The Hidden Sorrow of Faithfulness in a Fallen World

Our God is faithful.

Even if we are ever not, He always is, of this we can be certain. It’s also clear from Scripture that He calls us to faithfulness. It is, in fact, a fruit of the Holy Spirit – evidence of His presence and work in our lives.

And yet, the call to faithfulness is not an easy road. It’s so hard and so narrow, few will find. And we all know there are moments on this road that knock the wind out of us – some so hard we sit at the road’s edge trying to gather strength to return to it.

The moment of conversion is exciting and profound. In that moment, we’re often surrounded by enthusiasm and support. But the road is long from the ground to glory and there are hidden sorrows and dangers in this long life of faith. We see two of these in the opening chapter of Luke.

You know the story. The priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” (ESV)

They are affirmed for their long faithfulness to God. They have remained righteous and blameless despite not receiving their heart’s longing from the Lord.

They would have known the same Psalms we do. We must wonder if during worship it pricked Elizabeth’s heart when they sang Psalm 37:4Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.And yet, she walked in His ways.

This passage only whispers of her hidden sorrow until after she learns God has answered her prayers at last and she is five months along with her son. Then she says, “‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’”

People can be so unkind. We know how vital it was in those times for a woman to fulfill her expected purpose of producing a child. Early on, there would have been encouragement, prayers, and advice. As the years wore on, there might have been pity or understanding. Finally, though, there was reproach. “the expression of disapproval or disappointment.”

Elizabeth had lived the object of disapproval and disappointment to those closest to her. Probably, she put on a brave face, but inside, this would have been a terrible sorrow. And yet, she walked in His ways.

Other faithful followers before Elizabeth knew the joy of faithfulness tinged with the hidden sorrow of reproach – Noah and his wife, Joseph, Job, David, Daniel. When David faced a choice of consequences for counting his people, he replied, “‘I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.’”

It isn’t a light burden to bear the disapproval of others – to be a living disappointment. Many faithful in Israel expected the Messiah to be different than Jesus. He knew, full well, what it was like to see disappointment in people’s eyes and to bear their disapproval as it was prophesied in Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows  and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

But, Elizabeth’s reproach had an end. God had a purpose in allowing her to endure her hidden sorrow. She would bear life at a time when others considered her past the ability to do so.

This, too, is like Christ. The climax of his reproach was the cross. As He hung there, He would have seen disappointment in many eyes and disapproval, as well. And yet, He bore life after death – defeating death, long after others considered He would be unable to do so.

We don’t talk about this hidden sorrow, but we should. Not to indulge in group self-pity, but to appreciate it as part of the life of a faithful believer who walks with God for a lifetime. To bear it with one another. To know Christ better through it. And to not allow it to separate us from one another.

It’s too easy for Satan to use any isolation to accuse us and discourage us. We need to remind one another that we, too, can bear life in Christ, long beyond our “life-bearing” years.

When the ministry you’ve tended isn’t bearing fruit. When the dream God gave you is so long delayed, loved ones are quietly encouraging you to give up. When you’ve prayed and prayed – knowing God hears – but haven’t seen His hand move. When you’ve waited your whole life to discover where you might fit in His plan but imagine, now, there is no place for you. Remember Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Did you think you were alone, dear one, in secretly growing weary? In wondering if God even sees you any longer? In imagining all your faithfulness was hidden from His eyes?

No, there is a hidden sorrow in life-long faithfulness that touches most who remain on the narrow road.

When you are tempted to doubt His plan for you, to pull off the narrow road, or to listen to the voice of the enemy whisper – “See, God doesn’t hear you. He has no place for you. No plan.”

Say, “No, I come from a long-line of faithful men and women who bore the reproach of others in waiting for God’s perfect timing. I am seen. I am loved. He has a purpose for me, and I will yet bear life in Christ.”

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    The Conversation

  1. Rob McCullough says:

    Thank you Lori. I suspect this w
    I’ll bless others hearts as it has mine. Be Blessed friend of God.

  2. Susan Baggett says:

    That is extremely helpful and encouraging to me. Thank you!

  3. Cheri Hardaway says:

    Perfect encouragement and perfect timing! Thank you for being the voice and heart of God, Lori.

    In Him,

  4. Barbara Latta says:

    In our world of comfort and approval seeking, the world scoffs at the narrow road Jesus taught about. But when we are faithful to stay on that road, the reward at the end is more than worth whatever sorrow we experienced. Walking that narrow road can also toughen us to avoid traps of approval seeking and only seek the face of the Lord who is always faithful.

  5. Irvin is Sanders says:

    Lori, though I haven’t knowledge of your trials, God has put me through the deepest pruning experienced in years. As a grapevine pruned, from Pringle’s of wayward tendrils, branches and thus not connected to other vines reaching out for connection, the branch is forced to drink deeply from roots of nourishing soil to bring new, healthy growth. Just so me this year, the struggle so hard it was hard to trust, yet He gives strength to continue, nourish through His Eord and ministry of the Holy Spirit.