Greg Laurie - What To Do With Your Tears?
Tuesday night of this week I woke up at 3:30 and sometimes I'll listen to a podcast. I like to listen to Chuck Swindoll because he puts me to sleep - let me explain. In the best way. I've had people say to me, "Oh Greg, I listen to you before I go to sleep. I hear you talk". I thought now you know what my wife has to deal with. So I listen to his podcasts. I like to hear Chuck's teaching. But on this particular morning I noticed there were some texts which is very unusual to have texts that early in the morning. They were new texts. They were from my son Jonathan. He said, "I'm on my way to Jarrid's dad's house". I thought, "Why are you on your way to his dad's house at this hour"?
And I called him and heard the horrible news that pastor Jarrid Wilson had died. But not just that he had died, but that he had taken his own life. Some of you are hearing this for the first time. I'm so sorry. I screamed out, "Oh God! Oh no"! Because Jarrid had struggled with mental illness and things related to it since his childhood, but he was under the care of a doctor, he was taking medication, and he had been doing so well he wanted to help others who were dealing with this. He even had a ministry called Anthem of Hope dealing with those that face the struggles of deep depression, even clinical depression and suicidal thoughts etc. So to hear that he did it was incomprehensible to me.
And it is an epidemic in our country today. One in five adults experience mental illness each year, but none of us saw these indicators in Jarrid's life that he personally would take this course. But in a moment, that can perhaps be described as a complete mental breakdown, he did the unthinkable. I don't believe this was planned. I don't think it was deliberate, but it happened tragically. Some might say, "Well why didn't he just snap out of it? I mean just come on. You don't have to go to that place".
Well, you know, would you say that to somebody who was struggling with a physical diagnosis? Let's say they had cancer. Would you say, "Why don't you just snap out of this"? Well of course not, because we know cancer is powerful and there's something happening in their body and they need the help of doctors and surgeons. Well, mental illness is illness too. Your mind is broken. It's not your body but it's your mind, and therefore, this is something that's very hard for us to understand. More challenging is for us to understand Jarrid's struggle - his inner lifelong pain. I don't think he was in his right mind when he did it.
Let me say suicide is never the right choice. Ever. The pain it brings is devastating as we all know because we're all affected by it because in one way, shape, or form we knew this young man. We saw him here on the stage. He had been with us for 18 months and he would be up here hosting. Some of you were a part of his young adults group and he was full of life. He was vivacious. He was joyful. He was encouraging. He was loving. That was him and he was always asking others, "How are you doing? Is there anything I can do you for you"? And that was his personality. And really he is one of the nicest guys I think I've ever met in my life.
He made a wrong choice, but have we not all made wrong choices at times in our life? Did not Christ come for people like us? I'll tell you, Jarrid made two really good choices in life. Number one: he chose to follow Jesus Christ. That was his most important choice. Number two: he married his wife, Julie. Very good choice. But he put his trust in Jesus and believed the promise of John 3:16 where Christ says, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life". I believe Jarrid is in heaven right now. Because as I've said before, one moment in a Christian's life can't undo what Christ did for us on the cross.
And Paul wrote in Romans 8:38, "I'm convinced that nothing will ever separate us from God's love. Not death, or angels, or demons, nor our fears today or our worries for tomorrow. Even the powers of hell cannot separate us from God's love". So when you stand before God you won't be judged by the last thing you did before you died. You'll be judged by the last thing Jesus did before he died. That's a very important thing to know. So if a believer does something foolish, sinful, or mistakenly that ends their life or ends in their death, it can't cause them to lose what they never earned in the first place. You don't earn salvation. It's a gift from God to you and it's a permanent gift to you and your name is placed in the book of life and it stays there because it was bought for you by Jesus.
But this has been devastating for us. Our church has pulled together. We've been there for one another. We're praying together, worshiping together, learning together, and yes, we're mourning together because the scripture tells us there's a time to laugh and there's a time to cry. There's a time to rejoice and there's a time to mourn.
Now, let me be direct, and some of you maybe have come in with your own set of problems that are very real to you. You may have recently lost a loved one to suicide or maybe you found out recently that you have cancer or someone you care about has died of cancer or they died in an automobile accident or some calamity has befallen you and your dreams have somehow been shattered. Maybe it's a call from a doctor who said, "We just did that test and I'm really concerned about what we've seen. You need to come in immediately". Or maybe it's a note on your counter and your spouse said, "I'm done with this marriage". Or a new pain in your body, whatever it is.
