Text: ‘Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”’ Nehemiah 8:10
Has God ever spoken to you that something you were doing was wrong? How did you react?
The first response I have when God taps me on the shoulder and looks me in the eye with his holiness, is usually sorrow. I cry.
This was what happened to God’s people when they heard the Bible in a way they could understand. They felt heartbroken they had sinned. They wept, and wouldn’t stop. Nehemiah, finally had to calm them down. He told them not to cry. For the joy of the LORD is their strength.
There are two kinds of sorrow. The sorrow that God loves is the sorrow of repentance. This type of sorrow brings great joy to God’s heart and to ours.
It is similar to a child, confessing a wrong to his parent and the child saying she now understands why it was wrong and she does not have a desire to do it again. God loves when a sinner turns from sin. The Bible says that when a sinner turns from her sinful life and decides to enter into a loving relationship with God, there is great rejoicing in heaven.
There is however another sorrow. It is the sorrow of self-interest. It is the sorrow filled with poor-me-isms. This is the sorrow that refuses to persevere, because the way of obedience is “too hard”. It wants to give up because the going is rough and what’s more, plain uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is this type of selfish sorrow that keeps a person from truly following Jesus with a whole heart. After all, if they really follow Christ, it may cost them something. Maybe it will cost popularity, maybe they will be labeled, and maybe they won’t be comfortable with some of the activities others think are fun.
I’d like to say that this sorrow doesn’t tempt genuine believers, but, if the Apostle Peter is any indication, this type of sorrow may be more common than we may want to believe.
Remember Peter’s response when Jesus hinted at his death? Peter tried to talk Jesus out of it. And what was Jesus’s response?
He called Peter Satan, and commanded him to get behind him.
Satan is the tempter behind all the wrong kind of sorrow. And his sorrow, when put to the test, only yields more sorrow. Whereas the sorrow that leads to repentance leads to rejoicing!
God doesn’t want us to be dragging our past around with us. He has seen our sorrow and our repentance. And I believe he would say to us, too, not to grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Prayer: God, how thin a line exists between true Christian sorrow that leads to repentance and joy, and the sorrow that is full of self-interest.
Help us know the difference between the two, and may we rejoice in all you have done for us and the victory you have accomplished for us, through Christ Jesus our LORD. Who went to the cross, died, and was resurrected.
This resurrection power is available for us, to live a life of joy, celebrating our freedom from bondage. God, we rejoice in you! Amen.