Caryl’s Reflections on SORROW……
SORROW (the rendering of a number of Hebrew and Greek words) is understood to represent mental pain or grief that arises from the privation of some good [that we] actually possessed. It is the opposite of joy; contracts the heart, sinks the spirit, and injures the health. (Unger’s Bible Dictionary)
In Isaiah 53:3-4, Jesus was described as “A Man of sorrows.” It is well to note the anguish that accompanied the grief with which Jesus was acquainted: He was rejected, He was despised, afflicted, and not valued (esteemed) by men.
He (Jesus Christ) is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:3-4)
I’m so grateful to Jesus Christ for having walked the sorrows of this life and given us His example of how godly sorrow vs. worldly sorrow can be faced through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit, which is freely given to believers as His Gift of Grace (2 Corinthians 1:5-6; Hebrews 2:10;). The apostle Paul distinguishes two sorts of sorrow: “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The one is that sorrow for sin [that is] wrought by God [and] leads to repentance, while the other is a sorrow about worldly objects which, when separated from the fear of God, tends to death, temporal and eternal. (Unger Bible Dictionary)
Sorrow, it seems, is part of life, and for me, it has recently come in with overwhelming irony and drama that, in most cases, begins with the letter “D” for death, dissolving of friendships, divorce, disappointment, depression, dreams shattered, downright expensive, devilish–and the list goes on! It seems that although sorrow grips the heart and can sink the spirit and may even bring injuries to our health, we, as born-again believers and distinguished as children of God (the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit – Romans 8:16), are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise (Ephesians 1:13) and have miraculously been given the Power of God to equip us in our sorrows. The Person of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (2 Corinthians 1:22), who is the Revealer of all Divine Truth through the Scriptures (John 14:26 & 16: 13), has instructed us through the Word to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience….” and “…rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” (James 1; 1 Peter 4 13). I have been encouraged as I know that He draws close to me in all trials and testings and doesn’t give me anything that He can’t handle. Therefore, in my weakness He is my Strength, that His Power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Where I have been deeply encouraged is in realizing that God’s prescription in dealing with sorrow is to praise Him in adversity and to give thanks for all things (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 1:12, 3:17; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Timothy 2:1). He reminds us to sing praises to His name (2 Samuel 22:50), give thanks, sing psalms, talk of His wondrous works, let our hearts rejoice, seek His strength, remember His wonders, and more! (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)
During these last few months, I have read and re-read the Book of James, which has inspired and motivated me with its teaching about trials, suffering, and testing. I find it a miraculous wonder that at Pentecost my Creator God, based on the simple condition of faith in Jesus Christ, bestowed His ascension gift of His Spirit of Truth on the believer. I am deeply grateful for the office and work of God’s Holy Spirit in His baptizing work to instruct believers, regenerate us, sanctify us, and comfort us in the fulness of riches found in Jesus Christ. I am abundantly appreciative for His baptism into the Body of Christ, which is not only understood as union with other believers in the Body of Christ worldwide (1 Corinthians 12:13) but also into union with Jesus Christ Himself (Romans 6:3-4). What an incredible concept!
Even more awe inspiring is the concept that God’s Holy Spirit indwells every believer perpetually (John 14:17; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20) and fills every believer when special conditions of filling are met, such as praising (and praising and praising) at all times….. “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18). This command to sing and make melody in my heart to the Lord has day and night kept me filled with His Strength, which is my joy: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Even though mourning, weeping, lamenting, sorrow, and sadness are a tragic reality of life, I have personally experienced the joy, comfort, and power of the Holy Spirit’s immediate source of all life, physical and intellectual (Psalm 104:29; Isa 32:15; Job 33:4; Genesis 2:7; Numbers 11:17), and I know His Gracious influence in leading me from sorrow to joy. Many a time, through His patient leading, He has given me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” and the promises associated with His mantle “that we may be called trees of righteousness,” for “the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3;). God’s Holy Spirit is His gift, giving us His ability to overcome severe trauma and sadness. At our choosing, which He gives the encouragement to do, He empowers us to give Him glory. What a privilege it is as He reveals all divine truth through His Word and strengthens our faith!
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven … a time to weep … a time to mourn … I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1,4,12,13)
Scripture cautions against wallowing in sorrow, as witnessed in the story of King David, a man whom God described as “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). When David was faced with the tragic death of his child, he gave his all to the Lord in crying out for his baby’s life: he pleaded, prayed, fasted, and lay on the ground, day and night, to see whether the Lord would be gracious to him and spare his child’s life. But after discovering God’s will on the seventh day after his child died, the Bible tells us that “David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate” (2 Samuel 2:20).
