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Healthy Emotions: Joy AND Sorrow

Sometimes our ministry can be discouraging.  It is easy to be weighed down by the hard things, to think that I've made a mess of everything, and to carry the concern about people who aren't living the Christian life to the fullest.  And then somebody says something about how you've made a difference and it is really encouraging!  (This has happened to me recently!)

I've already shared how our church in Niger went through some tough times.  Yet it led to godly repentance for many, most notably those in our Bible study group.  As we were preparing to leave Niger, we shared with the elders and one of the lay leaders who had done a lot of teaching during this time, how God had worked in the lives of these students. We didn't give names or share details, but just told them how God was at work. This was really an encouragement to them to see how God had been at work in spite of the stressful and difficult time they'd been through.

Paul had been careful to not exploit, wrong, or corrupt anyone.  The Corinthians had a special place in his heart and he wants them to know that.  He says he has confidence in them, takes pride in them, is encouraged by them, and they give him great joy.  

 Paul was discouraged because he knew they took his letter hard.  But after Titus visited them and returned with good news, Paul was greatly encouraged and felt much better.

Paul was glad they took his letter seriously and that it led to repentance.  

I think it's interesting that the same man who wrote "Do not be anxious in anything" and "Rejoice in the Lord always" also writes about his deep sorrow and of despairing of life itself.  Again, we see in II Corinthians Paul being so personal about his stress, his depression, his hurt feelings, and his need for affirmation.  N T Wright says, 
"'Having no anxiety about anything; as far as Paul was concerned wasn't a matter of attaining some kind of philosophically detached state where he simply didn't care.  He cared, and cared passionately.  I think 'having no anxiety' meant, for him, taking every day's anxieties and, with a huge struggle and effort, dumping them on God in whom he doggedly believed."
I think Christians, in general, tend to have an attitude that we shouldn't be distressed or discouraged or depressed.  After all, Paul said to rejoice always.  But then we see that Paul himself experienced these emotions, BUT he chose to cast his cares on God.  Do I make the same choice when I'm discouraged?  And do I take the opportunity to be Titus to people who are deeply discouraged?  To encourage them with things I've seen coming out of their ministry or their faithfulness?  

We also need to encourage godly sorrow, even though sorrow may be another emotion with which we are uncomfortable.  Godly sorrow has favorable outcomes:  

  • repentance of sin
  • salvation
  • no regrets
  • brings earnestness
  • indignation against sin and the deceiver
  • longing for right and restoration of fellowship
  • readiness to see justice done
  • eagerness to clear oneself, to make things right
  • alarm at what has been done
  • concern
  • proof of innocence
  • shows your devotion to others
When I am made aware of my sin, do I allow myself to sorrow over it and to let the Holy Spirit work in my heart and then to bring me comfort?  Paul also speaks of "worldly sorrow that brings death".  I think that when we feel the weight of our sin, but we don't repent and reap the benefits of that repentance, we experience worldly sorrow that brings death.  Our guilt makes us defensive, weighs us down, makes us depressed, we may lash out at others or take on a victim mentality, we take on a negative image of ourselves, etc.  We as a church need to allow people to experience sorrow over their sins so that they can live life with no regrets.
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