Crisis - it moves in fast and it takes no prisoners. Pain has knocked on your front door and it's moved in without your permission and it refuses to leave. Maybe this crisis has altered the course of your life and you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy, but it is happening to you. You're not alone. For Job, his whole world as he knew it came crashing down on him in one day. For Joseph, it was a betrayal by his brothers that changed the course of his life. For Jesus, it was the religious leaders and one of his own disciples that turned on him and for you it might be something else. It's like a powerful and unexpected storm has overtaken your little boat and you're starting to lose hope.
It's been said that man can live 40 days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope. We need hope and there is hope.
For us, 11 years ago our world was changed of course when our son Christopher was killed in an automobile accident. When I heard the news, and as I've said before, it's like all the air was sucked out of the room. It was devastating. And there's four things that got me through it and I would add four things that get me through it.
1. It was the Word of God. This is God's word to you. Everything you need to know about God is in this book. Everything you need to know about life is in this book. This book is breathed by God himself. And so it's not just owning a Bible, it's not just marking a Bible, it's your Bible marking you. So what helped me and helps me is going to the Word of God. Not going to my emotions, not going to popular opinion. No. Going to the Word of God and seeing what it has to say to me so it's the Word of God read, it's the Word of God believed and it's the Word of God applied.
2. It was prayer. Praying about my burdens and anxieties and fears that would keep me up at night. Julie Wilson, Jarrid's wife, sent me a photograph that Jarrid had sent her a while ago and it's a photograph of him reading an open Bible and Philippians 4 is marked. You can see it where it says, "Don't worry about anything. Pray about everything and the peace of God that passes all human understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus". And Julie said, "This image and this passage has really ministered to me".
So it's the Word of God, it's prayer. Committing it to the Lord again and again. And then it's the church. The first thing I did was I went to church after it happened and I found encouragement with brothers and sisters and as Jarrid would often say, some things are learned in rows and other things are learned in circles. So it's good you're in church today hearing God's word, worshiping the Lord, but when you're in a smaller group, when you have a group of friends in a circle so to speak, you can find that help you need and reach out to one another. So it's the Word of God its prayer, it's the church, and then it's worship. Worship is so important.
When all of his world came crashing down on poor Job - he lost his family, he lost his health, he probably wished he had lost his wife I have to say. Sorry but she said, "Why don't you just curse God and die"? Hey, thank you for those encouraging words, Mrs. Job. He lost everything though, and what does he do? The Bible says he fell down before God and he worshipped saying, "Naked came I into this world: naked go I out. Blessed be the name of the Lord". You know we don't worship because we feel like it. Do you always feel like worshiping? I don't. We don't give thanks unto the Lord because we feel good. We give thanks unto the Lord because he is good.
I can think of many times when I was down and I just began to worship and everything changed. No, my problems didn't go away and maybe the thing that got me down was still there but I had a new perspective. I saw it differently and that's why when we come together and worship as the body of believers it really makes all the difference and you understand that passage that says, "He inhabits the praises of his people". But what do we do at times like this? We cry out to God.
When Hezekiah received a threatening letter, Isaiah 37:14 says, "He spread it out before the Lord". When John the Baptist was beheaded, his disciples went and told Jesus according to Matthew 14:12 and that's what we need to do at a time like this. We go and tell Jesus. It's not that he doesn't know, but we're just saying, "Lord, I'm putting this before you". That's what Mary and Martha did when their brother Lazarus was sick. Mary, Martha, Lazarus lived in Bethany - striking distance from Jerusalem. Often, our Lord would go visit them on his way into the great city and spend time with them and Martha always whipped up a great meal.
So when Lazarus grew sick they thought "Jesus will take care of this". They sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one that you love is sick", but Jesus did not rush back as they expected. In fact, by the time he arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had died. And so Martha goes to the Lord and says to him, "If you would've been here, my brother would not have died". Very accusatory. "Jesus, why didn't you do something"? And sometimes we say that. You might say, "Why didn't the Lord stop Jarrid from doing this"? Others are angry with Jarrid himself. "Why did you do this to us? It's the most selfish thing you could've done", some would say.
