The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.(Proverbs 14:10,13)
Remember that we are examining the verses that we are each day because of the text we are reading being a part of a chiasm. Click here to read more about that if you missed it. Today we are looking at verses 10 and 13. Both of these verses speak about the heart of a person- the inner man, and make some interesting points.
Verse 10- The Privacy of the Heart.
In verse 10, the author indicates that there are some emotions felt so deeply, like bitterness and joy, that they can only be fully accessed or fully felt by the individual. No matter how clearly you speak, or how passionately you share what you feel, there is a part that cannot be felt by another person.
Verse 13- The Sorrow of the Heart.
We must take verse 13 as a possibility and even a probability and not necessarily as universally true. The idea is that laughter and “mirth” are not always an indicator that everything is ok. There are those who may be laughing or smiling on the outside, but internally are dealing with sorrow. As in verse 10, there is the possibility that someone’s expressed feelings or demeanor do not disclose the totality of their emotional or intellectual state. Again, this is particularly true with joy and sorrow.
The implications of these truths are profound. We are all called to minister as believers. We are told to feel something along with other people.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.(Rom 12:15)
Here are three implications that we must recognize:
1. Recognize the Uniqueness of a Person’s Grief or Joy
As we minister to people it is important to understand that each person’s grief and joy is unique to them. We can sympathize with their pain, but we cannot know exactly what they are thinking or how they are feeling. I have had the chance to walk with people through difficulty very similar to things that I have experienced, and this verse conveys to me that I must be careful about saying things like, “I know exactly how you feel”, or “I’ve been exactly where you are.” A better alternative would be to say, “I can’t know exactly how you feel or what you’re thinking but I have endured something similar and this is my experience.” There is a compassion in this. We can sympathize with them while allowing them the room to express as best they can what they are dealing with so that we can minister to them well.
2. Recognize that We Can Assume Wrongly about Another Person’s Emotional and Spiritual Health.
As this verse seems to relate, we could be laughing one moment and crying the next. There are times where people look like everything is great. They “put on a front.” They smile and greet you. You ask them how they are, a common greeting, and the answer will always be “Fine, thank you.” And yet they may not be fine. Not really.
If this is true of others it can be true of ourselves. We must recognize this reality and know that it is not healthy to isolate ourselves. We must find people to share our thoughts and feelings with, and we must be a safe person in which others can confide.
3. Recognize that the only person who can perfectly know our hearts is Jesus Christ.
This is not explicit in this passage, but is known to be true in principle by the scriptures. Consider these verses:
If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.Psalm 44:20-21
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.1 Samuel 16:7
Now you may read the previous two verses and think, “God knows and sees my heart? That is not comforting. I’ll just get in trouble.” I share your sentiment, yet I would counsel the both of us with two thoughts. First, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Knowing that God knows our hearts makes me want to make sure it is right before Him. Secondly, the One who knows our hearts became one of us and died for our sins in our place.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.(Heb 4:14-16)
We can trust the Lord with our hearts. We can go to Him boldly and share with Him, the best we can, what we are feeling. When we do we can trust that our hearts are understood beyond what our words are able to express. He weeps with us. He rejoices with us.
This God who knows our hearts has promised to save us.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.(Rom 10:9-10)
He will cleanse our hearts and restore our joy when we ask.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.(Psalm 51:10,12)
- Is there someone in your life that you need to rejoice with or with whom you should weep?
- Is there a sin that you should confess to God today?
- How is your prayer life?