Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
Can this verse be true? Is it really in our Bibles? Can suffering be beneficial? It absolutely can be and is! How foreign this thought is in the world today as well as many churches, but it’s true nonetheless. There is great blessing that often comes by way of suffering. Some lessons can only be learned through sorrow.
Let’s be honest. We don’t enjoy pain, but the reality is that, in general, we tend to seek the Lord more fervently when there is struggle, trial, or sorrow. I understand exactly what the psalmist meant in Ps 119:67 when he wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” Times of affliction have been of great spiritual benefit to my soul! I’ve heard my pastor often say that God is far more interested in our holiness than our comfort. I couldn’t agree more!
David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), and as long as David was in turmoil as he fled from Saul, his heart was fixed on the Lord. But when he was no longer running for his life and the throne was his, he fell into gross sin. Affliction kept him close to God! In 2 Cor 7:8, Paul told the Corinthian church that he didn’t regret making them sorry when they read his first letter, but it wasn’t the sorrow itself with which he was so pleased. He was rejoicing over the effect of that sorrow. “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” (2 Cor 7:11) Sorrow had worked for their spiritual good!
Suffering is certainly not the only Christian experience, but as our text reminds us, sorrow is a great tool for making the heart better. There are times when the opposite is needful. As in Pr 17:2: ” A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” As we’ve considered the last several weeks, our peace, whether hurting or laughing, is in knowing that all of these things are guided by our loving Father and designed for our spiritual benefit. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him.” (Ecc 7:14) There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” and our great Creator knows just when and how long each are needful in our lives. (Ecc 3:4) Jesus’ road to glory involved a cross, and all those being conformed to His image follow the same pattern. Like Him, we don’t look forward to the suffering, but we can be encouraged to know that there is joy waiting for us on the other side! (Heb 12:2)