I think one of the most human verses in the entire Bible is also the shortest one: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35)
I don't know about you, but I was taught to see vulnerable emotions as a lack of strength. As a result, I grew up viewing crying and sadness as a weakness. Instead of learning how to properly manage and handle sadness, depression or loss, I stuffed those deep down within me. But the problem is by not dealing with my emotions, they end up coming out sideways in my relationships and in my life.
Sadness left unhandled can end up being expressed in other ways, like anger or depression, anxiety or hopelessness. But it can also affect the body in ways we don't always realize. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about sadness and how it can affect our bodies, so it behooves us to learn how to deal with sadness, and there's no better way than to allow Jesus to teach us how to mourn.
Why Should We Mourn?
Proverbs 17:22 says "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." I want to take a look at the New Living Translation, because I think it will bring some more clarity to this verse. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." To be broken in spirit, or to have a crushed spirit, literally saps up our strength and dries up our bones. A broken spirit, a broken heart, to be brokenhearted or sad, can actually dry our body up from the inside out. Health issues can arise in our body if we stuff our emotions, and if we don't mourn our losses.
Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)
"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken."
Proverbs 12:25 (NKJV)
"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad."
Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)
"The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?"
When we mourn things that have happened to us, we work through our sadness and grief. As we mourn, a healing work begins in our hearts and our bodies won't take on our pain.
Let's take a look at the word medicine in Proverbs 17:22. The Hebrew word for medicine is gēhâ, which actually means cure. Gēhâ is derived from the root word gāhâ, which means to remove a bandage from a wound, heal it, cure it. So the cure, or medicine for our sorrow, is to have a cheerful heart! Seems simple right?
Except, we can't just suddenly "be happy" when we're in a fog of sadness. Cheerfulness is far from us when sorrow reigns in our hearts. The Bible says Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), and yet I only see a handful of Bible verses in which he cried, and in one of those he was so deeply anguished that his body sweated blood in anticipation of the cross. In all my sorrows, there is nothing that has made my body sweat blood because of how deeply affected I was by my circumstances. And do you know what He did while in anguish? He went straight to His father, our Lord, with His agony. He prayed.
It's pretty safe to say, that the man who sweat blood in anticipation of carrying my sins to the cross, can also comfort me in my darkest days. The man who was beaten until his form was so marred that he was unrecognizable as a human, as a man, endured so much agony that I can say by His stripes I am healed. (Isaiah 53:5). It's to that man that I take my sorrows and share with Him my losses.
Isaiah 52:14 (NLT)
"But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man."
So, why should we mourn? We should mourn because when we do, our spirit is healed. We should mourn because on the other side of darkness, pain and sadness, is cheerfulness and joy. We should mourn, because mourning is the medicine, in it we find our cure. And we should mourn, because Jesus showed us that he also grieved, and deeply.
But on the other side of our mourning, perhaps we will find the secret that Sherwood Wirt writes about in his book Jesus Man of Joy. Wirt writes, "Jesus was a man of such gladness of Spirit, such freedom and openness and magnetism in His attitude, that He was irresistible." On the other side of our mourning season, we will experience joy and gladness of heart. So then, what does mourning look like?
Cry It Out
Our greatest teacher is Jesus, and he showed us exactly how to mourn. When Lazarus died, he wept. For the longest time I actually believed that meant he wailed or sobbed aloud, but the word used in this verse is actually dakryo, which is to shed tears or cry silently. How many times do we as women cry silently? We cry silently into our pillows at night, being careful not to wake the person next us. We cry as we stir the food on the stove, or in the shower where no one can see us. We cry when we spent all morning cleaning the house, only to have a toddler or child spill their juice all over the carpet and we find ourselves on our knees again. And the tears silently fall when we feel underappreciated or unseen.
In these moments we can take comfort that Jesus also cried, in the very same way as us. He cried when Lazarus died, and again before the cross. In our moments of crying, invite the Lord into that place. Share those deepest hurts and unfulfilled longings with the one who already knows what's in your heart.
I used to fall into the trap of not sharing it all with Him, thinking what's the point? He knows it all anyway, and yet He does nothing. So why share what I feel? Because our healing comes when we cry out to the Lord. When we share our innermost desires and shattered hearts with God, He hears us. He listens to us, He communes with us, and He helps us walk through our pain. I can't tell you how many times I have cried out to God about a disappointing experience, and when I do, I wake up the next day feeling better than the day before, and a little more healed.
Healing happens when we cry it out and invite Jesus into that space. The One who carried ALL of our sins, hurts, aches and pains, shame and disease to the cross, is the one who cares about everything you're feeling. Tell Him. Tell Him everything. But don't leave it there, ask Him to heal your hurts and to bind your wounds. (Psalm 147:3) And then step back and watch as the ashes of your brokenness birth a new tree, filled with His fruits.
