Joy Comes in the Mourning: Night Falls

 


Joy Comes in the Mourning

Night Falls

The title to the series of messages we are about to embark upon is Joy Comes In The Mourning.  There’s a little play on words.  When we say the word morning we usually mean when the sun comes up.  But the word in our title is mourning: m.o.u.r.n.i.n.g. When we are feeling and expressing our deep sorrow of a loss, most often the loss of something or someone we love, that grief is called mourning.  There is a difference between grief and mourning, grief is what we are experiencing inside, mourning is how we demonstrate our feelings of grief.  Grief is what we feel, mourning is what we express.  The verse of scripture that will be our springboard into our exploration of mourning is Psalm 30:5

 Psalms 30:5 (NLT)                                                                                   

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Here the poet is giving us hope.  Our heart ache will last through our night, but joy will replace it in the morning, when the sun comes up.  Joy comes in the morning, m.o.r.n.i.n.g., but when does morning come?  For our exploration morning comes through our mourning, m.o.u.r.n.i.n.g., the day of joy dawns as we express the agony in our soul.

Every loss is the blackest of nights.  Every loss must be mourned.  Loss of a business, loss of a job, loss of a marriage, a break up, a pet, the loss of a home, a dream, an expectation, a plan, require our lament to be sung, but we are going to address the loss of a loved one specifically.  In this session we are going to focus on immediate mourning. 

 One more piece of housekeeping; we need to define joy.  When we normally think of joy we think of great pleasure or happiness, our hearts soaring, good times.  The joy that comes in the mourning is not like that.  The joy aimed at is the sure knowledge that God is in charge and will reconcile and redeem all things and in this joy we find comfort and power to live well. 

 Joy comes in the mourning. Joy comes in our lament for what is lost.  Unfortunately our grief lasts more than a night, a sunset to sunrise.  Joy comes after “the” night. No one knows how long “the” night lasts. 

 They’re dead, they’re gone!  The emotional shock, at first you can’t feel anything now the numbness is wearing off.  You’ve cried your eyes out, you’ve withdrawn, you’ve raged, you’ve done everything you can to stop the pain, but nothing works for long.  That’s the problem with self-meds, they allow an escape for a while, but the reality of the loss is never gone.  The pain is still there waiting, festering, after the high.  The memorial service is over.  Family and friends have honored your departed, but now they too have drifted away, most likely not knowing how to help you in your soul agony, not knowing what to say even if words could somehow change everything.  Your beloved’s place is empty and your heart aches for them to fill it, your ears strain to hear the sound of their voice, and the reality of the situation seems to laugh at your wishes and desires. “Leaving you lonelier still.”  (I Am I Said, Neil Diamond). 

Seldom are we coached in how to mourn well.  Our culture doesn’t like to consider death.  Mourning is our lament, the expressing our emotions, our prayer of pain.  The Psalms abounds in laments. In your notes you’ll will find scripture references to these laments. Psalm 22 is an example:

 Psalms 22:2 (MSG)

Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

 [ Psalm 6:3-4, 7:2, 10:1, 13:3, 38:2 &9-11, 42:3-4, 44:23-24, 71:9, 88:4, 130—just a sampling ]

 Doubled up with pain all night long.  “The stronger the love, the more the pain” (Joseph Campbell). Pain comes as rogue waves.  Famous Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku popularized the saying “Never turn your back on the ocean.”  Walking along the beach you never know when a wave will come with the power to drag you into the sea.  Emotional pain is like the ocean waves.  You must face it and deal with it.  Mourning is all about getting the pain in your heart out and the only way to get the pain out is to express it.

 One way you can help a friend mourn well is to acknowledge their pain (John 11:35).   You can express your sorrow also.  It validates theirs. It allows them to share their feelings with you.  In this you can comfort one another. “Shared pain moves and breathes.” If something moves and breathes it doesn’t rot.  One world of caution, don’t talk about the way you are dealing with your pain that puts your friend in a position of trying to care for you. One of the more important helps is to be quiet while being present, do state the fact that this situation is horrible, but too many words won’t be heard and too often we misspeak causing more grief. 

 To mourn well you need to accept that you are no longer on top of your game.  You have taken such an emotional hit that you will not be able to think straight, you may lose track of time, you may experience difficulty concentrating, your sleeping patterns and eating habits may change which wears you down physically.  You may no longer be able to read other people.  You’re in a mental fog.  You can’t take care of business as usual.  These reasons are why you need someone to watch over you.  Now is not the time to make any major decisions.  In order to embrace the pain put your trust in someone who empathizes with your loss, who is not as distraught, and let them care for you (Proverbs 17:17).  Let someone you trust look out for you and your affairs even when you are at your ugliest, with anger and irritability, and at your lowest with depression and tears.  You need help, even if you’ve never needed it before in your life.  

 This is one way you can help someone who is mourning.  They need help, can you? (Galatians 6:2)  People who are mourning don’t think clearly, so when you ask “is there anything you need?”  They say no, not because everything is taken care of, but because they can’t see beyond the pain.  You don’t want to force your way in, imposing yourself, but start doing things for them.  Aid them in housekeeping, communication, chores, repairs, errands, shopping, meal prep, if appropriate take care of paying bills.  Be concrete with your helping hand.  Your friend is not helpless or suddenly incompetent, so you offer your help not in the form of a question but what you can do for them--not “do you need me to do…” but rather “I can do this for you Tuesday.”  That gives them control of the situation. 

 To mourn well you need to talk about your loss (Psalm 32:3-4).  You need someone to hold you together while you’re falling apart.  We can become so depressed after the loss that we just want to curl up in a ball and hide from the reality.  It’s quite alright to do so for brief periods of your day, but giving into despair is not.  You need the company of others who will let you speak your heart.  In your heart may be anger, fear, and most certainly sorrow.  These emotions need to be expressed, they need to be witnessed, and that can only be accomplished in the company of others.

