Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
The sun hangs lazily in the sky. Fat with a warm orange glow. So bright it pierces me. The foggy smog around it hovers over the earth. The knowledge that the sun is slowly making its way to bring day to the other side of the world is apparent to all the people walking the streets, but to me it feels as though time stands still. I want to pause the day as we drive through the streets. I want to put off the inevitable pain that walking back into the mourning ground brings. The overwhelming sense of compassion and sorrow consume me as I care for my friend. Gladly I would take her place. She is loosing her earthly father. A man who she so deeply loves. It was all so quick. Just a few days early we spoke of him and her simple beautiful love for him. Of his health. And then here we are in the throngs of grieving the loss of him. She has swallowed the sadness whole and now it slowly seeps from her eyes as she speaks of precious memories of a man she has always know and is now always gone.
This is a deep sorrow. A sorrow that hangs in the air, sits in a chair in the room with you, and lies next to you while you sleep. It shows you the hopeless side of life. It illuminates moments of regret. Makes you feel worthless. It brings about extreme exhaustion. This sorrow comes quickly and takes years to leave. This sorrow turns what we know to be normal into a completely new reality.
Most of us have walked through a season of sorrow. Most of the people I know have dealt with extreme poverty, death of someone close to them, been abused, been painfully ill, or any of the number of things that can happen that would cause this type of sorrow.
So why then, can we not bear in one another’s burdens? Is it possibly because we never fully healed from that which brought us sorrow? Because we were fed lies, either through word or action, that we needed to move quickly past our sadness and back to life as we had known it before?
Whatever the reason, we are doing a terrible job of comforting and taking care of those who mourn. And when I say terrible I mean that we are slicing open they’re wounds, pouring salt on them, giving them a good little slap and sending them back into the ruthlessness of life and telling them to put a forced smile on their face. There is no timeline for mourning. No cookie cutter way of going about it. No way of telling what is going to hurt whom and how much.
I’m not an expert on mourning or death. However I have had my share of troubles though. As many of you know I was in a very dark place only a few months ago. When the pain of my disease was taking over my life and when Doctors sat in front of me and told me the end was near without a change. Directionless and in need of so much help and wisdom I had very few to turn to. The Lord blessed me mightily in this season, but people who said they loved me sometimes did the worst job at caring for me. I was so sad. Sadder than I had ever been. Sad enough to beg Jesus to take me out of this earth so I could be out of the pain, the turmoil and the loneliness. I was sensitive and people where insensitive. The hardship was real.
So how do we change this? If the verse at the top of the page means what is says, then we are called to behave in that manner in a way that manifests Jesus. When I got the call that this was the end, and I knew that one of my closest friends was going to fall to pieces, I wondered. What could I do? I can’t fix it. I can’t make it go away. I have no words to lessen the sting. What the hell does a simple young woman like me supposed to do? I was struck with a very foreign reality that I was now in the shoes of those who had walked with me through my season of mourning. I needed to carry her. I needed to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I had to tap into the sorrow I had just experienced. I had to feel it all over again in order to know how to soothe her.
I can only speak from the Gospel and from my experiences.
When I look at the life of Jesus I see that He never fled from mourning. I embraced it. He went to funerals (yes he also went to celebrations and weddings), He knelt beside the homeless, He touched the blind, and He loved all the people. Yes we see that he performed miracles, but the beauty in it is that He could have healed them from a far, but He chose to kneel down beside them, He chose to touch them, He chose to listen to them first and then speak words of truth to their heart. He was a glorious example of sitting in peoples muck with them and loving them through it. I know He still sits in our muck with us. He definitely has sat with me. Heard my cursing the wind, my begging for the relenting of a season, kissed my cheeks and assured me He was strong within me to bring me through. He loves endlessly, should we also not love endlessly?
If I may, I need to talk about what I’ve learned about comforting the mourning.
When I was mourning (and when others have described their feelings during mourning, these are some of the words they’ve used, but they are not limited to) I felt lonely, vacant, lost, misunderstood, and sensitive and a million other things I couldn’t put to words. I was constantly torn between sitting in my problems and weeping, and forgetting them all together. Someone once described pain as ‘holes of the soul’ I cannot think of a better description of what I felt. Bullets to my ever shriveling and fainting heart. I often couldn’t describe how I felt, but always wanted to talk about it. I often couldn’t find tears, but always wanted to cry. I often wanted isolation, but hated being alone.
The ones who showed me the Gospel of Jesus the most were first and foremost available! They were willing to listen to me, even if I was repeating myself a million times. They answered their phone in the middle of the night if I woke up in tears. They rallied together for my cause. Secondly they prayed for me. They petitioned The Lord for my heart. For my healing. For me to see redemption. They spoke the Gospel over me. Reminded me to keep going, to continue in my fight. They kept me out of isolation by being there. They admitted when they didn’t know what to say, or when they couldn’t relate to me, but they never made me feel like I was a burden, although I know I probably was. They didn’t try to speed up the process. Never made me feel guilty that I was going through it. They simple showed me Jesus. They pulled from what they knew, their own experiences and again they never left me. They let me feel the emotions I needed to feel. That although they couldn’t always understand my feelings, they were valid. They wanted to hear them. All of them!
The ones that hurt me most left, or ignored me when I got sick. They couldn’t deal with me. They cut more soul holes in me instead of lassoing me in for healing.
I was blessed, more than others I’ve seen, with a true community of people who loved me, but shouldn’t it be that way for everyone when hardship comes knocking on the door? We have to stand in the gap together as believers. We have to want to see Jesus here, in us and through us. Jesus will heal us no matter what, that is His promise to us, but He does use us to come around each other and love each other through it. Although it is not our job to do the healing, we are tools he uses to help with healing. We must be obedient to His call.
I know this journey of carrying another as they heal is long. I know the journey of healing is long. I know Jesus cares so much about it. That’s why I want the world to be on pause, as I walk my friend through this process. I don’t have the perfect words to say. I’m hurting through this healing too. But I know I need to be there. I need to sit in her puddle. And while we sat their yesterday something beautiful happened- we laughed. And we cried. And we got annoyed. And we told jokes. And we felt awkward. And we were thankful. And we talked about unrelated subjects. And we were us. Cause we all needed that. How beautiful is Grace? That the Son of God was sent. He came for our redemption, He came for our healing. And until the day we go to be with Him, we will keep needing redemption and healing.
So GO be in the mourning place with someone. The sweetest honey a relationship can produce is found there and you get to eat of it and keep going. Blessed be His Name.