How do we deal with sorrow and sin in the world—and in our own hearts?
The key is knowing what else is in our hearts: the laws of God.
The regenerated soul (the Christian) has God’s laws in his heart, without exception. What does this mean? In his sermon, God’s Law in Man’s Heart, Charles Spurgeon explained:
- You know God’s law.
- You remember it.
- You approve of it and appropriate it for yourself.
- You delight to obey it.
Having God’s law in your heart means believing in God’s way without reservations. You follow not only from duty, but from delight, because your identity is changed.
God’s law and the Christian’s sorrow
This great privilege has a price. We will have suffering here on earth (John 16:33). The Christian must be dissatisfied with the unlawful state of the world and increasingly hungry for the Lord’s coming kingdom.
Allow yourself to grieve at the sight of a lawless world. Your joy is in the coming justice of God. When the state of the world causes you godly grief, take consolation in knowing that God has the same grief. Your response is like God’s. Your sorrow for the world is a sign of God’s blessing on your life, for you are like him in your desires. Know that just as we share in the sufferings of Christ, so our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). We who have died with him will also live with him. We who endure will also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
Don’t be ashamed of sorrow. Paul boasted of his infirmities and made special mention of the daily pressure of his great concern for the wellbeing of all the churches (2 Corinthians 11). Your burden shows that, like Paul, you have already begun to take an eternal perspective. Does the world seem intolerable? It should. God himself finds it intolerable, and his forbearance does not last forever (2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 20:15).
Look beyond the world for your hope. The world and the laws of God are incompatible. To accept one is to reject the other. Your experience of dissatisfaction should remind you that this world is not your home. You are growing in your ability to treasure God’s kingdom. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” It is a better city (Hebrews 11:16), and our present sufferings are not worthy to compare to its glory (Romans 8:18). As we wait, all things are working together for our good (Romans 8:28). Our suffering prepares us and it even assures us: we are citizens of another kingdom.
So place your hope in the coming work of the Lord. Know your identity: you are a heart inscribed with God’s very law. When you are discouraged, unthankful, and cannot control your feelings, take control of the one thing in your power: your focus. Set your heart on the one who promises to save you and has already done so much to show that he will. Celebrate him for his mighty deeds already done. Remember his deeds. This means think about the Bible; which means read the Bible.
Here are some starting points when you experience sorrow:
Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people.
I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.
I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil.
Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.
But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.