I have heard many people’s testimonies over the years, some very dramatic. I remember accounts of people who were drug addicts, unable to work, stealing from relatives, and worse things than I care to write about here. These people came to Christ; they cleaned up; they got off drugs; they were able to show love to their relatives, etc. And they declared how happy they were in Jesus.
Having known the Lord for many years, I don’t doubt testimonies like that—I’ve seen the miracle of changed lives, and I hope that you have, too.
But my own story is somewhat different: I’ve never used drugs, never had a problem with alcohol, always loved my wife, loved my parents, had friends. I was happy…until Jesus came into my life. And then I was miserable. Why was I miserable? I felt a great sorrow for those who were lost. As I met people I thought of their eternal destiny, and I would try as much as I could to point them toward the salvation that they could have in Christ. But I sorrowed for them, because so many were disinterested.
Though I was mourning for the world, I still had joy in the Lord. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say that my life was bifurcated. I shared joy with other believers as we considered who Christ is, and what He had done for us, but I continued to have sorrow for those who were outside of the Lord. Somehow, I was able to have an inner smile along with inner tears.
Haven’t you found that it is entirely possible to feel joy and sorrow at the same time? To have a resident joy in the Lord, but to have tears for the sense of tragic loss of this world?
I am writing this in late February, having just found out that my good friend and my colleague, Zola Levitt, has stage four cancer. The doctors say he might have months, he might have a year. As I dictate this, I fully believe that God can and might heal him. But if not, I would have a sense of tragic loss. Zola is one of the friends that I count on. He’s been a great encouragement to me in the building of the Jews for Jesus ministry.
I’ve already sorrowed over many of my contemporaries who’ve gone on to be with the Lord. But that sorrow is for me, not for them. It’s the kind of sorrow that I felt as I watched my daughters go off to school, and realized that things would never be the same. I was happy that they had entered a new stage of their lives, but I would miss having them at home as Daddy’s girls. I would miss telling them jokes, and listening to them tell me about their lives. My joy became stronger as I saw the kind of people they became, and my sorrow diminished when I realized that they were growing in their own fulfillment of what God wanted them to be.
I’ve been able to carry that feeling over to friends and colleagues who have passed on, many of whom were stalwart soldiers of the Lord. And I think of the day of triumph, when they were welcomed into the presence of the Lord. I guess I’ve been able to endure the sorrows of this earth by looking forward to the glory of God, and the way that things will be. What we miss in the present will be fulfilled in the future. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).