David’s next move was to go and comfort his wife. The Holy Spirit is named The Comforter, and among His many duties is that of bringing comfort to us personally and through us to those around us. It seems as if trials and sorrows of life are designed to bring comfort to us individually, through the work of the Holy Spirit, and collectively, through the Body of Christ by means of the loving comfort and support from others. Over the past several months I have personally experienced this type of amazing encouragement from many hundreds of you worldwide, and I’m deeply thankful.
In my discovering (another D word!) the diagnosis (yet another D!) of cancer, I’ve been brought to tears of joy by the hundreds upon hundreds of messages of loving thoughts, prayers, and messages from you, the global Body of Christ. Some of you are known to me, but many countless others I don’t know personally, but you are my fellow family and friends in Christ, co-labourers in my ministry, and supporters who have brought incredible cheer to my soul during my time of dealing (another D word!) with the cancer dynamic (I’ll refrain from drawing attention to yet another D!).
The first panic (fear and anxiety) that cancer brought into my consciousness was the potential loss of my quality of life and the thought that it perhaps could mean death itself. My first reaction to such thoughts was frightening — yes, that was a new concept, but it was quickly followed by the biblical promise that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord! However, I also questioned my almost glib reaction: was it a true or shallow response? Was it a denial? Or was it really the blessing of joy? As I contemplated on my many new emotions over the past three months, I was thrown into new types of chaotic sadness: I felt the desire to tidy up loose ends, while at the same time I experienced an urgent need to pursue alternate health extremes with supplements and herbal wellness. I was given many–overwhelmingly many–opinions from well-meaning friends. My life became consumed with trying to hold on to health and also try to let go! I found myself with a barrage of questions regarding what God might be trying to teach me through these new health issues and also experienced an awareness of how dastardly cruel and diabolical was the enemy with his onslaughts.
It all seemed to happen very suddenly right after my speaking engagement in Appleton, Wisconsin last September. The theme of the conference was Delusion, Deception, and False Teachers within the Church in These Last Days. My talk was named “Wide Is the Gate” and based on, at that point, the DVD series consisting of Volumes 1, 2, and the Bonus Feature of Wide is the Gate:The Emerging New Christianity. Caryl Productions was nearing the release (that very month) of Volume 3, about the hyper-charismatic and Pentecostal movement, its history, evolution, and present-day influences in the Church. It was the final expose of the series and ran over five hours long in viewing time! This research-packed volume had taken us three years in production, involving many difficulties and setbacks but was now, at last, on the verge of release, and then began my health issues!
It started on a beautiful sunset evening, the eve before my return to California after our successful Appleton conference. My dear friend, Dana, and I were going for a bike ride together to see the setting sun reflecting on Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Suddenly, on a downhill section of the road, traveling at about 20 miles an hour, something happened that didn’t seem to involve anything apparent, but triggered my near-fatal bike accident, which resulted in months of much traumatic suffering. There were also the experiences of first-time adventures too! A high-speed ambulance ride (of which I remember nothing) to local Watertown Hospital, followed by a helicopter airlift to Madison Hospital, which I don’t recall either! Due to a severe head injury, cranial bleeding, and a three-place facial fracture, I received stitches and subsequent surgery. I had an intensive team of doctors while I was in the Emergency Unit who, over the next few days, wonderfully administered to my many daily woes!
I stayed in Wisconsin for several weeks as I dealt with the aftermath of the bike accident, and since returning to California have subsequently had a successful knee surgery along with weeks of physical therapy for lower back injury, and numerous pain-related tests. The left side of my body from head to toe still has partial nerve damage. The downside has been various physical restrictions to what used to be my very active athletic life, but the upside is that there has been slow healing, which continues!
Exactly three months later to the very day of the bike accident, on the 9th of December, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were all shocked by the news of yet another health problem and in the form of this disease as of yet unknown in my family. The cancer has progressively increased thru the lymph nodes, now in both breasts, and recently possibly shifted to my lungs due to an unexpected attack of pneumonia resulting in significant lung disease almost a month ago. Results of a PET scan I took earlier this week should reveal more. (Latest cancer update included at end of this letter.)
