PSALMS 30:11-12: “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” NLT
OBSERVATION: How does a believer navigate through a great time of loss? It may be the loss of a loved one, loss of a friend, or even the loss of one’s dream or expectation. In either case, there is a time of mourning.
Mourning is defined as – “the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes.” (Oxford Dictionary).
Mourning is the expression of the deep grief one experiences with such a great loss. Everyone processes grief through mourning in a different way. Some withdraw quietly and process their mourning internally. Others work through a time of grief and mourning by emoting their feelings publicly, both verbally and through their actions. Regardless of the expression, everyone will walk through the valley of mourning in their life.
I have lost both of my parents and two of my closest friends. The loss I struggled with the hardest was my friend who I knew and worked with for over 35 years. We were colleagues and friends. We traveled together and shared our family’s stories. I was welcomed into his family. Every Monday morning would start with a call to talk about our weekend, our families, and the week ahead.
Then on one Monday, I received a call from one of the owners of our company. My friend had recently retired. He had been home with his family for less than a year after retiring. I had spoken to him just the night before. I could not believe the news. My dear friend had died that morning of a heart attack. Suddenly, without notice, my friend was gone. There would be no more Monday morning calls. No more visits when I traveled to his hometown to call on one of our largest customers. There was a hole in my heart.
I was asked to do his funeral. For over 25 years we had traveled to Tulsa so that we could drive to Bentonville, Arkansas to call on Walmart headquarters. On each trip, there would be some downtime. We began a tradition of seeing who could find the cheapest shirt on sale. On one of those trips, we both bought a Hawaiian shirt. Since that time I have worn Hawaiian shirts and now have over 50 of them. When I conducted the memorial service, I laid the very first shirt we had bought during this trip, on his coffin. My heart was broken and filled with grief.
I was one of those who processed my mourning quietly. Yet, I did mourn. Each Monday I wanted to call him. And, to be honest, as every Monday rolls around, I still want to dial his number and hear his voice. Yet, as I processed my grief, I remembered all the times we spoke about the Lord. I shared the joy of walking with Jesus and I knew that he had faith in Jesus Christ. As I thought about this, and as the weeks and months passed, something began to happen in my heart.
My mourning began to turn to joy!
My joy turned into dancing!
Now, when I think about my dear friend I celebrate his life. I have a wonderful picture that was given to me by his daughter after the memorial service. It is a picture of me, my friend, and his two wonderful parents who are now in heaven with him. It was taken on one of our trips to Tulsa where they lived. Every day I see this picture and it reminds me of all the wonderful times we had together. Times of work, travel, business, and talking about our families and our daughters.
As a pastor, I have walked with many through difficult times of grief and mourning. Yet, without exception, I have witnessed the wonderful transformation in their hearts of faith. When all seemed to be lost, God’s mercy abounded in their life. Some rebounded quickly. Some took months and even years. Yet, in every heart that was filled with the love of Christ, I have witnessed their mourning turn into dancing.
There is always an empty spot that remains for each loved one we have lost on this side of eternity. This never goes away. Yet, that empty spot turns from grief into a longing. It is a longing to be reunited at God’s appointed time. And, that longing turns into dancing as we cherish their memories, rejoice over God’s love and mercy in our lives, and hold onto the blessed hope and comfort of the promise of eternal life.
Lord, as this week passes, and as Monday comes around the corner, turn my mourning into dancing. Let me walk in the power of Your grace and the hope of eternal life.
In Jesus Name!