Cultivating a Biblical View of Sorrow in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:11)

The Bible is no stranger to depression. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God’s children experienced seasons of deep sorrow and suffering. It’s both sobering and encouraging when we pause to consider the numerous texts that testify to the reality of prolonged sadness within the family of God. Increasingly, God’s children are wrestling with seasons of sorrow and fear as the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our land. Yet this provides the body of Christ with a momentary opportunity to cultivate a biblical worldview of sorrow and magnify the grace and long-suffering of Christ. As the great Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes, once wrote, “Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” (Isaiah 42:3)

We don’t need secular, diagnostic manuals to know that the human heart is susceptible to long periods of (what feels like) hopeless sorrow. In Psalm 42:3, David cries out to God, “My tears have been my food day and night.” In Romans 9:2, Paul confesses: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Throughout the Bible the Lord uses faithful men like Jeremiah, Job, Moses, Elijah, and Jonah who all experienced seasons of great sorrow and, at times, lost their will to live.

The Lord Jesus, Himself, is prophetically described by Isaiah as being “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ” (Isaiah 53:3). In fact, it is the sorrow of Christ (not His wine making, fish catching or water walking) that the author of Hebrews invites us to meditate upon, to keep us from losing heart. The Bible pulls no punches over the reality of sorrow for Jesus’ disciples in this life, nor should we. For faithful Christians living in this fallen world, the sum total of human experience will most likely tip the scales in the direction of sadness, sorrow and suffering. As Jeremy Pierre (Southern Baptist Seminary professor) has rightly cautioned, we must guard against importing assumptions from the American Dream with its pursuit of happiness into the worldview presented in the Holy Scriptures. It is good medicine for the downcast heart to learn that depression is not a direct indication of a deficient or non-existent faith.

The Gospel reminds us that, because of Jesus, a day is coming when depression will be no more. Soon and very soon, we will only know the fullness of joy in the unhindered communion with the Father, Son and Spirit. But until that glorious day, we must cultivate a biblical view of sorrow, so that, like Jesus, we might lovingly care for our “bruised reeds” that are no less a part of the wondrous body of Christ.

By Jimmy Carter

Jimmy serves as the pastor to young adults at Immanuel. He has been married to his wife, Carrie, for 21 years. They have one treasured daughter named C.A., who is in the high school ministry at IBC. Jimmy is completing his PhD in Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches at Boyce College.

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