Mourning: we think of it primarily as grieving the death of a loved one , but in reality it is a multi-faceted emotion that gets us through tough times. Amazingly, I learned this truth in the frozen food section of a grocery store.
As I finished shopping and prepared to return to my new apartment, which I hated, my eyes welled up with tears – again! How did I end up like this? Sad most of the time; which caused me shame because I contributed this excessive mourning to a lack of faith. Nevertheless, I continually screamed at God “I want my life back.”
Since I was in a public place I pulled myself together and wiped the tears away. I patted myself on the back for my bravery and continued to talk to God; well it was more blaming than talking, when suddenly my self-pitying musings were interrupted by someone calling my name.
Ugh, a talk with a chatty and upbeat friend from church was not on my agenda. Turning to acknowledge her, I immediately regretted my negative feelings – there was such concern in her eyes. Inevitably, the conversation turned to my divorce. After all, my husband leaving reverberated throughout the church congregation.
Shaking her head my friend commented, “I’ve never seen a church suffer such intense grief over a situation like this before.” My heart sank; after all, causing other people pain only increased my shame. Tears began welling up again.
THERE IS A TIME TO MOURN
Interpreting my reaction correctly, she hugged me and said, “You know the Bible tells us there is a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4b) and this is one of those times. Mourning is a healthy reaction to a devastating blow.”
Surprisingly her words lifted my spirits. The Bible does record many examples of mourning together over tragedy, crisis, or loss.
Haman, a noble in King Xerxes court, held an influential position, as a result people bowed before him – that is except for Mordecai, a Jew who only bowed to God. This enraged Haman; therefore he sought revenge by convincing the king to order the destruction of all Jewish people throughout the province.
So what was Mordecai’s first reaction to this grave situation? Not revenge or even a counter plan to save the Jewish people. No, his initial response was mourning along side many other Jews. (Esther 4: 1—3)
The Jewish people lean on traditions to help them through difficult times, which included loud weeping, wailing and rendering (tearing) garments. This ritual increases unity and allows people to express their sorrow. Mordecai recognized the need for mourning before moving forward with plans.
The church mourning with me was helpful to my recovery. We need to mourn together more often. Instead, we tend to ignore sad and difficult situations because we don’t know what to say or how to respond; however mourning with someone is an expression of love and there is no need for colloquial utterances.
MOURN OUR SIN
The book of Joel is another example of how mourning is part of God’s plan and our human experience. “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments'” (Joel 2: 12—13a NIV).
Dire consequences await. Joel clearly tells the people that the rendering of garments is not enough; true repentance requires the rendering of hearts and sincere mourning for our sin.
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5: 4 (NLT). These are Jesus’s words. Certainly, God comforts all mourning that is for the right reasons, and mourning our sin that grieves Him falls into this category.
Okay, sure mourning because of our sin or the annihilation of a group of innocent people is spiritual, however, my mourning is selfish stuff. After all, I am yelling at God and mourning a lifestyle.
But is this selfish, unusual, or unbiblical?
Looking closer the Bible provides insight into the lives of people who, like me, mourned for the loss of a life they had envisioned. Job understandably mourned for a life he lost. (Job 29) Hannah mourned over a life without children. (1 Samuel 1: 10—11) Joseph’s reaction when he revealed his identity to his long lost brothers (Genesis 45: 1—3) indicated a mourning over the loss of a life with his family, while Nehemiah mourned the loss of a great city where his ancestors had lived. (Nehemiah 2: 1—3)
A TIME TO MOURN AND A TIME TO DANCE (ECCL. 3:4B)
Perhaps mourning is a divine gift that provides an outlet during loss of any kind. So as we mourn together during these perilous times we can take solace in knowing that societies throughout the ages have mourned for many reasons both individually and as a community.
However, we also must remember that a constant state of mourning leads to hopelessness, which is not an option for a Christian.
God used Mordecai’s time of mourning to bring the Jewish peoples’ dire circumstances to Queen Esther’s attention and then used this Jewish woman’s position to save His people.
Joel’s prophecy was dismal, but not without hope. “Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2: 13b NIV).
Think that this world should turn to God? The USA has certainly turned its back on God by taking Him out of our schools, killing babies in the womb, forsaking traditional family, and becoming a society of ME FIRST.
Perhaps Joel’s prophecy is true today and we need to return to God and rend our hearts during this pandemic. “…everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved” (Joel 2:32 NLT).
After all, God renewed Job’s life and answered Hannah’s prayers with children. He also reunited Joseph with his family and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall necessary for protection and civic pride.
God also turned my mourning to dancing. No, I didn’t get my life back, but God walked with me as I grew as a Christian and accepted the inevitable change. He also blessed me with a new husband and expanded family that is full of love. Yes, it is different, but there is joy, happiness, and hope once again.
For additional information about the biblical definition of mourning click here for a “Got Questions” article. Also, in 2019, I wrote a blog post titled I’m Weary Lord. It is applicable during this pandemic.
As always, comments are welcome. Blessings until next time.