Do not sorrow
One of the most striking passages, IMHO, in the Bible is found in the Book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, verses 9-11. The Jewish people, on hearing the Law of the Lord, realized their sins and were crying hard. Instead of asking them to pour their hearts out and confess all their sins, Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites told the people that they should not grieve on that day, as it is day holy to the Lord our God.
If any of them are living today and if they have said something similar to a huge gathering of people who are weeping for their sins, imagine what kind of backlash these servants of God would have received. Especially in Pentecostal circles. Crying, weeping and mourning are considered to be signs of true humility, while having the joy of the Lord is considered to be a sign of someone who does not know what a sinner he is.
A Christian must be filled with joy, because that is what salvation brings to us. If we have truly repented, our sins are forgiven. The love of God is poured into our hearts by His Spirit. Being joyful is not something to be ashamed of.
In our church we have a tradition. We welcome the New Year with a very lengthy service, worshipping the Lord, thanking Him for the good things He has done, for the chastisement He allowed in our lives and praying that the New Year is a blessed one. The actual service starts at 9 pm on December 31st, and ends around 3 am on January 1st. Then we have few cultural programmes and depending on the number of programmes, we finish everything by 4-4:30 am. On December 31st night, we also have a supper around 7 pm. So, the entire time we spend as a church is 9 hours. But most of the time is spent on praising and thanking the Lord.
This year worship was a blessed event for us all. For 2016 was hard on many of us. Many of our believers are daily labourers or those who sell vegetables and make a living. Because of the note ban in India, they are hit hard and are having trouble financially. And, quite a few of our believers were hospitalized this year. To add to that, there is a political turmoil in our state. But for most of the believers, what mattered most was that I was leading the worship – for they had seen me on the verge of death just 6 months back. So, by the grace of our Lord, when I led them in worship, they responded beautifully and the entire service, the presence of the Lord could be felt. Even in their financial straits, these believers were so happy and filled with the joy of the Lord.
Then the cultural programmes started and by the time, the last skit was to be performed, it was 4:45 am and all of us were very tired. But the young men of the church insisted on performing the last skit. And to our dismay, the skit involved showing videos of Christians being beheaded in various parts of the world and being beaten up with rods and so on. The message was: Be joyful, but feel sorrow for those suffering.
To say, the entire church was stunned. The visuals are very gory and the young kids, 2-6 year old ones, were awake and they were watching all these.
I was livid, but instead of lashing out at the young man who was in charge of the skit, I asked him to meet me after two days. It took so long for me to cool off. I called him and asked him why he would do such a skit and show such videos on the New Year morning. He was very proud of what he had done, and said, “Because Christians are not called to be joyful. We should be weeping for those who are suffering.”
Now, it looks so great in paper, but there was one small problem. Most of the funny skits were performed by him that day and it was his wife who led the dance performances. I asked him why he did those things if he was feeling this way. I pointed out that this is hypocritical. But then I asked which of the believers he wanted to feel sorrow that morning.
1. There is this believer in our church, whose daughter is demon-possessed for nearly 10 years now. As a church, we are praying for her deliverance, but in between this believer took her daughter to a psychiatrist and he gave her prescription to make her daughter sleep. Though we all have advised against giving high dosages of medication to her daughter, she keeps giving such high dosages, because she has no other way for her family suffers so much when the young girl is awake. At the age of 25, that girl is incontinent now, as her nerves have become weaker due to the prolonged usage of this drug. That family understands the situation, but they have no choice. Recently when they withheld the medication, she came with the scissors to cut her younger sister’s hair. The entire family is suffering, yet on that day, they all came together, to praise and worship the Lord, and when God spoke to them through prophecy, that they will be delivered soon, the family was filled with joy. So, I asked him, do you expect this family to be sorrow now? He said, no, they are in a severe situation.
2. There is another family. A widowed mother and her daughter. The mother has a serious heart condition, so her daughter could not leave her for long. As a result, she is unable to get a job closer to her home. Their monthly income is a meagre $20, the pension they receive from the government. That is all they have for one month. They have nothing, yet whenever there is a need in the church, they are the first ones to give. And, except in prayers, you do not see them crying. They are always happy, and filled with joy and hope that their situation will change soon. So, you expect them not to feel joy in the presence of the Lord? His answer was again, no, of course.
3. There is another believer. Her husband is a drunkard. He used to beat her up for attending the church, but then now, since his son is also a believer, he does not beat her up. But ever since, their son got married and moved out, he has started troubling her in a different manner. He hates that she reads the Bible at home. So, now what he does is whenever she comes to the church, he would urinate and defecate the entire house, so that she could not keep her Bible anywhere. This has been happening for last few months. Even in this new year, he has done it again. Once she lost her patience and shouted at him. He beat her up so badly, when she came to the church, flesh was hanging from the wounds. Now, she is filled with the joy of the Lord and you want her to be sorrow?
For everything, there is a time and a place. It is sad that Christians do not see the sufferings of their fellow believers as worthy of sympathy. It is very sad that being filled with the joy of the Lord is considered to be a bad thing.
May more and more Christians be filled with the joy of the Lord for that is our strength. May the Lord deliver us all from evil. Amen.
Posted on January 5, 2017, in Christian Life and tagged do not mourn nor weep, do not sorrow, joy of the Lord, Nehemiah 8:9-10, this day is holy to the LORD your God, your strength. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.