David sits in the upper room crying for his lost rebellious son, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” Job, lost for direction, questions God saying, “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.” Jesus weeps in the garden, anticipating the coming, brutal pain. He prays, “Abba Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Grief and mourning are underlying themes throughout the entire Bible. From the stories of loss for Naomi and Ruth, to the rejection of Joseph by his own family, to the shame and grief of Peter denying Jesus. It is present in the fall of Adam and Eve and in the martyrdom of the early Christians. Mourning is the recognition that this world is not as it should be. It is accepting the sadness and the grief of our own brokenness.
But it is also the beginning of something else.
We don’t know what sickness Lazarus had, but we know Jesus waited to go see him. We can sit and speculate that Jesus didn’t go to heal him earlier because He had a bigger purpose or a better miracle to perform, but either way, while Jesus waited, Lazarus died. When Jesus did arrive, He amazed everyone and raised Lazarus from the dead. But what happened right before this event sometimes gets left out of the miracle narrative. When Lazarus’ sister Mary comes out to see Jesus, He sees her and those around her crying, and He is deeply moved. He has compassion on them and weeps with them. Jesus is present in their sorrow.
Those who mourn enter into relationship with a compassionate God who is not unmoved by the plight of His creation. He is not unaware of our present sorrow or the pain caused by our brokenness. It is this relationship that is the beginning of healing. Those who mourn will be comforted because we have an ever-present God who sees our pain. This is not to say that we then dismiss our grief because “God knows how you feel.” We must not paper over our grief with platitudes, because then we lose the richness of being led through the valley of darkness. Without mourning, we lose a depth of relationship with a Creator who longs for His creation to be restored to Him.
Mourning brings healing. Sometimes it is a long journey where we can’t see the other side, but if we enter in together with the Comforter and in community, we can offer hope to each other along the way. It is in mourning that we begin to see that things are not as they should have been. It is mourning in relationship with God that calls us to pursue the lost and the unreached, to rescue the enslaved from bondage, to care for those in need, and to hope for what can be.
Mark Crawford is the assistant editor of Light + Life. He resides in Tucson, Arizona.
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