Really? If you and I walked over to the park and asked fifty people which is better: laughter or sorrow, how many do you think would say sorrow? A big fat zero!!! In fact, look around, the entertainment and advertising world are banking that all of us much prefer laughter to sorrow. But here’s Solomon telling us that sorrow is better. Bummer! I’m thinking, in the long run, I would much rather laugh than cry.
The rest of Ecclesiastes 7:3 explains that sorrow makes our hearts stronger. Still not completely sold? It’s kind of like me and cooked spinach…I know it’s good for me, but I’d pretty much rather eat chocolate cake. As parents we know that our kids need to eat something resembling balanced meals, even though sometimes they don’t care for some of the foods they need to eat. Our kids eventually learn to trust us when we tell them to have a taste and that they’ll learn to like whatever it is. And, oddly enough, kids do learn to like more than just pizza and peanut butter and jelly. As much as I don’t like some foods, I know that we, as humans, can acquire a taste for almost anything…I mean, there are people on the National Geographic channel who look like (look like being the operative words here) they enjoy eating grubs and ants and things. EEEW! I don’t know, that’s probably about the same as the first guy who thought eating oysters or lobster was a good idea.
But, I digress. What I’m getting to is that we usually don’t like what’s good for us anymore than our kids do. But God knows!
God knows exactly what it will take to make us strong for Him, but we’ve got to let Him take control of our training, because, just like our kids, we would avoid exactly the things we need the most. Why? Because it wouldn't be any fun, in fact, it might even be pretty miserable. You know what the body-builders say, “No Pain; No Gain.” Unfortunately, spiritual strength comes at the same price. Why would anybody go through it then? What’s the pay-off?
Have you ever read or watched a show about the folks who have climbed Mt. Everest? I have. It doesn’t look like any fun at all! It looks absolutely miserable. The same thing with people who run the Iditarod, or swim the English Channel (do they do that anymore?), or sail across the Pacific, or even run a marathon. And what’s the pay-off for those things? Getting your name in a history book or a newspaper, maybe winning some money…nothing very permanent. People risk all kinds of physical unpleasantness for even minimal earthly recognition. Solomon would tell us that that is all vanity and chasing the wind.
So, what’s a little (or maybe a lot of) sorrow if it will make us spiritually stronger? What would you be willing to go through if it brought you closer to Jesus? Would we be willing to ask for the sorrow?
Chapter 9 of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is called “Counting the Cost”. In it, Lewis talks about the things we ask for and what God wants to give us. Lewis tells the story about having toothaches as he was growing up and how he never told his mom about them. He said that she would have gladly given him an aspirin that would have taken away the pain, but that wouldn’t have been the end of it. The next day she would have taken him to the dentist and then the dentist would start “fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache.” From there, Lewis goes on to talk about how we ask for little things. We ask Him to take away some sin like smoking or bad temper. He will free us from that sin, but He won’t stop there until He has changed our whole lives.
“That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, …, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”
Isn’t that amazing? And maybe a little frightening? We ask for help with some little thing, but He wants to give us eternal life with Him. What will it cost?