When I was teaching high school, I usually told my students that one of the best things they could do for me was to give me a chance to write an A+ on their papers. Their response was a stifled laughter. They would not believe, or could not believe perhaps, that I would give them an A+. To reinforce that I meant what I said, after the first quiz or presentation or essay paper, I would say, “You got quite good scores, but I would ask you again that you give me a chance to write an A+ on your papers.” Through the years, my students had not failed me. Indeed, they gave me the privilege and joy to write an A+ on many papers.
One time I was agonizing over a report card with many failing grades. I was a registrar, and a few girls worked with me. As I was in this state, one of the girls asked, “Do you teachers really feel sad when a student fails?”
“Why do you ask that question?” I responded.
“Because I haven’t thought teachers are sad when students fail.”
Just as teachers are misunderstood, so is the Holy Spirit. And I would say even so much, much more. I am one of those whose understanding of the Holy Spirit and His role has evolved so slowly. When I first converted into the Adventist faith, my picture of God was one who got angry when I sinned, one who had prepared a hell of dancing, licking flames for me if I didn’t shape up. I felt very fearful to approach Him and ask for forgiveness. Like a child who was afraid to face an angry father who had a long, leather whip in his hand, I tried to “run away.” Then my picture of God changed. I realized that He is a loving Father who is ready to forgive. Like a child coming to a loving father, I saw Him with two outstretched arms waiting to receive me despite my failures. But only recently have I pictured God hurting. Only recently have I seen Him weeping in great pain. Only recently have I realized that He grieves and that He grieves so deeply when I sin.
The Holy Spirit grieves. He grieves, and the depth and the rawness of that grief we humans cannot fathom. Hence, Eph. 4:30 reminds us, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (NIV). The first mention in the Bible about God grieving is in Gen. 6:6: “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (NIV). In His dealings with the Israelites in the wilderness, God said, “Forty years long was I grieved with that generation” (Ps. 95:10, ASV). Isaiah, speaking about the Israelites, penned, “They . . . grieved his Holy Spirit” (Isa. 63:10, NIV).
The Holy Spirit grieves. And many of us do not even realize that He grieves (see RH Dec. 23, 1890, Art. B, par. 11) and how much He grieves when we sin. In her counsel to one woman, Ellen White, said, “I beg of you to stop and consider how much you are grieving the Holy Spirit of God!” (DG 188.2). How well then it is for us today to stop—to pause for a moment—and ask the question: “Am I grieving the Holy Spirit? How do I grieve the Holy Spirit?”
There are many ways we can grieve the Holy Spirit. In Eph. 4:30, the apostle Paul specifies that we grieve the Holy Spirit “by the way we live” (NLT). Gen. 6:5 spells out why God was grieved, why His heart was filled with pain: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (NIV). In addition, the Lord expounds in Ps. 95:10 the reason for His grieving. He describes the Israelites as “a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways” (ASV). Further, Isaiah qualifies that it was because of their rebellion that the Israelites grieved the Holy Spirit (Is. 63:10). Ellen White also points out that the Holy Spirit is grieved “when the human agent seeks to work himself [or herself] and refuses to enter the service of the Lord because the cross is too heavy or the self-denial too great” (CH 561.1); that the Holy Spirit is grieved because of our “lukewarm religious life” (TDG 64.4), our “lack of consecration and faith (RH Sept. 17, 1908, par. 1), our careless disregard of His law (see Lt24-1893, 7).
How shall we take this idea of grieving the Holy Spirit? The counsel is that we should consider that “it is a serious thing” (CH 561.1). It is serious, very serious, because it is a life-and-death issue. Ellen White emphasizes that constantly grieving the Holy Spirit, constantly walking contrary to the ways of God, constantly resisting the Holy Spirit’s pleading “has cost many a one the loss of his [or her] soul” (FW 17.3). She further makes it clear that men and women who perish do so, not because God delights in the death of sinners, but because “they have refused to give heed to the warnings that have been coming to them for years” (Ms 34-1906-7).
The Holy Spirit grieves. He grieves when we sin. He grieves when we resist His invitation to repentance. He grieves when we close every ray of light and choose darkness. He grieves when we are lost because He has only one desire—that we “shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
The Holy Spirit grieves. Yes, He grieves. How many of us, then, will resolve to seek the Lord with all our heart? How many of us will turn from our evil ways? How many of us will plead, “[Lord], do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11, NIV)?
Let us be counted among those who will.
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