Sanctified Sorrow

It's a mistake to think that Christians don't have genuine sorrow when death and loss come. Being a Christian does not spare you from the hurts of life. Having Jesus in our sorrow sanctifies the grief so that the bitterness isn't there.

Topics: Hope, Troubles, Grief, Death


Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Are you doing alright? Well, that little greeting establishes the fact that this is your friend Bob Cook and I’m glad to be back with you so that we can share again from God’s Word. I’ve been praying that He might put His truth and blessing and compassion and love and power into what is said in these precious moments. I treasure them. I consider this broadcast as a holy privilege that God has given where you and I can get together and share from the Word of God. I’m grateful for it. Aren’t you?

Well, we’re looking at 1 Thessalonians 4, and Paul says, “Now, I don’t want you to be ignorant concerning your loved ones that have passed away, that you sorrow not even as others which have no hope.” Does that mean that I won’t have any sorrow if I am a Christian? Well, of course not. Jesus said, “In the world, ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Our Savior wept at the grave of Lazarus. He knew the keen, biting, cutting edge of sorrow.

I think it’s a mistake to think that if you are a good Christian, you will not feel the troubles that others have, or you will not hurt when other people are hurting, or you will not really sorrow in terms of having genuine grief when bereavement comes. I think it’s a mistake to look at things that way.

Now and again we would run across a young person who was having deep emotional troubles, and those who counseled young people would discover that the young person had been brought up to believe that if you’re a good Christian, you’ll never get discouraged, you’ll never feel sorrowful, you’ll never really hurt inside. If you’re a good Christian, you’ll always be happy, everything will be coming up roses, and you’ll never have any troubles.

Now there are lots of folk who think that that’s true, that normal Christianity saves you from any of the hurts of life. Well, I guess you know better, don’t you, if you’ve lived awhile? And so, we’d have to patiently explain to the young person that you are, after all, a human being, and although in trusting the Lord Jesus Christ you’ve gotten a new nature, you still have a human nature as well. And so, you are capable of discouragement and being hurt, and of sorrowing. And so, I guess I’m talking to some folk right now who have gone through the deep waters of sorrow. You’ve lost a child or husband or wife or parent that’s been dear to you through the years, and you have that awful hurt inside, and the sympathy of your friends doesn’t ease it. Sometimes it just exacerbates it and makes it feel worse.

Sympathy and people’s moralizing and saying if it was an aged parent, “Well, she lived a good, full life,” and so on, doesn’t ease the pain, does it? No, it doesn’t. You see, you and I are human, and we’ve got hurts, and we’ve got sorrows, and we’ve got weaknesses and temptations, and we’ve got what the Bible calls “besetting sins,” the places in our lives where we are most apt to fail. We are human beings. But Jesus died for people such as we, and so, the difference is that although sorrow is there, and tears fall, and hurts come, the bitterness isn’t there. The bitterness of sorrow isn’t there, because He took the sting out of death.

Oh, do you know about that, my beloved friend? Do you know that Jesus can sanctify the hurts so that the bitterness isn’t there and so that then they become productive, actually, in your life? “No chastisement for the present seemeth joyous, but rather grievous. But afterward, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of repentance.” Jesus said, “What I do now, thou knowest not, but thou shalt know hereafter.” It’s God’s blessed “hereafters” that make the difference.

I must confess there have been times I did that, every time I’ve complained to God about something, I realized later that that was exactly the time when God was planning to do something wonderful for me. The only bad automobile wreck I ever had from the start of my driving until I had a head-on in ’83, I guess it was, was back in 1931 when I had a wreck that simply totaled my car and put me out of the garage business because all my tools fell out and the little boys and girls in that neighborhood knew that opportunity knocked but once, and they grabbed stuff and I was out of business.

I remember crawling out of the wreck, and looking up into that August sky in Chicago, and saying, “God, why?” And I felt bad about it, because my car was totaled. My mechanic’s tools were gone, and I was starving my way through Wheaton College, trying somehow to make it, you know? “Oh boy, God, what are you trying to do to me? Why?”

