Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Streams in the Desert

It's been a rather reflective, pensive time for me the last several weeks. Part of it has to do with the time of year—I'm predictively pensive mid-January through mid-February. Part of it, I just figured out, has to do with sorrow. Sorrow minus despair, mind you. I've tended the last couple of years to invest in relationships a bit more, and I have found that there is a kind of somber sorrow that comes with "bearing one another's burdens" that tends to sober me. There's not so much of a mulling mood as a strengthening of resolve, a focusing of concentration, a clarity of purpose. These are the (few) times when I actually practice what I preach to friends and "take care of myself so I can better take care of others". I tend to get more work done in a shorter amount of time, freeing me up with a little more time to lend an ear or a hand.

Streams In the Desert is quickly becoming a favorite quiet time companion since it was given to me by a dear friend this past December. This evening I read the January 20th entry which shed some light on this year's annual time of predictable pensiveness, so I thought I'd share a bit of it here. The things in bold are the things that jumped out to me, the things that made me voice a deep sighing, "ahhh":

January 20th
Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. —Ecclesiastes 7:3

When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were we in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.

Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions.
It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.

We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and someday when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.

God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after he breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough…by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.The Heavenly Life