Although I’d escaped death itself in the bike accident, we simultaneously learned of my dearest friend Dana’s father who’d been told that he had cancer. The ongoing results from examinations of his symptoms were facing us on a weekly basis while she faithfully nursed me during my recovery and recuperation in her home in Wisconsin. Sadly and subsequently, his cancer resulted in the tragic loss of his life. But during the process, we watched him grow in his faith as he trusted fully what Jesus Christ had for him while he, and indeed all his family, hoped and believed he’d get through the challenge of life with cancer. With gusto he pursued all remedies for physical wellness as well as taking every opportunity to communicate his love of his personal Lord and Savior. Despite health changes and pain, he went about his daily living with a courageous and positive attitude. It was my first encounter watching someone close to me involved in the battle with cancer. After I left Wisconsin, his cancer multiplied aggressively and he deteriorated rapidly. I had meanwhile myself been diagnosed with cancer and was facing my own challenges of learning the speedy downhill tragedies that cancer can take. I was fearfully overwhelmed and threw myself into cancer research, alternative wellness options to traditional medicine protocols, and more.
The next few weeks for me were very daunting–besides the fact that I was keenly aware of the emotions of my dear friend facing the death of her father, I was in survival mode myself. My emotions ran wildly amuck, and I must admit that my sorrow over the ultimate loss of her dad affected me in ways I’d never experienced before. Lost in the hopelessness of a life gone, I found myself contending with a darkness, aloofness, unfamiliar feelings of numbness, unusual mood changes of sheer grief, despair, and a strange off-guardedness at not being able to respond to it all. My consciousness of these strange emotional fusions eventually brought me to a new awakening and deadness that seemed attached to childhood happenings of long ago. Somehow, from somewhere, sorrows and pains that had been tucked away in hidden corners of my soul were surfacing, and over the days, lost in surrealism, I started to realize that I was receiving comforting as the Lord breathed His healing life into long-passed hurts. In all the emotional upheaval, He gently ministered to me through tears, bewilderment, grief for my friend’s predicament that at the time I couldn’t even articulate or empathize with, but my Faithful Lord, through it all, exchanged beauty for ashes and nudged me into a new phase of trust in Him!
As a spiritual seeker in my early 20s, I sought answers to the purposes of life. As a New Ager, I searched through pagan philosophy for a meaning, and even prior to that, raised a devout Roman Catholic, I explored its answers to questions about love and even about death itself. Since becoming a born-again child of God, I’ve learned many of those answers from God’s promises in the Bible and have been given His assurance of afterlife, eternity, and heaven. In my pre-20s, despite having been raised a Roman Catholic and believing myself to be a Christian, I didn’t realize there was a difference between a Christian faith based on a biblical foundation and a Christianity based on religious traditions of “churchianity.” Even though raised in a form of Christianity, I didn’t know of the eternal life given by God the Father through Jesus Christ’s gift of redemption on the Cross. It wasn’t until after my confession of personal faith in Jesus Christ, when I finally admitted that I was a sinner in need of Him as my Saviour, that I fully understood the concept of being miraculously removed from the kingdom of darkness, spiritual death, bondage from the results of the wages of sin and its consequential separation from God for all eternity. I had previously had no idea of the concept of being lost for all eternity, an idea that God has revealed to me since through my searching the Scriptures. Over the years, I started to understand the importance of learning directly from the Bible about foundational biblical doctrines rather than accepting Church traditions on these matters which oft times don’t line up with what the Bible teaches.
Even though I was alive with physical life, I was spiritually dead and vaguely understood, even in those pre-20 years, that that was my sorrowful plight. I tried to drown my lostness in partying, traveling, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and spiritual relief through pagan remedies. I’ve written about this in detail in my autobiography, Out of India: A True Story about the New-Age Movement.
As a very idealistic New Ager, I pursued what I thought were good and worthwhile pursuits, and one of them was the dream of eternal youth through vegetarianism and philosophical rituals such as meditation and yoga, in an attempt, unknowingly, to bypass the judgements of death and the hope of procrastinating death through reincarnation. Somehow thinking that I was capable of sidestepping death by these “other roads,” (reincarnation, karma, Maya (illusion aka wisdom and power) etc, and studying eastern and psychological alternatives became part of my pursuit for better life! However, the idea of living forever as taught in the Bible through God’s way, which means through repentance and confession in Jesus Christ, was a million paths away from me until I was led (a fact unbeknownst to me) to a Bible study in Chicago. That evening in 1973, I was taken through the Word directly to God-given answers about His love and eternity.
Thus began my new life as a new creature who now had trust and faith in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity of God, Who is in communion with God Himself. I learned that God is Love and I realized that Love itself is God Himself. The years of my youthful pursuits as I sought love and self-worth had taken me down some troublesome paths resulting in hurts and abuses that had left painful scars in the depths of my soul. Today, understanding that God is Love, that His Ways are perfect Justice, that He died to forgive and redeem me, and His gift to me of new beginnings, are just a few of the awesome contemplations that He has used to show that He LOVES me! It’s too marvelous to comprehend. But that is the story of the Love of God (1 John 4:9-17).
