Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. (Ecclesiastes 7: 3)
Sorrow, under the power of divine grace, performs various ministries in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths of the soul, and unknown capacities for suffering and service. Lighthearted, frivolous people are always shallow and are never aware of their own meagerness or lack of depth. Sorrow is God’s tool to plow the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If humankind were still in a glorified state, having never fallen, then the strong floods of divine joy would be the force God would use to reveal our souls’ capacities. But in a fallen world, sorrow, yet with despair removed, is the power chosen to reveal us to ourselves. Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously.
Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others.
Imagine a village of lazy people living at the foot of a great mountain range, yet who have never ventured out to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains. One day a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, turning the hidden valleys into echoing trumpets and revealing their inner recesses, like the twisted shapes of a giant seashell. The villagers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and the unexplored recesses of a region so nearby and yet so unknown. And so it is with many people who casually live on the outer edge of their own souls until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within, which were never before known or suspected.
God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely. Joseph experienced more sorrow than the other sons of Jacob, and it led him into a ministry of food for all the nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful vine . . . near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall” (Gen. 49: 22). It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul.
~from The Heavenly Life
The dark brown soil is turned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I’ve a lesson learned.
My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God’s sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.
Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain.
~Maltbie D. Babcock
Every person and every nation must endure lessons in God’s school of adversity. In the same way we say, “Blessed is the night, for it reveals the stars to us,” we can say, “Blessed is sorrow, for it reveals God’s comfort.” A flood once washed away a poor man’s home and mill, taking with it everything he owned in the world. He stood at the scene of his great loss, brokenhearted and discouraged. Yet after the waters had subsided, he saw something shining in the riverbanks that the flood had washed bare. “It looks like gold,” he said. And it was gold. The storm that had impoverished him made him rich. So it is oftentimes in life.
~Henry Clay Trumbull
Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (pp. 40-41). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.