It is good for me that I was afflicted; that I may learn Your statues. The law of Your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:71-72)
The Goodness of Sorrow
This is neither exhaustive nor conclusive. It is a result of setting down in print, after experiencing the sorrow of the death of a loved one, the biblical expressions of both the hope and pain of sorrow.
When I say the “goodness of sorrow” I am not saying that sorrow bears eternity upon it. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away (Revelation 21:4). I am saying that the Lord has designed that sorrow be turned into His goodness. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Therefore we remember that it is a characteristic of the Lord God to absorb grief and respond in good.
Means & Affection of Sorrow
The first time this Greek word is used it is in connection with childbirth (LXX, Genesis 3:16). Circumstances can cause sorrow (John 16:20). Speech can cause pain (John 16:6). God’s will can cause momentary sorrow (John 16:20-23). Spiritual concern over others can cause sorrow (Romans 9:2; 2 Corinthians 2:3). Godly sorrow can be salvific (2 Corinthians 7:10). God’s chastening unto holiness causes pain (Hebrews 12:11). Of course, death can bring sorrow (Philippians 2:27).
Sorrow affects us physically (Luke 22:45) and can break our heart (Psalm 69:20; Proverbs 15:13). Yet, as believers we must view sorrow properly (Romans 5:3ff). We need to be sensitive to those in pain (Proverbs 25:20).
Lessons of Sorrow
Sorrow can teach and set our affection on the treasure of Christ (Psalm 119:71-72). It is one thing to hold the information of the Scripture. It is another to image the aroma of the knowledge of Christ. Pain can open up avenues and understandings of the scripture that we could have never understood otherwise. Sorrow also can elevate the infinite value of Christ Jesus and His Word in order to free us from the idolatry of covetousness (Hebrews 13:5-6). It opens our eyes to the faithfulness of His promise.
Sorrow can remove the pride and haughtiness of our heart (Hebrews 12:10-11). Godly instruction, though painful if necessary, yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We, by original birth, think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We look down on others. We look up on ourselves. We despise others and their opinions. We think that we know all things. We trust our own understanding. The Lord seeks to bring us to a humble obedience (Philippians 2:8).
Sorrow can mature and qualify us for present and future service (Hebrews 5:8-10). Usefulness comes through purification. Jesus learned obedience in the sorrow of suffering. He then became the vessel of eternal salvation. He was also qualified as our high Priest. Sorrow prepares us for new creative purposes in the new heaven and new earth.
Sorrow can heal and cause us to understand the real issues of life (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5). The end of our life is not meat and drink, nor pleasure. The end of our life is death. Therefore we should not flee sorrow for laughter, music, and feasting. We must not merely be stoic or put on a brave front. We need to hear the instruction of sorrow.
Sorrow allows the life of Christ Jesus to be seen in a vessel of clay (2 Corinthians 4:11-12). Sorrow allows the power of God to be manifested. It testifies that the life that we live is of God and not man (4:7). It confesses that there is something of infinitely more value than things of this life.
Sorrow can labor compassion in a believer (Hebrews 5:2). We must understand our weaknesses in order to have compassion on the ignorant and those out of the way. By original birth we exalt in our “self-disciplines”, abilities, and strength in comparison to our fellow man. If we can do it surely they can! We must be taught to identify with sinners in offering ourselves in living sacrifice for their salvation.
Sorrow is no stranger to God and His Son. It is godly to weep (Isaiah 53:3; Romans 12:15; John 11:35). Weep with those who weep. Weeping at a funeral or by the bedside of the sick are not marks of weakness but of compassion. In a believer, it is an expression of godliness for Jesus was a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. Godliness is not distant or detached from humanity but identifies in the strongest sinless manner in order to bear sin and express His goodness.
Therefore embrace sorrow. It is for your good. Thanks be unto God, it is temporary! He desires for us to experience true godliness even in sorrow. In the allegory "Hinds Feet on High Places", the main character Little Much-Afraid is given two companions on her pilgrimage called Sorrow and Suffering. At the end of her journey, Sorrow and Suffering are turned into Grace and Glory. May our sufferings be unto His glory and honor!