Paper Cuts and Lemon Juice

Ecclesiastes 7:3 “Sorrow is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart.”

Ecclesiastes 9:12 “Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

Observation: These passages are a reminder of the usefulness of trouble to the man or woman wise enough to learn its lessons.

Application: Upon first reading, these verses seem akin to the Princess Bride wizard who remarks that he may as well be given a nice paper cut and have lemon juice poured on it. Acerbic? Undeniably. Truthful? Uncomfortably so.

How can sorrow be better than laughter or a sad face good for the heart? It is precisely because, for the wise, there is much to be learned from hard times. When things are going swimmingly, when relationships blossom and the business plan seems wonderfully prescient, I enjoy a wonderful season of reaping. But those are not the times I have my greatest growth in Christ. Let a relationship turn suddenly cold or the business stumble, and I am quickly thrust back to dependence upon God.

I intuitively know the truth of this, yet my natural inclination is to linger at ease a bit longer. And if evil times must indeed fall unexpectedly, I would rather they come as a sharpened rapier than as a slashing, dull machete. I would much prefer discovering a leaking water pipe to being found sunning in the path of a tsunami. Alas, mine is not to choose. The very nature of evil times falling unexpectedly is that they are both evil and they are unexpected.

I must be ever mindful that God is sovereign. Nothing comes against me except by His permission. His disciplines are unfailingly for my good, that I might emerge from them profoundly changed. But here is a sobering thought: His purpose behind my experiencing that profound change is not so I would be sharp enough to avoid future such problems. Go back and reread today’s verses. His goal is not simply that I would sun on higher ground in tsunami-prone areas. Rather, He intends to make me more like Christ, conformed to His image, identifying with the fellowship of His sufferings as well as with the power of His resurrection.

Prayer: Father, I don’t like unexpected evil, nor do I willingly volunteer for those things that produce a sad face. But I love You Lord, and I accept that Your purposes for me are better than I could ever imagine. Cause me to learn more of You from all that befalls me.

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