There is a time when God calls us to weep and mourn, and then there are times when He calls us to be joyful and be glad.
Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Key Verse: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance [...]” v.4
My children and I were singing and dancing around the family room, as the Sister Sledge’s 70′s hit “We are Family” blared through the speakers. While we giggled together doing silly moves, I realized how long it had been since I had a good belly laugh. The sound of it was even strange to my ears. I realized how sad our home has been since we lost my husband’s brother in a tragic accident only 7 weeks ago. I realized how little we have laughed this year: 2012 has definitely been very trying for our family.
As I prepared to write this devotional, the Lord reminded me of the passage in Ecclesiastes where Solomon talked about the different valleys and mountaintops which all people go through. I was reminded that these good and bad times are a natural part of the realm in which we live, one of a fallen world. As Solomon wrote these words, the Lord inspired him to compare different circumstances in life to the seasons and natural course of nature. Just as the night falls, we can be sure that the sun will rise again. Just as the rain comes down, we know that the sun will eventually break through the clouds. And just as the seasons come and go, faithfully each year, so do the good and bad times in life. If nature could sing one song, and the Creator could repeat only one sentence to us through life’s valleys, it would be “This too shall pass.”
I have gone through some pretty dark valleys in life. Physical separation from loved ones? Check. Big financial burden? Check. Betrayal of friends? Check. Health problems? Check, check, check!
During all these trials, however, even throughout the hardest of days, my heart has been able to sing a song of praise. But the death of a close relative was not only a new experience to me, it has been, by far, the hardest one I’ve encountered so far. The truth is, in the physical realm of what we know, we can go through different things with a hope that life will be reinstated to what it once was. You lose a job, there is the almost certainty that you will eventually find work again. You go through a health problem, there is always the hope that God will come forth with a miraculous healing or that the treatment will do its job. But in the physical realm of what we know, the understanding that you will never hug that person again or talk to them; the separation, even though we know (by faith) that it’s just for a while, is very, very hard.
God does not expect it to be different. He knows the pain of losing a loved one. Jesus wept when He heard that his dear friend Lazarus had died (John 11:34-36.) He knew He would see him again soon when he’d call him forth from the dead, but the understanding that death had taken over Lazarus’ body was overwhelming to the Master. David was also overcome with sadness when he heard that his best friend Jonathan had died (2 Samuel 1:26.) This giant of faith, who has written many of the Psalms which fill our hearts with hope and strength through life’s hardest valleys, was terribly hurt with his friend’s passing.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
For those of us who have lost loved ones in the Lord, these verses give us much hope. Paul was talking to the Corinthians about the power over eternal death that Jesus’ resurrection has given His saints. For those who died in Christ, death has no victory, no sting. For my brother-in-law Donnie, all tears have been wiped away (Revelations 21:4,) there will be no more sickness, no more dying, no more sorrow. He is now reaping his rewards before the Master and enjoying the company of the saints and of the Triune God forever. For those of us who stay, however, death hurts and it hurts a lot. And to say that does not make me a weak Christian. It makes me a real one. I know we will all find new joys and sing new songs; we will still laugh and continue to enjoy the days God allows us to live. But sometimes life just hurts. And it’s ok. It’s supposed to. That truth is in the heart of Solomon’s discourse on Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes. Matthew Henry puts it beautifully in his commentary:
“There is a time when God’s providence calls to weep and mourn, and when man’s wisdom and grace will comply with the call, and will weep and mourn, as in times of common calamity and danger, and there it is very absurd to laugh, and dance, and make merry (Isaiah 22:12, 13; Ezekiel 21:10); but then, on the other hand, there is a time when God calls to cheerfulness, a time to laugh and dance, and then he expects we should serve him with joyfulness and gladness of heart.”
Ever Changing Life… One Immutable Truth
There is one immutable truth that lays in the heart of both the changes in the natural realm, just as in the spiritual one. Both nature and men, the weather and our trials, are subject to the sovereignty of Almighty God. From the most natural things that happen on earth, like raindrops and where the lightning falls, to the most life-changing experiences that a child of God can go through, such as betrayal, cancer and death; all these things are subject to the foreknowledge of God. Although this has certainly been something I have affirmed for many years since becoming a Christian, this truth has become an important anchor that I have clung to in the past several weeks. We are taught to say that God is in control, but when life’s happenings don’t make sense, we must know that He indeed is. We must know it deep in our spirits, not just by words.
The next time someone you know loses a loved one, all they need from you is your love and faithful prayers. If they’re a strong Christian, they know, by faith, that their separation is momentary (life is but a vapor – James 4:14,) but that does not change the fact that they are hurting, deeply. More than anything that you can say or do during the time of loss, they need your love, expressed through a hug, a card, a phone call or a home-cooked meal. But above all and more importantly, they need your faithful prayers.
One day, God will restore in their hearts the joy that is momentarily gone. And they shall dance again. They shall find new joys; not because they won’t miss their loved one any longer, but because we serve a faithful and joyful God. And although there will always be a hole in their hearts, a place once filled by someone who is gone from this life forever, their faith in our sovereign God will bring a new song to their hearts. The faith that assures them that their separation is but for a moment, will bring them through.
In which season are you today?
Are you dancing or mourning? If you still have your loved ones, partnering in life’s often awkward dance with you, take time to enjoy them. For what would you do if you knew you did not have tomorrow with your husband, mom, dad, child or friend? Would you pick up the phone and call? Would you forget the wrongdoing, forgive and love them regardless? Would you sacrifice your time and resources to show them how much they mean to you? Would you take the time to laugh with them, be silly and simply enjoy their presence? I pray that today you take time to love on your family and cherish them. For one day, when they are gone, you want to have only one song written on your heart. And the chorus should sing “No regrets. No, Lord. Not one single regret.”
That is the song I want to sing until the day God calls me or my loved ones home… No regrets. No, Lord. Not one.