The Narrow Way
of the Cross
"Enter by the narrow gate,
for the gate is wide, and the way is broad
that leads to destruction,
and many are those who enter by it.
for the gate is small, and the way is narrow
that leads to life,
and few are those who find it."
Truly, truly, I say to you,
that you will weep and lament,
but the world will rejoice;
you will be sorrowful,
but your sorrow will be turned to joy.
Many Christians attribute all suffering to the devil. I have actually heard more than one Christian say, "God doesn't cause or even allow suffering. If He does, I want no part of Him!" I once heard a renowned Bible teacher say that suffering is only attributed to God in the Old Testament because people could not tolerate the idea of Satan then. These statements from the mouths of people who profess to believe the Bible is the Word of God send shock waves through me. It is, of course, blasphemy. It is amazing that Bible believing Christians can find such flimsy excuses to deny the truth of the word of God.
Jesus admonishes us in His Word to enter by the narrow way.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14 NAS).
If we understand the meaning of the words in The Word, this passage of scripture makes a powerful statement. The second usage of the word "narrow" in the above reference means "pressure, suffering and tribulation" in the Greek. This means that the way to life is through suffering and tribulation. This suffering is ordained to bring death to the self and the flesh. It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22). The word for tribulation is the same word as "narrow" in the Greek) .
The Metaphor of Childbirth
All of childbirth is a metaphor for bearing fruit and life in the Christian walk. The principles of the pain of childbirth are applicable to the pain of the trials and tribulation of both men and women.
Jesus was speaking to His disciples when he uttered these words:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world" (John 16:20-21 NAS).
Like the narrow way, childbirth brings life.
"For thus says the LORD, 'I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see, if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob's distress, but he will be saved from it. And it shall come about on that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'that I will break his yoke from off their neck, and will tear off their bonds; and strangers shall no longer make them their slaves. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them" (Jeremiah 30:5-9 NAS).
The word "narrow"
as in the "narrow way"
suffering and tribulation.
Paul wrote, "my little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
The word "tribulation" is from the Latin word "tribulum," which means "threshing sledge". A tribulum is a farming instrument still used in many third word countries today. A tribulum is a large log covered on all sides with sharp, tooth-like stones. It is hitched to an oxen to break up the soil before planting.
Anyone who has been through tribulation can identify with this word picture.
One Hebrew word for "plough" means "to open wide or to let go free". This is also the root word for "entrance" as used in the following scripture.
"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 110:130).
This says to me that before God can sow the seed of His word in our hearts, it is necessary for the soil of the heart to be ploughed, pulverized and opened wide in surrender to Him. Once the fruit of His seed comes forth, it must be threshed and separated in order to be made into bread It is evident that Jesus went through this process to become the Bread of Life. Similarly, this process is necessary to make us one bread with Him, that we may be fed and become feeders of others.
"For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17).
The seed that is sown
is the word of God
The soil is the heart.
The Parable of the Sower
We continue on this journey of studying the metaphor of childbirth as a word picture for the narrow way that leads to life by studying the parable of the sower.
"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty" (Matthew 13:18-23 NAS).
The parable of the sower tells us that the seed is the Word of God (Mark 4:14). The ground into which it is sown is our heart (Matthew 13:19). According to this parable, understanding is a key to bringing forth fruit (life). As we meditate and think upon truth, it is sown in the soil of our hearts like seed (Matthew 13:19, 33). But there is still much more to the process.
One of the words for "seed" in the Greek is "sperma". The word "womb" in the Greek also means "heart" or matrix (a womb-like environment). Psalm 97:11 (NAS) tells us that God sows light like seed for the righteous. God's sperma (light) is sown into the womb/heart of the believer. Depending on the condition of the soil of the heart, fruit comes forth—evidence of the life of Christ in us.
Life and truth must be birthed
in our hearts
by the Spirit of God.
One Greek word likens having a mental conception to conceiving a baby. When God sows the seed of life and light, understanding and revelation (the baby) are conceived in the heart. Like a baby, life and truth must be birthed within our hearts.
