Sharing the Lord’s Heart: Lot’s Syndrome
For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears . . . (2 Cor. 2:4).
In the quote above Paul is expressing a pain that those who are closest to the Lord’s heart often experience. Peter writes of something similar when he describes Lot as “a righteous man who was tormented in his righteous soul by the wickedness he saw and heard every day” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). I have long since christened this “Lot’s Syndrome.” As we will see, this willingness to share in the Lord’s sorrow can lead us to identify much more fully with the Lord”s own heart.
Lot doesn’t always get the best of presses, but there is a call here to share in what I have come to recognise as joyful mourning, deep, deep fulfilment in the Lord’s presence even as we share with Him matters of intense grief. This is what theologians call a profound “antimony:” two things that are apparently incompatible – in this case joy and mourning – flowing together perfectly.
There are countless established cases of how Celtic and modern saints alike experience the intense sweetness of the Lord despite deliberately setting out to live in harsh environment and to engage in decidedly uncomfortable penitential practices. I have written at greater length along similar lines in my article Intensifying Prayer and see especially the section on Sackcloth: The Garment of Affliction.
How can godly people not experience genuine sadness as they recognise the mistakes that they and others have made, and the opportunities that have been missed and the consequences entailed for nations as well as for individuals? And yet, as the writer of Lamentations found, there is always hope, for hope is always present in God’s heart, and their focus is on the heart of God (cf Lam. 3:21-29 HL). The call is to harness these strong emotions to cry out to God with still more determination for Him to move by the power of His Spirit.
As the Lord looks out and sees all the blank stares of unbelief and words of hostility directed against Himself He honours those who take His concerns to heart. Whether it is concern for an individual afflicted by tragedy or a nation; those for whom doors have unexpectedly shut or who realise they have made a mess of things . . . “In all their distress, He too is distressed” (Is. 63:9).
In His love He does not see things as it were from the outside. All the distress victims feel, all the longings people have for good and for God – He feels them strongly from the inside. Yet even when hearts are breaking and in mourning the joy of the Lord is still our underlying strength.
In the article, Intensifying our prayer life, we celebrated the truth that mourning is, in fact, a vital part of true spirituality. We looked at the verses, “It is ‘better to enter the house of mourning than of joy’ and that it is ‘better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting,’ because ‘the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning whereas the heart (some translations say ‘the mind;’ or ‘the thoughts’ of fools is in the house of mirth and sensual joy’ (Ecc. 7:2, 4). To the fool any thought of mourning is an unwelcome hindrance and contradiction to his pursuit of pleasure at all costs.
There are many times when laughter can be the best medicine. It reduces stress, boosts the immune system and helps to heal broken hearts. It is also a wonderful antidote to fear and self-absorption. Charlie Chaplin had a point when he said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
All this is totally valid, but I want to draw attention here to something entirely different.
All this is totally valid, but I want to draw attention here to something entirely different. Henri Nouwen laments in The Return of the Prodigal Son,
‘There are so few mourners left in this world. I am beginning to see that much of prayer is grieving. Love cannot bloom without those who are prepared to see the sins of the world. The grief is so deep not just because the human sin is so great but also – and more so – because the divine love is so boundless. To become like the Father, whose authority is compassion, I have to shed countless tears and so prepare my heart to receive anyone, whatever their journey has been, and forgive them from that heart.’ (p 115)
The Lord’s verdict against Sodom was that it was “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned” (Ezekiel 16:49). Could He not say the same of us in the West
The news brings up such an endless sequence of disturbing images and acts of violence, Lord. Forgive me when I just blank them out. Help me to use specific matters as a spur and springboard to move into praying for the wider issues they represent.
Lord, we long for Your name to be honoured in our land! Forgive us that we have pushed You to one side, as if you were an inconvenience in Your own world.
Forgive us our pride and self-satisfaction. Lead us into richer, deeper expressions of our hearts concern as individuals, families, communities and nations, seeking more to serve and honour others than just to impose our own will and preferences.
May Your Spirit stir up the prayers and mourning that spring = May Your Spirit stir up the godly sorrow that springs
Enlarge my heart capacity to look beyond my own little world and to see people and things more from Your perspective. Make me willing, Lord Jesus, to embark more fully, on this path of mourning for the people and things that You are mourning for.
Thank You that You do not ask of me more than You know that I am capable of bearing. You do not always expect me to be in the wrestling ring or on the sharp end of things – but where You lead let me follow. May Your Spirit stir up the prayers and mourning that spring from Your heart and which rise to touch Your throne room in Heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.