“From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: Glory to the righteous! But I said, I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me!” (Isaiah 24:16).
“That I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart” (Romans 9:2).
Both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul expressed the dichotomy of emotion that the faithful pastor experiences. In one sense these giants of the faith found daily rest, refreshment, and rejoicing in the fixed realities of God. In another sense they experienced the daily heaviness and heartache of a godly leader’s responsibility. They were glad every day; they were grieved every day.
We read many articles on pastoral theology that recount circumstances that make a man of God feel glad or grieved. These contrasting emotions are part of life, as referred to in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” As ministry leaders we know the emotional roller coaster of presiding over a funeral and a wedding in the same week or attending a sobering deacons’ meeting and a family birthday celebration on the same day. Many things prompt us to rejoice and grieve at the same time, all the time.
In contrast to our expressions of gladness and grief, the prophets and the apostles did not attach these emotions primarily to people, but to God. Their lives reflected God’s gladness and grief as the moon reflects the light of the sun. This is why they were often grieved in times of circumstantial gladness and glad in times of circumstantial grief. Their emotions reflected the heavenly environment, not the earthly one.
Nineteenth-century English preacher Joseph Parker said it this way, “You will find all along the Christian line that song and discipline alternate. They seem to balance one another; in that, as in the record of Genesis, the evening balances the morning, and the evening and the morning are the whole day.” Gladness and grief go hand in hand.
Living an always-happy, always-sad earthly life is difficult and wearisome. It is a large part of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. We are to know a true sense of personal wellness regardless of the raging river of good or bad around us. But this wellness is absolutely impossible without strict obedience to the Lord’s commands and promises.
As we experience the ongoing tension of gladness and grief, let’s keep the perspective of the apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah in mind:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2).
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Be glad and be grieved!
T. W. Teall, Pastor
Perry Baptist Church
Adapted by permission from February 2007 Peer Pastorale newsletter