These are the complicated emotions that people feel after the suicide of someone they love and these are not easily answered. Here is what I'm saying to you, we just cry out to God. We cry out to God. And Jesus wept, of course.
Now, Spurgeon - I don't know if you've ever heard of him - most preachers quote C. H. Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a great preacher that lived in London many years ago. Every self-respecting pastor has a collection of Spurgeon's writing starting with the metropolitan tabernacle pulpit, which is pretty much all the sermons he gave. Amazing communicator. A lot of people may not know that C. H. Spurgeon dealt with severe depression. It was so powerful that he would not be able to preach for months. He described it as the mist.
So Spurgeon knew a lot about dealing with depression. Some might say he was clinically depressed. I don't know, but it was real and Spurgeon said this about Jesus weeping, and I quote, "First I want to remind you that Jesus wept because he was truly man. Secondly, Jesus wept for he was not ashamed of his human weakness but allowed himself to reveal the fact that he was in this point also made like unto his brothers. Thirdly", writes Spurgeon, "Jesus wept and therein he is our great instructor. And finally, he is our comforter, and lastly, he is our example".
So what do you do in times of calamity and pain when things don't make sense? What did Jesus do? He wept. Wait a second, why did he weep? Didn't he know that Lazarus was safely in glory? Yeah. Didn't he even know that he would raise Lazarus momentarily from the grave? Again, yes, but he wept because it was just sad and this is sad and that brings us to Psalm 126:1.
When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, 'What amazing things the Lord has done for them'. Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!
So far so good. These are happy, rejoicing people, but clearly something happens between verses 3 and 4. Verse 4.
Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.
So this is a story of a dream being turned to sadness. We don't know the exact background or what this was all about in particular, but all we know is they were really happy and really rejoicing and others were watching saying, "Man, what a good God you guys serve. Everything's going your way", and all of a sudden the Israelites are saying, "But Lord, restore our fortunes, help us. Our eyes are filled with tears. Restore our fortunes like streams in the desert".
Have you ever felt like you were in a desert-like place needing spiritual refreshment? My wife brought to me a message the other day given by Timothy Keller called praying our tears, I thought he had a great outline that I've borrowed and I want to give credit where credit is due and he made four points about what to do with your tears.
Point number 1 is: You can expect tears in life even as a Christian. I think we sometimes think that when we give our life to Christ, there's never going to be sorrow - just pure happiness. Or we may think, "If I'm a good Christian and I read my Bible and I do my devotions and I go to church and I don't let my kids watch SpongeBob SquarePants and make them watch Veggie Tales, everything is going to be good. Sort of like earning the favor and grace of God. Because I've done my part I think, so God won't let anything bad happen to me. Well as we look at this particular passage it doesn't appear they were repenting. I mean we can all repent and we all should repent of our sin. Even in the Lord's prayer he taught us to pray. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us..."
But this is not a Psalm of repentance like Psalm 51 or David after his sin with Bathsheba said, "God, have mercy upon me. Blot out my transgressions". No this was different. Things seem to be going well. They're giving the glory to God, but things are not going well and this happens in other places in scripture. People get down. David, the man after God's own heart, experienced depression and discouragement, and he wrote in Psalm 42:11, "Why are you downcast, o my soul? Why are you so disturbed within me"? Then he sort of corrects his thinking. It says, "Put your hope in God. For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God".
So listen, even men and women of God can get down. I get down. You get down. People expect pastors to have all the answers. We don't have all the answers. We're people just like you are. We have our struggles. We have our challenges, so this happens to people. There is a difference though between depression and feeling down and clinical depression. I want to make that distinction. So we have our tears and we're going to have tears in life but we must remember God is with you in your hour in depression in trial. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18 says.
So number two: we need to invest our tears. Invest our tears, not bottle them up inside, but let them out so God can put them in his bottle and ultimately dry them. We bottle things up. We keep things inside. God says, "No. I keep track of all of your sorrows. I've collected all of your tears in my bottle and they're recorded in my book". The Psalmist tells us to plant or invest our tears. Verse five, "Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Just as a farmer sow seed, you can sow your tears".
