Friedrich Nietzsche, noted philosopher, atheist, and God-hater, is attributed with saying, “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” It is actually a paraphrase from “What does not kill him, makes him stronger,” from his work Ecce Homo.
What is considered a deep philosophical thought is actually a silly statement of the obvious. I understand the sentiment behind it, but it is not true. How many people do you know who have faced tough times have become weaker from it? That is because they tried to face it in their own strength and their own sorrow burned them out. King Solomon wisely wrote:
“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15:13)
When things are going good, most people are happy. That’s because happiness depends on happenings. However, when sorrow comes, many a spirit is broken by the weight of grief. And yet, as my pastor Bro Dennis counseled me during the initial days after losing Eddie, the grief will come in stages and this is the mercy of God because all the grief at one time would literally kill you.
I’m sure many people have a hard time recognizing God’s mercy in times of grief, but oh glory to God it is there! When I have a “meltdown” or an “Eddie moment”, the grief is overwhelming and yet so liberating. To sob uncontrollably over your loss is what makes us stronger; to give it to the Lord. To let the rush of sorrow come is what cleanses the soul and confirms in our spirit that our Lord Jesus is with us. Why?
Because Jesus faced the greatest sorrow and He faced humanly intolerable grief. He had to willingly allow the most horrible thing He could experience come upon Him. He had to allow the sins of the world to be poured upon Him, knowing His Heavenly Father would forsake Him, if only for a few days. Remember His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane?
“Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.’ He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’” (Mark 14:32-36)
Jesus’ sorrow was enough to kill Him, to the point He asked God if it were possible to not make Him face it. This is a very human response. But what is a spiritual response is to say, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
That takes faith; that takes trust.
But Bro Dave is God truly loves us then why does He let us suffer? Another very human response. It is in sorrow where we discover who we are in Christ. I did and so have others. It is what Oswald Chambers described as “receiving one’s self in the fires of sorrow.” Chambers writes:
“Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness, but it does not always make a man better. Suffering either gives me my self or it destroys my self. You cannot receive your self in success, you lose your head; you cannot receive your self in monotony, you grouse. The way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be so is another matter, but that it is so is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you. If a man has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, he has no time for you. If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.”
This is called turning misery into ministry. It is part of our Christian mission. Hard to believe? Listen again to Jesus:
“But Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’” (John 12:23-28a)
So how did Jesus fare in the Garden compared to this statement a few days prior? Like a human with a close personal relationship with God. He knew and accepted His mission and yet when the hour actually came, He was “exceedingly sorrowful.” His soul was, the seat of His emotions. But because He was filled with the Holy Spirit, He could lean on God, just as we can.
And when we come through the fires of sorrow and receive the man or woman God wants us to be, then “God will make you nourishment for other people.”
Lord Jesus, may it be so in my life!
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Copyright © 2012 David Jeffers