On The Relationship Between Wisdom And Sorrow: Part One

Earlier this weekend, someone read my post on Psalm 88 and wished for me to write at greater length on the relationship between wisdom and sorrow.  Since this is a question that I thought other people would have, or rather a series of questions that I thought would be of interest to a wider audience, I sought to make a post out of it.  Reflecting, though, in the complicated relationship between wisdom and sorrow, I realized that there was simply too much material to even hope to cover it all at once.  Nevertheless, I thought that there was a way that we could approach the topic through the insights we gained from the lives of various people within the Bible.  Given that the relationship between wisdom and sorrow is obscure, and for our generation a bit counterintuitive, it is worthwhile to set the stage as to what we wish to accomplish.

Given that this is a question without an obvious answer, it may be best to approach this question from a bottom up approach rather than a top-down approach.  Rather than seeking to postulate or speculate on principles and then look for stories or citations that back up these ideas, it would perhaps be best to start from stories we know to involve people who both had great sorrow as well as great wisdom and then to build up such principles as we can securely from those stories themselves.  And since some of the stories we will look at will be quite large, let us first take a wide view where we summarize a story and show that the person involved lived an example of wisdom and suffering, and then, if time and space permit, we will go in greater detail to gain insights from both the wisdom and suffering and to see how they are related to each other.

In this light it is worthwhile to note that the connection between wisdom and sorrow is not an obvious one in our time.  We live in a time where the prosperity gospel encourages people to believe that godliness and immense personal wealth and popularity and success are intricately connected.  This viewpoint had its adherents, under different names, during biblical times, but the connections are not ones that inspire a great deal of confidence in adherents and promoters of that false gospel.  There were some, like Job’s miserable counselors, who took a narrowly and falsely-clamed Dueteronomistic rule that claimed that because Job was suffering, he must have been ungodly.  The book of Job, for all of its complexity [1], is one that has to be addressed when one looks at the biblical example for suffering not because the book is well understood, but because the book itself gives us great insight about the complexities of wisdom and suffering in our fallen world.

Even though the story of Job is an important one, there are many other biblical figures who connect great wisdom with great suffering.  Who could not think of examples like that of Joseph, Moses, Paul, or Jesus Christ, all of whom were undoubtedly wise people who nonetheless suffered greatly over the course of their lives.  However, I will begin this investigation, which hopefully will not end up being too long, with the figure who prompted my reader to ask me the question about the relationship between wisdom and suffering, and that figure is the obscure but particularly beloved [2] Heman the Ezrahite, grandson of the prophet Samuel and one of the wisest people in a time that included King Solomon of the proverbial wisdom.  Does Heman give us any insight into the connection between wisdom and suffering?  If so, what sort of lines of research and investigation can we take from understanding this most obscure but interesting figure of Old Testament history?  And where will this investigation lead us as we seek to understand the broader question of how we are to gain insight into the connection between wisdom and suffering in our own lives?  Clearly, after all, wisdom does not always come from suffering, and there are plenty of people–many of us know many such people and may even be such people ourselves–who suffer much but remain unwise.  How are we to gain something out of our suffering that is of lasting value, if it be our lot to suffer in this present world?

Before we begin this investigation, though, I would like to explain at least a little bit about my own context and approach when it comes to the question of suffering.  I am certainly no stranger to suffering.  No doubt many of my readers will feel the same way themselves.  Rather than attempt to start a game of oneupmanship when it comes to comparing whose suffering is worth with readers who have their own experiences with suffering, I would like instead to comment that my experience with suffering led me from an early life to wrestle with the question of evil, a question which is answered in very unsatisfactory ways by many Christian apologists, and answered in even more unsatisfactory ways by those who deny the validity and importance of the Bible.  In this particular series we will be dealing with people who the Bible clearly considers to be good and who yet suffer and become the wiser for it.  Moreover, in many cases, but not all, these people are rewarded after their suffering as a result of their faith and their longsuffering.  May all of us be able to say the same when all is said and done.

[1] See, for example:



[2] See, for example:




About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On The Relationship Between Wisdom And Sorrow: Part One

  1. Pingback: On The Relationship Between Wisdom And Sorrow: Part Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Living In The Shadow Of Tribulation | Edge Induced Cohesion

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