Tag Archives: sorrow

A Man Of Empathy

One of the things I remember being taught at an early age is that Jesus was tempted in all areas of His life just like we are. It’s always been a comfort to know that because He can relate to us as we go through our daily lives and are tempted to say or do things that wouldn’t bring God glory. The temptations He faced in the wilderness weren’t the only temptations He faced, though they are the only ones recorded. Just like us, I’m sure He was under a constant barrage of temptations trying to trip Him up so that His ministry could be discredited. When He didn’t fall prey to those temptations, He showed that we don’t have to give into our flesh and that He could empathize with us in those moments of weakness.

It wasn’t just temptations He faced as a person. He understood what it was like to be betrayed by a close friend. He felt the sorrow of a close friend passing away. He felt the sting of being rejected by people who should have respected Him. In His greatest time of need, His closest friends didn’t stand up for Him and one publicly denied even knowing Him. It was more than temptations He faced in order to be able to empathize with us. He felt pain and sorrow like we do. He understands what it feels like to be hurt by those you love and to feel great sorrow. In fact, He even knows what it feels like to feel abandoned by God. He went through all those emotions so that He could empathize with us in our pain.

Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (NLT) It wasn’t just His pain He felt. On the cross, He took on our pain, our sorrow and our grief. Take the deepest hurt and pain you’ve felt in your life and multiply that by billions. He carried that pain. He did that for us. For you. He understands the pain you feel because He felt it before you at the cross. He took stripes for your emotional healing as well, and endured the harshest punishment known to man out of love for you. Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who feels the way you do. He carried your pain and sorrow first and endured so that you can too.

Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash

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Fruitful In Affliction 

  
When going through difficult seasons in life, it often feels like they will never end. The hits seem to keep coming. After a while, it’s easy to quit looking for the lesson and to start wondering what we’ve done to deserve it. Our prayers that ask God to restore us seem to fall on deaf ears and we question whether God remembers who we are. As time goes on. It becomes the new normal for life and we wonder if we will ever be restored to that place of joy.

Joseph, the guy with the coat of many colors, went through an extended period of hardship too. His season of sorrow lasted 13 years. He was betrayed by his family, lied about having his good name smeared, wrongfully thrown in prison, and forgotten. This season lasted 13 years of his life. We think God has forgotten us after 13 weeks. This man endured 13 years of sorrow, yet he remained faithful to God throughout it. We know this because God blessed him during that time.

Just like all seasons, there will be a turning point in your life. It will not last forever. When we are faithful to God even when we can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel His presence; He will reward us and restore us. He takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. He takes a period of sorrow and turns it into a lifetime of joy. He takes the hardest times in our lives and shows us the greatest grace we’ll ever see.

When Joseph’s life was restored and things were going well, he had two sons. Their names are very telling of what God will do for us when we’ve been faithful. Genesis 41:51-52 says, “And Joseph called the firstborn Manasseh [making to forget], For God, said he, has made me forget all my toil and hardship and all my father’s house. And the second he called Ephraim [to be fruitful], For [he said] God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (AMP). God will help you to forget how hard the struggle was and make you fruitful in that time.

Jeremiah 18:7-8 echoes this for us. It says, “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (NLT). Even in your time of sorrow or your drought, God will cause you to be fruitful if you trust in Him. Even when everything in you tells you that God doesn’t see you and that He doesn’t care, stay faithful to Him. Your restoration is on the way. 

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The Purpose in Pain

I had the privilege several years ago of watching a skilled potter work. He took a dark lump of clay and threw it on his spinning wheel. He had to make sure it was centered so it didn’t fly off at high revolutions. As it spun, he dipped his hands in water and began to apply pressure to the spinning lump. It immediately began to change. It grew taller and thinner as he worked with it. Every few minutes, he would stop, pull out a knife and dig into it. He could feel rocks in the clay and needed to cut them out or the vessel would crack later in the fire.

He then took a utensil and placed it in the center of the clay as it was spinning. He began to hollow it out. As he did, he would throw the extra clay in another pot. Once it was hollow, he began to really change the shape. You could now imagine a jar or a flower vase. My mind saw it all painted with gold accents. He then took a pointed utensil and began holding it to the side of the creation. He started making designs on it as it spin. It was really a work of art.