As Jesus, The Word, was made flesh, so this birthing of truth is the Word becoming flesh within us. Like the infant in the womb, this new life fills us with joyful anticipation. It fills us with love for it. It kicks us to let us know it is alive. Toward the end of the pregnancy, it makes us very uncomfortable. We are ready for that truth to be manifested.
For nine months life develops. Like a seed sown in the ground, it is impossible to know when labor will commence or what that life will be or look like.
One day labor begins with mild discomfort. Labor pains come in unrelenting waves, growing stronger and closer together as the minutes pass until they almost overlap. Over a period of hours, labor develops into great tribulation. There is tremendous pressure as the surges of pain begin to move the baby down into position in preparation for birth.
It is a narrow way through which we all enter life (Matthew 7:13-14). It takes many a pang to open the womb the necessary ten centimeters through which the baby must pass. The one giving birth is in fear, trembling, anguish, weeping, sorrow and lamentation, just as Jesus described in John 16:20-21.
There is no way to describe the pain of childbirth. To say it is excruciating reduces it to a mere word instead of the unbearable pain that it actually is. It is not only painful, but there is incredible pressure.
A woman in labor does not have the option of calling off the delivery. She
must endure until the end in order to be delivered (saved, healed and made whole)—in order for life to break forth.
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with joyful shouting.
The Spirit Gives Life
Most of us hold our breath when we have physical or emotional feelings of any kind. Doing so only makes the labor of childbirth harder and longer. In order to hold our breath we must tense our bodies, hindering the process of childbirth. Focused breathing in labor allows the pain to do the necessary work for delivery, for " . . . the spirit [the breath] giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).
"Spirit" in both the Hebrew and Greek means "breath". Tribulation is about
learning to walk in the Spirit (the breath) of God. Learning to walk/breathe in the Spirit through the pangs of trials, eases the journey from death to life.
Finally the womb reaches ten centimeters. The midwife announces that the one giving birth is "complete" (perfect). Life is ready to burst forth. It is time to push. It is the only time any effort is allowed in childbirth.
"Life is difficult.
This is a great truth.
It is a great truth,
because only once we truly
see this truth,
can we transcend it."
It takes tremendous strength to push a baby through the birth canal. As each pain builds to a crescendo, we wait and breathe for it to pass so we can push again. Finally the top of the baby's head can be see. This glorious moment is called "crowning". Scripture uses this same concept as a metaphor for enduring trials.
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation [trials and testing]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).
The expression for giving birth in Spanish is "dar a luz". It means "to bring to the light". What a great word picture. Just as a seed incubates in the darkness of the soil, just as the womb is the place of darkness for incubating the new life within which comes to the light, so too does the seed of the Word of God emerge from the depths of darkness in our souls to give us light.
"Thy people will volunteer freely in the day of Thy power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn [daybreak], Thy youth are to Thee as the dew" (Psalm 110:3 NAS).
That which has been hidden is revealed (Mark 4:22). That which is made visible by the light becomes light (Ephesians 5:13 NAS). We see the same principle when Jacob wrestled with God until the breaking of the day. It was at that time that he received his new name/identity (Genesis 32:22-32).
"Delivered" or "saved" in the Hebrew means "to open, wide or free". We are delivered from the death of the letter of the law to the life of the Spirit of the law, from darkness to light, from a narrow place into a broad place—a place of liberty.
We cannot enter through the broad way, the place of liberty until we have gone through the narrow way. The broad way will only lead to licentiousness. Once we come through the narrow way, we are mature enough to walk in liberty without chronic, habitual unrepentant sin.
" . . . thou hast enlarged me [brought me into a broad place] when I was in distress [a narrow place] . . . " (Psalm 4:1).
Brought to Birth
"For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17).
The word "broken" used in the above passage means "to burst, to break (down, off, in pieces, up), to bring to birth, to crush, to tear". The word "contrite" means "to collapse (physically or mentally): break, contrite, crouch).
The heart and spirit
that have been broken
have been brought to birth.
We are not only the one in labor, we are also the one being birthed.
The heart and spirit that have been broken have been brought to birth. This sacrifice is the sacrifice that delights the heart of the Father.
Tribulation Casts Out Our Sorrows
In tribulation, we are not only bringing forth life; but we are also casting out our sorrows.
"Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth? They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows" (Job 39:3).
"Those things that hurt instruct."
Joy Cometh in the Morning [Light]
The weeping and lamentation of the tribulation of childbirth is a time of death, darkness and misery. God's Word promises though that joy comes in the morning.
" . . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
"A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world" (John 16:21).
Spontaneous joy follows sorrow when life comes forth.
Tribulation Births Full Understanding of God and His Ways
Joe Oakley, my former pastor and very good friend, occasionally uses the following example in his sermons. When he first began studying math in school, he discovered that the answers to the problems were in the back of the text book. For his first homework assignment, he quickly copied the answers for the lesson on a paper and proudly handed it into his teacher the next day.
Joe expected a score of one hundred on his lesson. He was shocked and dismayed when she returned his paper. Scrawled across the top of his paper was a big fat zero, along with the comment, "Show your work".
The point of Joe's illustration is obvious. We want to know the answers to the
problems without learning to do them or to "show the work".
I see a similar illustration out of my own life. When I studied algebra in school, it took daily, diligent practice and time in the math lab to learn how to solve those problems. Many times I wanted to drop the course because of intense anguish and anxiety. The fact that I could not understand how to "show the work" many times drove me to tears and threats of quitting the class. However, each time I arrived at a crisis, I endured and pressed through my pain and fear.
If I had merely memorized the material in my algebra class, I would not have remembered what I learned. Once I actually understood the lessons, I never forgot. I achieved an average "A+" in both algebra classes. As I learned to solve the problems, my confidence soared. I actually grew to love math.
Christians do the same thing. We find the answers in the Big Book. We even memorize them, but we cannot show the work. That's because God has to reveal it to us and cause it to become flesh within us. He does this by taking us through the narrow way of the cross.
"All thought worth thinking
is conceived in the furnace of suffering."
Knowledge without understanding and testing is no knowledge at all. It is precisely this kind of knowledge that puffs us up. Understanding is birthed in us through tribulation. Understanding leads to true knowledge. It takes the narrow way of the cross to truly learn. There is nothing like tribulation to prove God's word to us and to show His work in us.
The pain of the narrow way of the cross is the price we pay to learn and understand truth and to know and understand God. Without it we remain artificial people who have never learned how to actually "show the work".
The Cleansing Fires
The fires of God purify our hearts of all pretensions and wrong motives. We experience the fires in the depths of our soul as deep emotional and sometimes physical pain. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 tell us that there will be a day when we stand before the Lord. In that day our works and our words will be tried by fire. These fires will manifest our works as dead works of the flesh or as good works of the Spirit.
"I owe more to the fire and the hammer than to anything else
in my Lord's workshop.
I sometimes question
whether I have ever learned
anything except through the rod."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"Now if any many build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved: yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:12-13)
Gold, silver and precious stones are, in this context, the good works of the Spirit. Wood, hay and stubble are the dead works of the flesh.
My husband was gravely ill in the 1980's. He was also going through what was at that time the largest personal bankruptcy in the history of the United States. He died in 1987. I saw much of the wood, hay and stubble of his life being consumed by the purifying fires of the cross of God. He exposed so much of my own heart during those sometimes terrifying years. At the same time, those fires worked gold, silver and precious stones into my inner man and his.
My prayer has always been, Lord, let me and my works be tried with fire in this life so that there will be no wood, hay and stubble when I stand before you in heaven.
The only things that
burn up in the fires of testing
are those things
which have us bound.
The Fires Deliver Us From Bondage
There is no clearer demonstration of the principle of deliverance from bondage through the fires of the narrow way of the cross than Shadrach, Meschech and Abed-Nego. They were thrown into the fiery furnace, because they took a righteous stand. They refused to bow in worship to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 3:24 tells us that consequently they were bound and thrown into the furnace.
To Nebuchadnezzar's great amazement, when he looked into the furnace, He saw Shadrach, Meschech and Abed-Nego walking around in the midst of the fires. And they were not alone. There was One walking with them in the fire Who could only be the Lord Himself. Neither were they burned. When they exited the furnace, there was not even the smell of smoke upon them. The only thing that was burned in the fire was that which had them bound.
" . . . Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25).
Just like the three Hebrew children, when we go through the fires, we are not alone. The Son of God goes through them with us. And the only things burned are those things which have us bound.
The Blessings of Tribulation
We all come to the Lord with a heart encapsulated in stone and engraved with all kinds of rules and laws. Through the trials and tribulations of the cross, God chisels away that stone from our hearts as well as our bondage to it.
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).
The Christian life is not one of magic but of process. The following scriptures speak of the many blessings of the tribulations of narrow way of the cross. My favorite is James 1:2-4 (Phillips Version).
"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots."
" . . . Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5 NAS).
"For [our earthly fathers] verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but [God] for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised by it" (Hebrews 12:10-11).
"See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying,' Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' And this expression ‘Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:25-29 NAS).
" . . . reproofs of instruction are the way of life; to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman" (Proverbs 6:23-24).
"Turn to my reproof; behold I will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you" (Proverbs 1:23).
"But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me,
I shall come forth as gold."
"He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression" (Job 36:15).
"Though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10).
"Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (Hebrew 2:17-18 NAS).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NAS).
"Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:8-10 NAS).
"Suffering without understanding
in this life is a heap worse
than suffering when you have at least
the grain of an idea of what it's all for."
Mary Ellen Chase
"For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance"
(Psalm 66:10-12 NIV).
"Passing rough the valley of Baca [weeping] they make it a spring, the early rain also covers it with blessings" (Psalm 84:6).
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt" (Hosea 2:14-15).
"Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron [margin note: His soul came into the iron]: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free" (Ps 105:16-20).
"Whoso loveth instruction [chastisement] loveth knowledge" (Proverbs 12:1).
"The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
"The avoidance of legitimate suffering
means we also avoid
the growth that problems demand of us."
"The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction [chastisement] despiseth his own soul; but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding" (Proverbs 15:31-32).
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of [God's] child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).
"Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy word" (Psalm 119:67).
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Ps. 119:71).
"And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weak- nesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NAS).
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).
"The rod and reproof give wisdom . . . " (Proverbs 29:15).
"Before destruction the heat of man is haughty, and before honour is humility" (Proverbs 18:12).
"We are healed of a suffering
only by experiencing it to the full."
"In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end" (Deuteronomy 8:16 NAS).
Jesus described the tribulation of childbirth as filled with weeping, lamenting, anguish and sorrow. He also said when life comes forth, sorrow would be turned into joy.
The contemporary church understands joy in principle if not in substance. It is weeping, lamenting, anguish and sorrow we don't understand. Those who dare to mourn and weep are treated as lepers. Attitude and accusation ask those in the midst of tribulation, "What do you have to be sad about" Those who say such things lack understanding of the cross and the deep sorrows that accompany its workings in our lives.
Godly sorrow is mourning before the throne of God. Through grief and weeping, Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord over her barrenness.
"And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly . . . Then Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.' But Hannah answered and said, 'No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD'" (1 Samuel 1:10, 14-15).
Eli's reaction to Hannah reminds me of the Pharisee's response to the woman who washed Jesus's feet with her tears.
"Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39).
Weeping and grieving are relegated to drunkards and wretched sinners from the pharisaical point of view. God sees it differently. He answered Hannah's prayer with the birth of Samuel. Jesus said to the woman who washed his feet with her tears, "Your faith has saved you" (Luke 7:50).
The people of the Bible grieved over all kinds of things. They endured the same heartaches, disappointment and broken dreams as we. They wept over the death of loved ones. They wailed over barrenness. They grieved over betrayal.
"Godly sorrow produces repentance."
(2 Corinthians 7:10)
There is another scriptural reason to grieve besides these painful things. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that godly sorrow, which means "mourning", produces repentance.
Repentance is not a decision made by our mind or our will. It is the fruit of godly sorrow (mourning). Repentance is not the end of the fruit of mourning. Repentance birthed out of godly sorrow is without regret. And it leads to salvation, which means healing, wholeness and deliverance.
James 4:6-10 (NAS) adds further insight into this process.
"But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."
The pain of life best buys for us
that intimacy with Christ
that money is powerless to purchase.
