God Can Turn Our Griefs into Gain
Nothing can so soothe, console and comfort like the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. Those hands that bled can bless, guide, protect and provide. God can always make good come out of sorrow and turn our griefs to gain. We need the visible power of our invisible Christ. It is in our sorrows and conflicts that Christ reveals Himself to us most.
There are times of shadows and darkness, but joy comes in the morning (Psa. 30:5). We don’t have to be restless and worried. We can learn to reap and rest at the same time. Christ is experienced in handling problems. He knows how to control men and alter situations. Let us learn to leave our worries in the hands of our living Lord, who can heal our hurts. The Holy Spirit has a way of speaking to our needs and conditions. His capacity to comfort us is wonderful indeed.
The One who endured the Cross, despised the shame, and died of a broken heart knows so well how to heal the brokenhearted and how to set the captives free. Even our suffering Savior learned obedience "by the things He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). No wonder He can renew courage, stimulate faith, deepen understanding and master every situation in life.
The Bible gives us glorious guidelines for radiant living. Its promises provide security in the shakiest situations. Our civilization is seriously sick, but the Bible is a source of spiritual therapy that can meet all of our needs today and tomorrow. The heart of man is the real wrong today, but the Bible teaches us how to change the face of society by changing the heart of man. The Christ of the Bible is the only hope of this confused, warring, wayward world. His Gospel is the only remedy for the wrongs of man for now and eternity.
Christ will see us through the deepest valley. The Author of our being makes no mistakes by allowing problems and sorrows to come into our lives. The sifted and tried saint is the strongest saint. Tears are the telescopes by which we see the stars. There is no Gethsemane without its angel. God gives us extraordinary grace for extraordinary situations. He turns afflictions into advances, problems into promotions and trials into triumphs.
Clouds may come into our lives, but for every cloud that God permits to darken our sky, He sends a special rainbow. Thank God for these beautiful rainbows that overshadow the darkest clouds. For even the cloud of death, there is the rainbow of immortality. For every cloud there is a silver lining and a rainbow of God’s grace and love, as well.
Christ gives a song in the heart that makes the difficult easier. He lightens our burden and helps us smile even in the darkest night. God sometimes makes the world too hot for us to hold so we will let go and let Him undertake.
The Chinese proverb expresses it well: "The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials." The soil most wet with tears best moistens the plant of truth and blessing.
When Problems Press, the Lord Is There
Trials, troubles and temptations teach, train and toughen us. Pressures and problems prepare us for better things. Groans make us grow. Problems make us pray. Christ will not let cares press us beyond that which we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
Problems can be pages in the textbook of life. They often produce the best graduates from the school of suffering. Even failure is sometimes the vestibule to success. Classics are often the easiest to read because they are the hardest to write. God sometimes lets us fail in order to make us succeed. The value of final success is worth the humiliations of frequent failure. The soul’s calm sunshine is often the result of a rainbow wrapped around the neck of a passing storm. When depression hangs our heart on the willow trees it is then that we remember the One whose mercies fail not; they are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness (Lam. 3:21-23).
Thank God for the wonderful compensations of suffering. Christ will richly reward and fully repay all the torments of the trials we have endured and the tears of sorrow we have shed.
Sorrow is often the mirror wherein we truly see ourselves. Some of the greatest men have been men who have endured the greatest suffering. God had to put Paul in prison to get him to write some letters. Joseph endured great hardship and humiliation before he was graduated from prison to become prime minister. It was seeming tragedy that gave Job his greatness. Daniel had to face the ordeal of being thrown into a den of lions as part of his preparation to become second ruler of the kingdom.
There is no simple answer to the mystery of suffering. Many problems are the fruit of our own failure and the consequence of our own sin. Sorrow is not necessarily punishment for our sins, as much as a consequence.
In these days of pessimism, cynicism and disillusionment let us see life and the world as God sees them. The world of suffering and sorrow is indeed a world of mystery. We cannot readily explain why a child in his prime is taken, a loved one is stricken with a dread disease, or why families are separated by death or divorce. The problem of pain is universal. However, God does not leave man to his own fate. We have resources other than our own. How comforting are the words to Abraham, "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1).
The attitude of Job is needed today: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15). No wonder he could say, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). He could testify, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore, despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17). In bereavement and tremendous loss he said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The Bible states concerning Job’s attitude, "In all of this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:21-22). No wonder the Book of Job ends with these words, "The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10).
One of the greatest examples in the Bible on how to deal with dangers and difficulties is the story of King Jehoshaphat. When attacked by the Ammonites and others, the Bible says, "Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." He prayed, "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee" (2 Chr. 20:3, 12). He declared, "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you" (2 Chr. 20:17).
Habakkuk 3:17-19 is a beautiful affirmation of victorious faith in the midst of multiplied misery: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength."
The Prophet Zephaniah gives us this beautiful nugget: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17). What encouragement these words should bring to our hearts!
I wakened at 4 o’clock this morning to finish this article. As I studied the Word of God the consciousness of the power and importance of His promises overwhelmed me. My spine literally tingles with excitement and joy. As I share a few more of these precious promises I trust that you will let them bless your heart also. There is no more joyous or strengthening experience than saturating one’s soul with the Word of God.
The Lord delivers us out of temptation – "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations" (2 Pet. 2:9).
He is always beside us – "Behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest" (Gen. 28:15). "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20).
He will never leave us nor forsake us – "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5).
He goes before us and behind us – "I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron" (Isa. 45:2).
Space does not allow us to enumerate more. Still more promises assure us that He shelters us under His wings; upholds us with His power; guides us with His right hand; strengthens us by His Spirit in the inner man; helps us in time of trouble; comforts us in our afflictions; heals our broken hearts; and gives us courage and hope. He gives us grace, mercy, compassion, pity; supplies our needs; answers our prayers; He is our refuge; He gives us songs in the night; He gives His beloved sleep; He delivers us from fear and from our enemies; He is our Shepherd; goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives; and much, much more!
One of the divine purposes of affliction is that we might be better equipped to comfort others. "The God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
The Lord sometimes leads us through the valley of the shadow to bring us to the place of total surrender and self-relinquishment. All of us will face trials and disappointments at one time or another. Thank God that in them all we can let the luminous rays of Christ’s love penetrate the gloom of our lives. Praise God that He has promised, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). Let us exclaim with the Apostle Paul, "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).
– Reprinted from an earlier Herald.