“But I am poor and sorrowful: let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.” – Psalm 69:29
The Psalmist shares a secret that all believers know. He presents a paradox that all who hunger and thirst after God are familiar with. He inside-out’s us, and we nod our heads in agreement with this truth that is difficult to define to the mind’s satisfaction. Though the mind is lacking in its ability to fully grasp it, the spirit is content to rest in accepting yet another paradox of the Christian experience:
The dual reality of our lives containing sorrowful joy and joyous sorrow.
If a Christian knows nothing of the inner ache, longing for the King to appear and sorrow from this life, then it is likely that he or she is not a believer at all. There lives a groaning in us that is satisfied with nothing of earth. We have often brought this hungry groaning to the feasting table of the world, tucked a napkin under our collar, taken knife and fork in hand and commenced to feeding ourselves until we can sense the pangs no longer. Attempting to knock out the gnawing within us, we have placed on our life-forks large portions of material goods and wealth, and tried to feed our ravenous hearts; that heart, having devoured as much as it could, only demanded more. We have brought near the bowl of sensuality and turned it up against our lips, slurping its contents, draining it to the last drop, only to discover the appetite still abides. The bread of success and human admiration has been stacked in loaves before us and we have eaten… but our bellies are hollow in their hunger still. Pushing back from this world’s constant buffet, we see that these are meals which will never satisfy our deepest hungers. Like the Psalmist declared above, we see that we are poor and sorrowful because we cannot buy nor experience anything of earth to fill the void within.
When the wise Christian gets still, small, alone and willing to listen to the Spirit’s whisper, renouncing the horizontal elements of life and gazing intently on Jacob’s ladder which cannot be seen with the physical eye…that is when the Christian senses what the Psalmist wrote: I am poor and sorrowful. It is an infinitely increased sense of what we experience when traveling a long way from home. We may be across the ocean, surrounded by people, fluttering in activity, making strides in areas of business or pleasure. Yet as the trip grows longer we continually acknowledge that this is not my home. We think of a different place. We sense a deeper longing. We could, if we wished, make everything around us while we are abroad to resemble what it is like at home. But we cannot fool ourselves completely. There is a different place that holds our hearts and, until we are there, we will not be fully at rest.
While the Christian is making his or her way through this life, we will certainly sense our homesickness. On the strongest days, it will seem to us as sorrow.
I must also submit that, if one never senses anything of Christian joy, it must only be because Christ does not reside in that life. Sorrow is certainly ours in a sense, but joy is predominant. The paradox for us is seen in that, while we deeply ache for the climax of our faith (seeing Him), we find ourselves in possession of inexplicable joy. This joy is a flame so deep within us that we cannot pinpoint its location.
Is it in our heart? Our mind? Our soul? Is it stationary or at large within us? How, after all we have been through, does that flame still burn within?
So often, when gloom tries to set up permanent residence within, joy comes smiling to shoo it away. When anger threatens to paint the home of our hearts a deep red, joy comes to color it the brightest of blue. Bitterness desires to remind us of every wrong done against us, but we hear joy singing above that grumbling voice of bitterness, reminding us of every grace given us from God. Joy is the strong and silent type which relentlessly protects our hearts from intruders. Ask joy to speak to you again and it will; petition its voice to incline your ear and you will rediscover its song. The paradox of sorrow and joy will always be with us, but one grand day the Lord will set us up on high as the Psalmist requested long ago… and is still experiencing today.
Joy will remain forever while sorrow will perish with this fallen earth. The soul-hunger will not be denied its filling. The song will reach a crescendo when we see Christ and then a new song which has never been heard will begin and last for the untold ages. In that awesome moment we will understand fully all that came to pass in this earthly journey. Troubles continually threaten us now, but we will laugh at all of them then. We will fix our enlightened selves upon the glorified Lamb of God and acknowledge that He alone is worthy of praise and glory and honor. With eternal, ecstatic certainty. we will see Him to be the banisher of all that failed to rise to His glory. We will say with Paul that we must account that the sufferings of earth’s passage were not worthy to be compared with the glory that will then be revealed. Today, our songs of worship look forward to that event of consummation when faith morphs into sight. After that, we will never need faith again. We will be anchored in the unbroken climax of the endless ages.
So, carry them both within you without alarm: Sorrow and Joy. Don’t fear the paradox. Both will be present with the Christian throughout his and her travels down here. Search out the joy – prize and pamper it because it is the precious reminder that the sorrow is stuck in an hourglass. Sorrow’s sand is falling and will soon run out. Joy is forever.
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