It reminded me of Isaiah 64:8. It says, “We are the clay and you are the potter. We are formed by your hand.” As I think back on my life and the things I’ve endured, I remember that potter with his knife and his utensils. I see times where there were rocks in my life that needed to be cut out. Having a knife stuck in you hurts. Especially when it’s the potters knife. The one you trust. At the time I couldn’t see that He was making sure I wouldn’t crack later.

I think of the times in my life when I was hollowed out. My life felt empty inside. I watched as my life was picked apart and thinned out. My wife left. My friends left. My business left. I had nothing. Now I realize that it’s only when I have been hollowed out that I can truly become a vessel that He can fill up. I was full of myself and things that didn’t matter. He had to empty me so He could fill me. At the time I couldn’t see that He was preparing me to be used by Him for His purpose.

At the end of the demonstration, he held up one of the most beautiful pieces of pottery I had ever seen. I started calculating how much money I had so I could buy this piece. I wanted it so badly. I had picked out the perfect place in my house. I was ready to get into a bidding war until he did something I’ll never forget. He crushed it. My heart sank. He had spent almost an hour meticulously creating such a beautiful vessel. Wasted time, effort and hope. He then said, “Everything I’ve done to this vessel means nothing until it goes through fire. Only then will it really be worth something. Until then, it is easily crushed.”

God allows us to walk through fire in our lives. He allows difficult things to happen because if we don’t, we will easily be crushed when it is time for Him to use us. He made us a promise though in Isaiah 43:1-2. God says to you, “I have called you by name; you are mine… I will be with you… When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up.” There is a purpose to the fires in your life. There is meaning in being hollowed out. There is hope when you’re in the fire. God is at work in you and thinks you are a vessel He can use. Don’t jump off the wheel, dodge the utensils He uses or be afraid of the fire. They’re for your benefit.

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Why bad things happen to good people

In my yard I have several crape myrtle trees. Every year I watch around town for when I’m supposed to prune them. It’s usually in the winter just before spring. When it’s time, I take my clippers and start cutting back on them. If there are dead branches, I cut them off at the tree. For all the others, I trim back to a few inches from where they split off. When the spring time comes, they blossom and bloom even more than the year before.

In John 15, Jesus said that God does the same to us. He said that the branches that don’t produce fruit are cut off and thrown away. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit we are to produce in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. When I read that, I began to think about the fruit in my life. Am I producing that fruit? How much of it am I producing? What do I need to do to produce it?

In the same passage in John, Jesus says that everyone who does produce fruit is then pruned so that they will produce more fruit. Ouch. So even if I am producing fruit, I am going to be pruned. Jesus wants us to produce more fruit all the time. He recognizes that the only way to produce more is to provide an opportunity for growth. That’s what pruning does. It trims us back so we can have a greater opportunity for growth.

Most of us don’t like or want to be pruned. When it happens, we ask God why are bad things happening to me when I’m doing everything right. We’ve all heard the question asked “Why do bad things happen to good people”. Well it happens to give you an opportunity to grow. If things aren’t happening in your life that are pruning you, that’s when you should be concerned.

If you aren’t being pruned throughout the seasons of your life, you need to find a way to start producing fruit. You need to take a hard look at your life and see what fruit you are producing. Chances are, it’s not the fruit listed above. If it were, you be getting pruned so that you would produce more. We all produce fruit in our lives. Our actions produce results. Our results show God, others and ourselves what’s important to us. There is a law of sowing and reaping.

If you sow time I to other’s lives, you will reap love. If you sow forgiveness, you will reap joy. If you sow understanding, you will reap peace. On the other hand if you sow selfishness, you will reap loneliness. If you sow bitterness, you will reap hate. What you do matters and will come back as fruit in your life. God wants us to produce good fruit in our lives so that others will be able to see Him through us.

God recognizes and knows that to produce more of the good fruit in your life, He will have to prune you. Yes, even if you ate a good producer, He knows that you can always produce more. Without pruning, we can only produce so much of each fruit. When He does prune us, He creates more opportunity to produce than ever before.

So why do bad things happen to good people? To give them the opportunity to grow and to produce more than ever before. If you are being pruned right now, stop and thank God instead of questioning Him. It means that He thinks you are producing good fruit and He has bigger plans for you. Trust in Him and in His plan for you. Handle the pruning with grace and look forward to the next time of harvest in your life.

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