I am turning 73 next week with nearly three quarters of a century of life experiences under my belt. The world has changed a lot in my lifetime, some for the better and some for the worse, but lately I find my heart heavy, filled with a deep sense of sorrow I can’t fully explain. Everyday I thank the Lord for the gift he has given me; not simply for the opportunity to have walked this earth for 73 years, but for the richness of the life He has allowed me to live. I have never taken that for granted or even felt entitled to it. Being a person of solitude allows me to contemplate the world around me and ask God for prophetic insight. Sometimes I think I see too much (As some know, four years ago I wrote a book which predicted much of what is happening in the present hour).
Although much of my life has been in the public arena, I am by nature an introvert being most comfortable in the quietness of nature. Nancy and I met at the College of Idaho in the 1960s and dreamed of living a quiet lifestyle on a somewhat isolated piece of land. Idaho’s population in those days was 700,000 people and much of the land was pure, open, and free. In those days, I couldn’t imagine a time where a person like myself couldn’t freely drink from a mountain stream or a wilderness lake without getting sick. I feel a growing sorrow these days watching how rapidly everything has changed; not just environmentally, but politically and culturally. Unlike those who say this has come upon us like a frog in a kettle, I say the water has already reached its boiling point and it happened way too fast.
Nancy has been calling the year of 2020, “The Great Sorrow”. It has been a devastating year of global pandemic and historic civil unrest resulting in extreme violence motivated by deep-rooted fear and rage. It has been a time when American Christianity has been torn apart due to competing ideologies. This deeply sorrows me because I know from scripture if the church is not of “one heart and one mind”, we become impotent in our ability to bring salt and light to the world. At a time when the Church is needed the most, the world sees Christianity as a hypocritical and irrelevant force.
I feel sorrow when I observe growing lines of desperate people looking for food to feed their families. Or when our nation’s elderly get turned away after anxiously waiting in long lines for a COVID-19 vaccination. We have all witnessed the lines of the unemployed hoping for a chance to work again while others are forced to live in their cars and shelters due to evictions. More than anything however, I feel sorrow when I see so many Americans who, in reaction to purposeful fear tactics, have bought into a great lie. People are scared to death, I understand that; there is a lot to be afraid of in America these days. However, I do not understand why so many who say they profess faith in Christ accept unvetted “facts”, and are then motivated toward bitterness and anger instead of love and compassion.
While watching in horror the out-of-control mob attacking our nation’s seat of democracy on January 6th, Nancy commented that it reminded her of a huge boil erupting after years of festering and building pressure. It was as if all the anxiety, grief, and pain that many had suppressed while trying to cope with insecurity and the uncertainty of a rapidly changing world, finally came to a head and exploded in a huge messy eruption. No question, it was a despicable demonstration of America turning upon itself, but rather than feeling outraged at the things I saw on my television screen, the only emotion I could muster was a deep sense of sorrow.
The Apostle Paul spoke of sorrow in his letter to the Corinthians. [2 Corinthians 7] He said there were two kinds of sorrow: godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. He said godly sorrow is a type of sorrow which brings repentance, which leads to salvation, and leaves no regret. On the other hand, he warns, worldly sorrow brings death. He said, “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done”. There is great sorrow in America, and I fear it is leading to death through the vehicles of human betrayal, rage, and anger. Worldly sorrow is a type of sorrow which refuses to own sin, preferring to project it on to circumstances, and the actions of others. Worldly sorrow always accuses and points blame, turning pain into the affliction of words and physical violence. The type of death it causes is emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical.
As for me, I choose Godly sorrow. I choose repentance, I choose salvation, I choose a longing and concern for others. I choose the readiness to see God’s righteousness and justice, that I might be His instrument for peace and reconciliation. The only way I know to do this is to use what influence I have in the world to exhort both professing Christians and all others to join me in a journey to the heart of God: to His attributes, His character and His absolute truth. I invite you to share with me in this effort to capture and embrace godly sorrow.