"Well, if you are a Christian, then you ought to always be counting your blessings. If a situation arises that troubles you, it must be because you are doubting or weak in faith. The Bible says, 'Rejoice in the Lord always!' You need to be more trusting in the promises of God and in His care; people of faith do not feel distress." Such counsel may sound good, but it is wrong. Just a glance at the title of this article suggests that there is something amiss in this advice. But what is it?
The Scriptures teach the need for balance in one's life and attitudes. Being a Christian does not mean a life without sorrow or troubles. It does not mean that expression of sorrow is a sign of weakness. It does mean that we, with the help of God, maintain a balanced perspective in all of life's circumstances.
The Scriptures talk of this balance in many places. The man or
woman of strong faith experiences sorrow, but not so much that life is ruined.
People of faith also experience joy at the proper times, but not to the extent,
nor in the sense of frivolity so that the serious things in life are treated
without reverence. A good passage concerning proper balance is found in
the Book of Ecclesiastes. It tells us that there is a time for everything under
heaven; "A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time
to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill, and a time to
heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to
laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to throw stones, and a time
to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing. A time to
search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a
time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time
for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9).
Jesus and Lazarus
"The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, He whom you love is sick." (John 11:3).
Jesus often stayed at Bethany in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus when He was in Judea. He and the family had become close. Loyal friendship was something important to Jesus. He often talked about it. In fact, Jesus later uses the term "our friend" to describe Lazarus (John 11:11).
Jesus' friend, Lazarus, had died. Jesus taught that there is no greater love that that of a man "laying down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). This is
what Jesus was willing to do for us. His enemies described Him as "a friend of tax-gatherers (publicans) and sinners" (Matthew 11:19) and Jesus proved them correct when He gave His life for us. They meant it as an insult, but Jesus was willing to suffer insult and so much more for His friends. He also said that we are His friends if "you do what I command you." (John 15:14). Do you fit Jesus' definition of "friend" ? Lazarus did; he was Jesus' good friend.
A Time To Weep
"When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said, 'Lord, Come and see.' Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, 'Behold, how He loved Him!" (John 11:33-36).
Jesus knew that He would soon raise Lazarus from the dead, so why was He so disturbed by the events of that day? Probably for several reasons.
First, there was His great sense of compassion. He hurt to see others hurt. His emotions were pushed to the limit by witnessing the sorrow of Mary. Those with compassion are able to "weep with them that weep" and all Christians ought to have this ability (Romans 12:15). By the way, Jesus continues to watch with compassion over us today as well, as is shown by His standing at the right hand of God ready to receive Steven's spirit as Steven was being murdered for his faith in Jesus (Acts 8:55,56).
Also, there is the fact that death is the consequence of sin.
Shortly, Jesus would be dying on the cross to release us from the sting of
death, which is sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). But sin is ugly, and the suffering
caused by sin is enormous. Sin is something to cry about.
A Time For Joy
"Jesus said to her, 'Did I not say to you, if you believe you will see the glory of God?' And so, they removed the stone. And Jesus raised up His eyes, and said, 'Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.' And when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth.' He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings..." (John 11:40-44a).
The Scriptures not only speak of Jesus' sorrow, but also of His
joy. He wanted us to share in His joy (John 15:11). Following His death and
resurrection, He spoke of the apostles' "sorrow turned into joy" when they would
learn that Jesus was alive again and said to them that "no one
takes away your joy from you." (John 16:20-22). We recall how that later, even when facing persecution, the apostles would still rejoice (Acts 5:41,42).
The Lord means for us to be glad about our lives. This does not
mean that we are giddy or silly about it, or that we do not give sober
consideration to serious things. It does mean that there is an ever present joy,
even during difficult times, that comes from the realization of God's purpose
and love at work within our lives as we dedicate ourselves to His calling.
Again, like Jesus, who though sorrowful at Lazarus' death, there was also a
gladness within Him that God's purpose would be fulfilled. He said, "and I am
glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Let us go to
him." (John 11:15).
The Proper Balance
"Jesus said to her, 'Your brother shall rise again.' Martha said to Him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to
her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies." (John 11:23-25).
In order to have a successful life, there must be the balance that comes through our confidence in Jesus and His power; that He is "the resurrection and the life". This faith gives us the ability to maintain our balance. The tragedies we face are not crushing; they cause us sorrow but they are unable to destroy us. Paul said that the resurrection enables us to "not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He also spoke of being
"afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8,9).
Yes, the Lord brings balance to our lives, and this in turn gives us hope; which in turn gives us strength. There is a time for everything; good times and bad times. But there is never a time to give up. There is a time to "weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice" but there is never a time not to live by faith. In fact, please note that obedience of the gospel of Christ is necessary for this balance to be achieved and maintained. Jesus said, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done...Blessed are those who wash their, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates of the city." (Revelation 22:12-14).
The Scriptures also state, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that overcomes the world-our faith." (1 John 5:2,3). Maintain your balance!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 7.3; March 2000