Saturday, September 29, 2007

It’s good . . . to Know Sorrow

As years pass, it seems that more and more tragic events fill the front sections of our newspapers and magazines. Pastor Martin Neimoller was an outspoken advocate during one of the most horrific times of sorrow in recent years. But instead of reacting, he accepted the burden of collective guilt and suffering caused by Nazi Germany before and during WW II. On August 28, 1989, TIME Magazine published these words of his:

“First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Social Democrat.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew,
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”

The questions we raise about the sorrows we can or cannot control paint a sharp contrast in our society. Why did hatred high-jack the minds of Nazi leaders to do what they did? Why have controllable acts like these been repeated since then? But then sorrows we cannot control also occur with greater regularity than we would prefer.

In a couple of days, my family will hold a memorial service for my grandfather. Though I knew that his death was imminent, swallowing the reality that I will not be able to enjoy another walk with him on the sea-wall, play a game of snooker with him or join him again for lunch is a memory I will miss.

However, Watson continues with words I needed to hear:

And it's good to know sorrow
To be closely acquainted with grief
To be showered with tears
No reason to cheer
To find in Christ your only relief

Will these feelings of loneliness, defeat or sorrow ever dissipate? I’ve had enough! God, stop! Bring me out of this dungeon! Comments and questions like these are what filled the mind of David and other psalmists as they wrote down their complaints and praises. And even though it is repeated to music, the chorus of Wayne Watson’s psalm is no different than the words of David.

Lord, let me be at peace wherever I am
Satisfied with all I have--A faithful friend
And know I am grateful
Cause if it makes me love you even more
I know--I'm sure
It's good to be lonely every now and again

What can we do after we are lonely, go down to defeat and know sorrow? Can we fight it and win, or flee it and find refuge? Not very well. Watson recommends peace, “Satisfied with all I have--A faithful friend.” At this point, and only here, can we be built up again realizing that all these feelings are good to experience every now and again.

God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"

Hebrews 13:5-6

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