 This is another way you can help someone who is mourning: hear them (James 1:19).  Hear them with compassion and keep what you hear to yourself.  Sometimes that hurting friend may emotionally shoot at you, projecting their anger at you. Take the hit, that’s hard, don’t take it personally, just redeem it by receiving it.  Sometimes you hurting friend needs you to be their confessor, sometimes their comforter always their witness, for you validate their suffering. “To sit through tears, expressions of anger and confusion and hopelessness, and times of numbness, for as long as it takes” is an incredible gift (Candyce Ossefort-Russell). What they do not need is your advice.  Your advice is a tone-deaf way of trying to fix their problem for them.  This cannot be done for them.  As an outsider looking in you may see a million things that they should do to “get over it.”  Please refrain from the temptation.  “Painful feelings, borne alone, can be unendurable; together with a trusted companion, they can be borne…” (Diana Fosha)  The bearing leads to joy.

 To mourn well you need to be honest with God (Job 7:20).  Many believer’s carry around a notion of God’s sovereignty that requires an understanding that God is in total control of everything.  Therefore who really is responsible for your anguish?  God.  God is to blame, He could have intervened, He could have directed otherwise, He could have healed, He could have provided.  You prayed, you fasted and prayed, you prayed through nights, you had prayer meetings, you did every religious thing you could think of to get God to do what only He could.  No deliverance came, instead a nightmare (Psalm 69:16).  Once again be directed to the scripture:    

 Psalms 102:1-2 (MSG)

God, listen! Listen to my prayer, listen to the pain in my cries. Don't turn your back on me just when I need you so desperately. Pay attention! This is a cry for help! And hurry—this can't wait!

 [Also read Psalm 18:6, 27:7, 28:2, 40:13]

 A great preacher of yesteryear wrote: “Faith is allowed to enquire of her God the causes of his displeasure, and she is even permitted to expostulate (argue and protest) with him and put him in mind of his promises, and ask why apparently they are not fulfilled. If the Lord be indeed our refuge, when we find no refuge, it is time to be raising the question, ‘Why is this?’” (Charles Spurgeon).

 In your Bible the book of Job is a classic case of demanding an explanation.  Wrestle with God, it’s OK, just don’t give up on God, don’t repudiate your faith, the struggle will end ushering in that joy, that confidence in God that the scales will be balanced, what was lost will be found, what stolen redeemed, what’s broken made new.

Another way you can help someone to mourn well is to listen to their complaint.  They have a bone to pick with God, let them protest, question, and struggle.  Guard their faith with your prayers (Colossians 1:9).  What you don’t want to do is reassure them with Christian clichéd platitudes, like “God’s ways are not our ways.”  “He’s in a better place.”  “God needed her more than you.”  Your task is not to correct, refute their thinking or offer them answers, but to comfort, and you comfort by affirming their struggle, encouraging them to fight on in faith.

 To mourn well, take off the masks (2 Corinthians 4:2 MSG).  Maybe you think you have be the rock, the strong one, the stoic one.  There may be those that are dependent upon you, those you have to be there for, so you stuff your emotions. You soldier on.  There are two dangers here, if you don’t address your own pain, you become like a pressure cooker with no relief valve. As the days wear on you get closer to an emotional explosion or what used to be called a nervous breakdown.  The second danger is that you become detached emotionally to those who need you to feel with them, to mourn with them.  The solution is to be real with your pain, you don’t have to hide your suffering from your kids.  Your tears can comfort your kids letting them know that it is ok for them to mourn their loss too.  This also applies to your spouse.

You can help someone to mourn well by giving them a break from their responsibilities (Mark 6:31 b).  Give them some alone time, take the kids out, but the purpose outing is not to cheer them up or distract them from their own pain, but to give them some space to express their pent up emotions and quiet time for your friend. Kids often don’t know how to handle loss, let them know that you are hurting too.  Your presence lets them know that they are not alone. 

Here’s what we have:

There is no time line for your expression of mourning to come to an end.  The suffering starts with the news of the loss.  For a day of joy to come you must express the grief that is inside you.  Mourning is all about getting the pain in your heart out.  That recent loss throws you, realize that you are no longer on top of your game, give yourself the gift of time, creating that space for yourself is part of mourning.  Mourning well requires you to talk about your loss, you need someone to walk with you through these difficult days, someone you can confide in.  You need to be honest with God, your lament is like a wrestling match with God, you demand answers, you search for meaning in the madness, this is time for authentic faith.  Remember you don’t have it all together, to project an image that everything is all right, take off the mask, it’s OK to be a mess. 

 Joy comes through the mourning.  This is a mystery.  I don’t know how it occurs, or when it occurs, but that confidence that God is in charge and one day everything will be set right and that hope empowers you to keep on keeping on (Revelation 21:4) does eventually come.

 Psalm 34:18

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

 For those who mourn well, in your rants and raves, your acting out, your anger, your pain, God sees your broken heart.  He mysteriously repairs your crushed soul.

 Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

 For those who mourn well, in your bewilderment, standing in the anguish of lost expectation, not knowing how you can go on, God mysteriously brings comfort.

Do you know God?  He is the one you need to have confidently by your side in the darkest of nights.  Acknowledge your need for Him.  Believe that Jesus has made fellowship with Him possible.  Commit yourself to walking with Him. Ask God to draw near to you.  He will lead you into the dawn.

 If you are mourning today, Romans 15:13 is my prayer for you.

 Romans 15:13

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."


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