We're not told to embrace our sorrows. That's masochistic. We're not told to avoid our sorrows. That's hedonistic. We're to invest and plant our sorrows because that is biblical. We don't want to waste pain or tears. What does that mean? Well, it means have a heart for those who are hurting. Don't condemn them. Love them. Reach out to them. Don't judge them. Have compassion on them. What is the result of sowing our tears? We're promised you'll reap in joy. Verse 5, "Those you plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed and they sing as they return with the harvest".
One last thing: we need to pray our tears. Cry out to God. That's how most of the Psalms would end like in Psalm 16 it's filled with fears. David's very honest about the things he's grappling with. But then he says, "But you've made known to me the path of life. You'll fill me with joy and in your presence, there is fullness of joy, and on your right hand there are pleasures forevermore".
One day God is going to right every wrong. He's going to bring beauty out of ashes and he's going to give joy instead of mourning and until that day we need to lovingly represent him to those who are hurting. Instead of asking why, maybe we should be asking who and what? I don't know that we're going to have an answer to the why question. So let's move on from that for a moment to the who. Who do I turn to at this time? Who do I turn to at any time when crisis comes and crisis will come in every life. I turn to Jesus. Sometimes all I can say is just, "Jesus, help me Lord, help me". Turning it over to him. Bring your sadness, your sorrow, and your questions to him. Okay what am I to do? I'm to love people and care for them. I'm to show compassion to them. I'm to pray for them.
You want to get a nonbeliever to listen to you? Instead of trying to shove the Gospel down their throat after you've talked to them for four minutes, ask them this question: is there any way I can pray for you? Anything you could use prayer for? That might surprise them. I was in a restaurant the other day with a friend and we're getting ready to give our order. The server comes up and my friend says, "How can we pray for you"? I'm thinking, "Oh, really? I don't know if this is going to work. Really"? Man, this guy opened his heart up. He starts pouring his heart out and next thing we know we're praying for this guy. I'm thinking, how does this happen? It just reminds us, there's just so many hurting people out there.
You know, it's been said, if you preach to hurting people, you'll never lack for an audience. So I'm praying and hoping in the days ahead. I think we've been this but I hope we'll be it even more. We want harvest to be a safe place for sad people. We want it to be a loving place for lonely people. We want people to know they're cared about.
You know we had Kay Warren, the wife of Rick Warren out Wednesday and Thursday and we had her out because tragically Rick and Kay had their own son take his life as well. His name was Matthew. He dealt with mental illness for his whole life and she just brought such wonderful encouraging words and actually it's archived on our website if you want to watch the message. "Hope Gets the Last Word" is the title. By the way that was a phrase that Jarrid had coined that I borrowed from him. Hope Gets the Last Word. But Rick Warren wrote these words and I really like them. He says, these are three things every person who is having suicidal thoughts needs to know: "There's a purpose for your life, you are loved, and you're needed in the world".
If there is anybody listening to me right now in this room, watching online, watching on one of our campuses, you've had these thoughts of taking your own life. "No one loves me, no one cares about me, my life isn't worth anything", look, that is so wrong. There is a purpose for your life. God has a purpose for your life and you are loved. I think if we've seen anything from this, we've seen this young man Jarrid was a very loved man. He only was with us 18 months, but he had all these friends everywhere that loved him and you are loved. I don't know why you think you're not loved, but you are loved and you're especially loved by God and you're needed in this world. Please don't go down that road. Reach out for help. There is help.
And maybe you have come here today and you have a lot of questions and you are hurting inside and you don't even know what would happen to you if you were to die. I want you to know that God has a solution. He sent Jesus Christ to die on that cross for your sin and he rose again from the dead and now he stands at the door of your life and he knocks and if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in and you'll never be alone in life again. I made this decision when I was 17 years old and I've never for a moment regretted it and I know you won't either. And I would like to give you an opportunity to pray and ask Christ to come into your life.
Father, we pray now for those that do not yet know you. Help them to come to you and believe. We pray for those that do know you but have forgotten about you or have stumbled or fallen in some way. Lord, help them to come back to you right now.
And if you want to make that commitment or recommitment to Jesus would you just pray this simple prayer with me now. Just pray:
Lord Jesus, I know that you are the Savior. And I know that I am the sinner that needs you. Forgive me of my sin. I turn from it now and ask you to forgive me and I choose to follow you from this moment forward.