One of the most successful pastors I have known once told me that years ago an old seminary professor frequently said to his class, “In your sermons always have some word of comfort; there are broken hearts in every congregation.”

Another minister, who was at the time undergoing great sorrow and testing, said to me, “If God is not sufficient for me in this situation, then I have no right to preach, for I have been preaching his sufficiency for everything.”

Nothing turns us to the promises of God faster than sorrow. The psalmist wrote, “This is my comfort in my affliction that thy promise gives me life” (Ps. 119:50, RSV).

The treasures of earth are gaudy baubles when compared with the promises of God. Those passing through deep waters have claimed these promises and found them true. The “comfort of the Scriptures” is available to all God’s children.

When difficulties or sorrow lead us to a new and simple faith in the promises of God, only good can come. It can be affirmed that for every sorrow there is a promise, for every problem there is an answer.

The Bible makes clear distinctions between sorrows that are a part of human existence and those that stem from our own disobedience and sinfulness. Some people express sorrow because they have been caught in their evil acts. Others experience deep anguish of soul because they have offended a loving God and broken his holy laws. The Apostle Paul clearly differentiates between the two: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).

For the moment we are chiefly concerned with the sorrows which are an inevitable part of life and from which no Christian can hope to be completely exempt.

Death of loved ones and close friends always brings sorrow, but for that sorrow there is comfort. The resurrection triumph and the certainty of our Lord’s return prompted the Apostle Paul to write the Christians in Thessalonica, “We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For … through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.… Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:13, 14, 18).

Although death is inevitable, there is the ever-present comfort of knowing that Christ has triumphed over it, removing its sting, and that he has promised the glories of eternity to his own.

Probably one of life’s greatest sorrows is to be found in distressing situations over which we have no control and for which we are not reponsible—the actions of others, their trials and problems that we share with them. It is often in hours of seemingly helpless agony that we find the answer and the comfort to be had in the promises of God’s Word.

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Let those who will, scoff at our “lifting out” God’s promises from their “context” and, claiming them for our own. We have good precedent for so doing: the New Testament writers, and even our Lord, seem repeatedly to “take out of context” some part of the Old Testament Scriptures and apply it to the circumstance of the moment (Mark 12:10, 11, 36; Luke 4:21; 24:27, 44, 45, to cite a few instances).

The writer would stoutly affirm that for every sorrow there is a promise. We do not believe that the sorrows of life just happen; God permits them for his own holy purposes. Sorrows that stem from overt sin are intended to lead men to the One who cleanses and forgives. Sorrows that are an inevitable part of living in a dying world are intended to turn our eyes and hopes to the One who says, “I have overcome the world.”

Some of God’s greatest saints are to be found among those who have suffered most from life’s buffetings. Why? Because they have been driven to the One who alone can comfort and heal.

No one knew more than David the anguish that follows grievous sins. No one knew more than he the depressing sense of danger and frustration. No one had more cause to sorrow because of the waywardness of those dear to his heart. But David wrote: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:17–19).

This is a statement of fact, a promise we can claim. It does not mean that our sorrows will be relieved as we might want them to be; it does mean that God works out his perfect will for those who trust him completely, and that some day we will be able to look back and say with Paul, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

In claiming God’s promises, we must balance the claim with faith. God gave Abraham a promise, but as time went on it seemed impossible, humanly speaking, for the promise to be fulfilled. Yet Abraham’s faith has been a challenge to every succeeding generation.

Once we are fully convinced that the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ, we can and should claim them in his Name.

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The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians experiencing multiplied trials that he did not look on the trials as burdens so much as means of grace. Speaking of the resurrection hope he says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6, 7).

Faced with sorrow, a Christian must recognize the love, mercy, and power of God. If repentance is needed, he must repent. If the issues are too complex for him to understand, he must trust in the sovereign wisdom of God. The Prophet Isaiah tells of man’s hope in God: “Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isa. 57:15).

Sorrow is also one of the means by which God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10, 11).

For the Christian there is always hope in sorrow. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5b).

The Christian can afford to wait for the morning, for Christ is also the Lord of that morning.


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