Mourning IS humbling. Humbling IS mourning. This pattern of fasting, humbling, mourning, weeping, wailing, repentance and restoration can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments. Even so, it is something we have become uncomfortable with in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We don't have time today for sorrow and grief. In the opinion of many, we only need to speak into the lives of sinners and those suffering and they will be healed and delivered.
Sometimes God works this way. Usually He does not. He has never changed His ways. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There has always been enough time to bring our sins and sorrows to Jesus for healing. There always will be.
The book of Joel is at least in part an end time book. Here ye the words of the Lord through His prophet Joel.
"Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the libation are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord" (Joel 1:13-14 NAS).
"'Yet even now,' declares the LORD, ‘Return to me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments. ‘Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil'" (Joel 2:12-13 NAS)
"The great Praying Hyde
worked in Punjab and shed tears there
100 years ago.
Now we see the fruit of his tears
As a result of the Gospel work
of all the missions and groups
during the last 150 years,
Punjab now has about 250 churches."
India National Inland Mission
It is important that we grasp the importance of the principles of the narrow way of the cross. It is one of God's primary ways of restoration. Once we under- stand this, we can respond biblically to the pain in our lives with godly sorrow (mourning). Though we understand little about this process in our culture, the Scriptures are replete with tribulation and the grieving and sorrow that accompany it.
The most powerful intercession in the Bible was done with great weeping and sorrow.
"Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" (Jeremiah 9:1).
The most powerful intercession
in the Bible was done
with great weeping and sorrow.
Hear the voice of the Lord through the prophets calling for the mourning women.
"Rise up you women who are at ease, and hear my voice; give ear to my word, you complacent daughters. Within a year and a few days, you will be troubled, O complacent daughters; for the vintage is ended, and the fruit gathering will not come. Tremble, you women who are at ease; be troubled, you complacent daughters; strip, undress, and put sackcloth on your waist, Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. For the land of my people in which thorns and briars shall come up; yea, for all the joyful houses, and for the jubilant city. Because the palace has been abandoned, the populated city forsaken. Hill and watchtower have become caves forever, a delight for wild donkeys, a pasture for flocks; Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fertile field and the fertile field is con- sidered as a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteous- ness will abide in the fertile field. And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places; And it will hail when the forest comes down, and the city will be utterly laid low. How blessed will you be, you who sow beside all waters, who let out freely the ox and the donkey" (Isaiah 32:9-20 NAS).
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for the wailing women, that they may come! And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears, and our eyelids flow with water. For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion, "How are we ruined! We are put to great shame, for we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwellings."' Now hear the word of the LORD, O you women, and let your ear receive the word of His mouth; teach your daughters wailing, and everyone her neighbor a dirge" (Jeremiah 9:17-20 NAS).
"And let them make haste
and take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may shed tears,
and our eyelids flow with water."
Whether it was Ezra (Ezra 9:10), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-11), Mordecai and Esther (Esther 4:1-4), David (Psalm 35:12-14), Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4), Isaiah, Jeremiah and Joel (as mentioned earlier), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 21:2-7), Daniel (Daniel 9:2-6), Amos (Amos 5:16), Ninevah (Jonah 3:8-10), Micah (Micah 1:8-9), Zechariah (Zechariah 11:1-3, 12:10-13:1), Jesus (Matthew 9:14-16, John 16:20-21, Hebrews 5:8), Paul (2 Corinthians 7:10) or James (James 4:6-10), the message was the same.
"Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:6-10).
Lord Jesus, I am afflicted and needy. Hasten to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer. Lord do not delay. Teach me your truths about the narrow way of the cross—about tribulation, grieving and sorrow. They are foreign to me. Give me eyes to see truth, ears to hear truth and a heart to understand truth that I may turn and be healed. Open the fountain of my heart that my eyes may shed tears and my eyelids overflow with water. Bring repentance, healing, wholeness and deliverance to my heart. Birth your life and truth in my heart. Make me an intercessor for your kingdom and for your glory. In Your Name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Be miserable and mourn and weep;
let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom.
The Narrow Way of the Cross (c) by Anne Murchison 1999
Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for for personal use.
Please credit the author.