But within a very few weeks, I suppose it was less than three, there was a stirring in my heart that got me started preaching in rescue missions down on Madison St. And so, every Tuesday night I would be preaching at the Union Gospel Mission, and every Friday night, I would be preaching at the Chicago Gospel Mission there on skid row in Chicago. And God began to light a fire in my heart that never has gone out. There was a change from Bob Cook who led choirs and who fixed cars and who was going through college, to Bob Cook who was preaching and going for souls and trying somehow to win the lost. A difference, and God was making the difference while I was complaining.

You see, the presence of the Lord Jesus in your life does make the difference when your tears are falling, when your heart is aching, when things have gone into reverse, when somebody has passed away, or when there’s been a great disappointment, or when someone near and dear to you has failed you dreadfully…how these things hurt us. Yes, they do, and there’s no escaping the hurt. But there is a blessed way where the grace of God sanctifies all of that, and takes the bitterness out, and makes it something that glorifies God. Hallelujah! Can you get hold of that today? Oh, I hope you can. It makes all the difference in the world, believe me.

“Sorrow not,” said he, “even as others which have no hope.” Yes, we sorrow, but there is a blessed hope that is infused in all of that.

They put me in charge of dealing with the press at the funeral of Dawson Trotman back in the 1950’s. He had been drowned in a boating accident. A great man of God, known throughout the world, because he had founded the organization called The Navigators, where they specialize in training the believer to win others through the use of the Word of God. And so, there I was. His funeral was held at the headquarters of the organization out in Colorado, and I was supposed to talk with some reporters who had come, because he was widely known throughout the world, and so the press was covering the memorial service.

Well, the service went on. I was seated where I could see what went on. I was seated toward the front and on one side so that I could look over the whole crowd. And there were tributes, of course, concerning this man’s ministry. And I noticed that Mrs. Trotman was there to greet people. She greeted them kindly and warmly and lovingly as they came in. She ended up comforting other people, it seemed to me. Only once did I see the evidence of the sorrow that was in her heart. As she turned to look at her husband’s face just before they closed the casket, I saw in her eyes the sorrow that was there. And then, she went on.

The messages that were given all looked forward to eternity with Christ, as they should, for a Bible-believing Christian. Hope in Christ was the theme, a celebration of Christ’s victory over death. Well, after it was over, a reporter came up to me and he said, “Mr. Cook, could I ask you a question?” I said, “Sure. What is it?” “Does your group always believe in happy funerals?”

Well, that’s the best way he could describe the note of victory there was in the passing. It was tragic, humanly. A boating accident took the life of this man in his fifties. A vigorous young person, as we would judge it today, gone now because of an accident. The world would have looked at it bitterly, but believers look at it in victory. And here’s an unsaved reporter, saying, “Do you believe in happy funerals?” That’s all he could say.

Well, beloved, you and I know that we’re not happy, but we’re joyful. There’s the difference. “I’m happy,” says the old chorus. “I’m happy when everything happens to please, but happiness comes and goes. While the heart that is stayed on Jesus the Savior ever with joy o’erflows. Happiness happens, but joy abides in the heart that is stayed on Jesus.” Sorrow not.

Oh, there’s real sorrow, but the stinger is gone. “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” “Death is swallowed up in victory,” says Paul. Yes, my tears fall, and I get hurt, and I get discouraged, and I go through the waters of sorrow, just as we all do, but the stinger is gone. The bitterness is gone. The light is shining. Tomorrow is there with God. Heaven, and home. An eternity because Jesus is alive, and I am his. Can you get hold of that today? Let it thrill your own heart, even though for some of you the tears might be falling even at this moment. Let Jesus give you His peace and joy and hope.

Paul says, “That you might abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Let that be your portion today, beloved, and then share it with somebody else. The world doesn’t understand, but you can share with people the fact that because there is a wonderful Person who indwells you, He is alive today. Because of that wonderful Person, you have hope for the tomorrows. You can share your faith in Christ through the experiences that come your way.

Dear Father, thank you for hope in Jesus. Let us be privileged to share that hope with others today. In His name I pray, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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