The world is a depressing place.
And I don’t say that as a reincarnation of my emo 14-year-old self. It’s true. All you have to do is take an honest look around and you’ll have to agree. A man kills his wife over a sum of money; a whole crowd diverts itself in order to avoid the underpaid teenager with a clipboard; an elderly woman sits with a bag of tissues, hand outstretched, and watches thousands of people rush by without a second look; children call each other names on the playground; teenagers spread rumours about that one girl who did that one thing that one time; adults gossip about other adults. Not to mention the other things that just don’t make sense to us: kids dying young, the elderly left destitute, teenagers needing to work instead of go to school in order to help make ends meet, people getting assaulted, raped, murdered, etc.
It’s a sad world we live in.
I’ve been being reminded that pain [insert related words] is not evil. Though the Christian life promises hope and victory, though it talks about rainbows and light and the happiest ending you could imagine, it also promises sorrow.
In Isaiah 53:3, Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows.” He was acquainted with pain. He told us that we, too, would know sorrow. That we would have trials and tribulations.
More often than not, we run from pain. Painkillers, self-help books, drugs, alcohol, philosophies of positivity, sugar-coated responses to questions of how we’re doing, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning all those things per se. I’m just saying that our culture, in so many ways, conditions us to run from discomfort, to numb any pain we may feel. We talk about the need to be strong in the midst of sorrow, to not cry about anything, to be able to look on the bright side of life.
Yes, every cloud has a silver lining. But sometimes, the storms come. And they make the flowers grow. We need them, and we need to embrace them.
The shortest verse in the Bible reads, “Jesus wept.” Jesus wept. Jesus, the Son of God, to whom all power and authority on heaven and earth was given; Jesus, who turned water into wine, restored a blind man’s sight, made the lame to walk, and raised a man from the dead. Jesus, who could remove and heal all pain and not break a sweat; Jesus, who knew that everything would be alright in the end; Jesus wept.
I don’t want to get into a discussion here about why He didn’t and doesn’t just erase all the pain in the world. What is being highlighted to me in this season is that as God’s people, we are called to mourn the things He mourns. We are called to weep for the things that Jesus weeps for. And that is not a waste of time, nor does it make you an emo kid. Sometimes we think that the faster we get it together and start moving forward, taking action, ‘recovering’ from the pain, the better it is. But Jesus took the time to cry.
He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).
There is something deeply sacred and deeply spiritual about mourning.
Romans 12:15 tells us to “weep with those who weep.” In Proverbs, we are warned that “singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (Proverbs 25:20).
Of course, there are times when we must rejoice. The same Romans verse tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Ecclesiastes reminds us that for everything, there is a season: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (3:4). In fact, in Philippians we are told to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4).
How is that possible? If rejoicing and mourning are opposites, how can they exist simultaneously? The laws of logic cannot sustain such a notion. But such is the Gospel. It is full of paradoxes that we can only try to wrap our minds around.
Here is one reason to rejoice and to hope: This time of mourning is not indefinite. Jesus reminded us that He has overcome the world. It has been done. We live in the in-between. We’re playing catch-up to the things that have already been accomplished. We are approaching a future of which one thing is certain: Jesus has won. The pain and sorrow will be no more (Revelations 21:4).
Mourning is tiring. Exhausting, in fact. It’s easier to walk away – maybe even better to, so we can think clearly about how to help. But how can we help if we do not first understand and empathize? There is a tenderness of heart that mourning creates and sustains. In our sorrow, we learn to identify with Christ as He hung on the cross, as He wept for His people, as He laid down His life for them. There is something sacred about sorrow and mourning and pain.
God is there. Don’t be afraid to stay a little while.