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Heaviness Through Manifold Temptations - Reflections for Personal Devotion and Conversation with Others

Sermon 47 in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley
By: Lauren DeLano

 

  1. How does the word heaviness speak to your experience of grief and sorrow in the world? How does being a Christian open ourselves up to experiencing heaviness in the world? How is our faith strengthened by experiences we have of heaviness, sorrow, and grief?

Wesley differentiates between darkness and heaviness in this sermon. Darkness is something that we are drawn into through temptation or sin. We experience darkness as a result of a lack of faith or a time when we have turned from God. Heaviness does not result from a lack of faith, and heaviness does not destroy our faith. In fact, heaviness -- also often translated in 1 Peter 1 as sorrow or grief -- comes because of our faith. Wesley prefers the word heaviness to sorrow or grief because it leads us to think about the way that our heaviness or grief “makes a strong impression upon, and sinks deep into, the soul.” How does the word heaviness speak to your experience of grief and sorrow in the world? How does being a Christian open ourselves up to experiencing heaviness in the world?

  1. How is our faith strengthened by experiences we have of heaviness, sorrow, and grief? Can you name experiences in your life where you experienced a heaviness that “purified” or strengthened your faith?

Faith does not shield us from sorrow or suffering. In fact, as our hearts are opened to love, sorrow can increase. When we open ourselves up to a love of God and a love of others, we may experience even more sorrow and grief as people of faith. Why is this? We feel passionate about certain people, certain justice issues, places, etc., and because we care about people, places, and issues, we open our hearts up to experiencing sorrow and sadness. Wesley says that personal trials can purify us, as gold in a fire (1 Peter 1:7). These experiences can expand our love for God and all creation. How does faith lead to "sorrow" or "heaviness,” to use Wesley’s word? How is our faith strengthened by experiences we have of heaviness, sorrow, and grief? Can you name experiences in your life where you experienced a heaviness that “purified” or strengthened your faith?

  1. What is the relationship between our living hope and our inheritance in Christ, on the one hand, and our sorrows and sufferings, on the other?

Part of our experience as humans is to know and go through sorrow and suffering. Yet, even though we know we will go through these times, we have hope that there is more to the world and more to our lives than sadness and suffering. As Peter says, we are given a living hope through the resurrection of Christ. We have an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled. This hope, however, does not harden us to suffering but gives us the strength to embrace it. In faith, we stand in the midst of suffering. It is worth noting that we have this inheritance, and this living hope, now. This vision, planted in our hearts, provides the light that we take into the trials of the world. What is the relationship between our living hope and our inheritance in Christ, on the one end, and our sorrows and sufferings, on the other?