Even to your old age, I am He, [I will be your God]
And even to gray hairs I will carry you! [through all your lifetime]
I have made [you], and I will bear;[care for you]
Even I will carry, and will deliver you. (Isaiah 46:4)
In my early 20s, I never comprehended that the eternity I was pursuing would end me up in hell with Satan, separated from God, which is exactly what Satan, the ruler/god of this world seeks (2 Cor 4:3-4; John 12:31). I’ve since learned through the Word of God that such a place of eternal torment, the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, was the eternity prepared by God for the devil and his fallen angels. This place of punishment and judgement was never intended for mankind! What was intended for mankind by Jesus Christ was that none should perish, for this eternal freedom He gave His life. Eternal torment in the lake of fire was made for Satan, his followers, and, sadly, for those who choose to reject Jesus Christ and His forgiveness through His bloody offering on the Cross. Belief in Jesus Christ comes with the promise that believers in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16-17 explains, “For you did not send your Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jesus Christ, who is now risen, promising resurrection life to believers in Him). God, like King David, knows what it feels like to lose a Son to death, through God’s love for the world, He voluntarily offered His One and only Son’s life that we may share with Him in His resurrected eternal life.
Because our Creator God placed His concept of eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we have His desire to live forever (a dream that I pursued as a pagan New Ager). He reached out with open arms on the Cross to those who were doomed to an eternity without Him. Such a close shave with an eternity in the wrong place, the lake of fire, has compelled me, since my conversion in 1973, to tell others the good news we have in the free gift of eternity with Jesus Christ through faith in Him.
Such knowledge of eternity with Him should comfort us in the face of impending death as we deal daily with the snatching away of our lives, as I have recently experienced when told I had cancer. The promise in Scripture that was the “Lifter of my head” says, So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5: 6-9).
Over the last few months, as I’ve experienced a plethora of emotions, my greatest praise is the presence of God’s peace in the midst of it all. Jesus Christ promised, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). There is a type of peace that the world gives, but it’s a peace that comes with anxiety and the compelling need to strive in contrast to the Holy Spirit’s peace, which encourages a “letting go” and “letting God.” As the text reminds us, worldly peace brings the heart a troublesome fear that something needs yet to be achieved. But the Holy Spirit reveals that Jesus Christ is the One Who achieves it all. He’s the One to trust in, His accomplishing is sufficient. I give thanks to the Holy Spirit’s guiding Who encourages me to place my trust in the Person of Jesus Christ and rest in a trustworthy relationship with Him.
This test of having cancer has been a blessed reminder in countless promises from the fullness of the Holy Trinity Itself: Promises from the Father, who has different attributes and characteristics from His Son, my Saviour Jesus Christ, who differs yet again from the Third Person of the Holy Spirit–yet all three Persons, in the plurality of God, are united in nature and in mission yet with different roles. Each one is in total community with the others in their fullness of Love with which they have promised to uphold me.
And, amazingly I have also been miraculously upheld with the love and support of the Body of Christ worldwide, by the hundreds who have written to me, prayed for me, and encouraged me almost daily with wonderful blessings and promises from the Word of God! Thank you all.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. (1 John 5:4)
My PET scan results and update as of May 3rd 2015
Sorry to have to pass on bad news as I learned my PET scan results show my breast cancer has metastasized (spread to other parts of my body by way of the blood or lymphatic vessels), and the disease is now in my lungs and bones. The worse problem is that of the growth in my lungs, but I must admit the bone cancer is the most painful by far, which could eventually lead to crippling. Over the past months, as the pain in my lower back has been ongoing and increasing, I’ve been blaming the bike accident and was looking forward to some relief with lower lumbar surgery but now of course such surgery will not be happening due to bone cancer findings. While I thought my knee surgery was successful, the subsequent physiotherapy hasn’t helped in diminishing the pain and I was wondering why – now I know! I’ve been told there is nothing as chronic as cancer pain – the most painful of pains!
The treatment recommended by my oncologist is NOT chemotherapy, which I’m thrilled about, but rather new technology in new drugs which hopefully my insurance will cover? Your prayers for coverage are much needed as the three suggested drugs are each VERY expensive and completely unaffordable by me personally at over thousands per month!
The doctors did predict a short life span from here on which the new drugs could increase if I respond well to them! These then are my prayer requests which I thank you for lifting up before the Throne of Mercy and Grace. And please include prayer for my family. Thank you!