It is abundantly evident that, however natural it may be for us to feel sorrow at the death of our relatives, that sorrow is an error and an evil, and we ought to overcome it. There is no need to sorrow for them, for they have passed into a far wider and happier life. If we sorrow for our own fancied separation from them, we are in the first place weeping over an illusion, for in truth they are not separated from us; and secondly, we are acting selfishly, because we are thinking more of our own apparent loss than of their great and real gain.
Recently, one friend asked me, "How can I force myself to smile when I am filled with sorrow? It isn't natural." I told her she must be able to smile to her sorrow, because we are more than our sorrow. A human being is like a television set with millions of channels. If we turn the Buddha on, we are the Buddha. If we turn sorrow on then we are sorrow. If we turn a smile on, we really are the smile. We can not let just one channel dominate us. We have the seed of everything in us, and we have to seize the situation in our hand, to recover our own sovereignty.
The happiest, sweetest, tenderest homes are not those where there has been no sorrow, but those which have been overshadowed with grief, and where Christ's comfort was accepted. The very memory of the sorrow is a gentle benediction that broods ever over the household, like the silence that comes after prayer. There is a blessing sent from God in every burden of sorrow.
Can I see another's woe, And not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, And not seek for kind relief? Can I see a falling tear, And not feel my sorrow's share? Can a father see his child Weep, nor be with sorrow filled? Can a mother sit and hear An infant groan, an infant fear? No, no! never can it be! Never, never can it be!
Easy to see that naught save sorrow could bring a man to such a view of things. And yet a sorrow for which there can be no help is no sorrow. It is some dark sister traveling in sorrow's clothing. Men do not turn from God so easily you see. Not so easily. Deep in each man is the knowledge that something knows of his existence. Something knows, and cannot be fled nor hid from. To imagine otherwise is to imagine the unspeakable. It was never that this man ceased to believe in God. No. It was rather that he came to believe terrible things of Him.
Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin "" it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin "" it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, 'this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I'm continuing to stab him with it!'
The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us.
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