Through Our Tears, We Glimpse Heaven
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matthew 13:44
I was 7 months pregnant when my best friend called to chat with me and catch up. She was battling cancer and had been for awhile, but she sounded upbeat and positive about the new medical trial they had her on. We laughed a lot, and it was one of those conversations that felt normal, like before the cancer had taken away a lot of her life.
Three days later her mom called, and I knew. I knew my best friend had lost her battle, and that she was calling to tell me it was over. I picked up the phone, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. Her voice shook as she shared with me Lauren's final hours and when the doctors knew the fight was over. The worst part of it was, Lauren must have known when she called me that she was saying goodbye, but I didn't know that. I don't know how I would have handled the news had she told me the truth, but I know one thing: I would have had a lot more I wanted to say.
I was walking out of work the next day, still in shock, and I vividly remember telling Jesus, "I want to be close to you, I want to share with you everything I'm feeling, but right now, I know I need some space. I can't grieve this right now."
Being near Jesus has a way of changing us. We can't help but become more like Him the more we draw near to Him. Part of becoming more like Him, is dealing with painful things that might derail us from who He wants us to become. And it wasn't that I didn't want to be near Him, but I wasn't sure how grief would affect my unborn baby girl. Somehow in my heart, I knew the best thing for her was to put grief aside for the time being and to focus on being the healthiest I could be. So I shared this all with Him, that I desired my relationship with Him more than anything, but He had ordained my pregnancy, and protecting my baby was my upmost priority.
In that moment, walking out of work, I could feel the presence of Jesus. I felt His hand hold mine as He walked me to my car. He whispered into my soul, "I will be here, when you are ready. I am always near, just call on me." I have never felt more cared for than I did in that moment. He didn't judge me for saying I needed space. He just loved me as I was.
Do you know what He did for me over the course of the next few months? He gave me a supernatural joy that filled my heart and my soul in a way that went beyond human comprehension. I couldn't have cried if I had wanted to. Jesus heard my heart's desire, and then He answered me in a way that I hadn't expected. He filled my whole being with joy, so that my unborn baby would experience a mama filled with gladness. He gave me a hidden treasure, the joy of heaven, and let me experience that for the rest of my pregnancy. That is my Jesus! That is my God!
Is that your God? Call upon Him, tell Him of your worries, cares and desires, and He will draw near to you.
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them." (emphasis mine)
Don't Stuff It and Forget It
While I enjoyed the joy God gave me during my pregnancy, I knew it had to come to an end at some point. I expected I would start dealing with it after Skylar was born, I didn't expect to be such a wreck immediately after her birth, before even leaving the hospital. I experienced postpartum depression and the grief of losing my best friend all at the same time.
There were days when all I did was cry, and I began to wonder if I would be depressed forever. There were nights when my husband held me while I sobbed, for a long time. In my grief, he showed me what Paul meant when he wrote: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her..." (Ephesians 5:25). He showed me a glimpse of heaven during those hard nights.
There were definitely times when I wondered if I needed something to help with the sadness. Every time I thought about it though, Jesus brought my focus back to Him. He reminded me that He was the same one who held my hand and gave me joy while I was pregnant, and that He would also be my counselor in my grief. Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus our Wonderful Counselor, that through His birth He will come as one who counsels us, if we let Him. I have found in my walk with Him that there is no one who counsels me better, or gives me better advice and wisdom then the person of Jesus.
Let's look at these two words, Wonderful Counselor. The word Wonderful is derived from the Hebrew word pele, which means a miracle. The word Counselor is the word yāʿas, which means to consult together, to deliberate, to resolve, to give counsel, purpose, devise, plan, to guide. There's actually a lot of meaning in this one word! When we approach Jesus with our hurts and sadness, he gives us counsel, but it goes further than that. He consults and deliberates with us through our grief and pain, and helps us resolve it and guides us as we work through it. But it doesn't end there! Through His counsel, we find purpose, and He gives us new plans, new life. He makes a miracle out of our pain! He is truly our wonderful counselor!
I'm definitely not saying that counselors and therapists aren't a worthy investment, but make sure that the one who is advising you is above all else, leading you to the person of Jesus. God cautions us against ungodly counsel (Psalm 1:1), so be in prayer with Him about finding the right counselor in your time of need.
I knew for myself, that Jesus was all I needed. He walked me through my intense grief. He dealt with me gently during my sad moments and I slowly moved forward, day by day. Sometimes, I was only holding on hour by hour when depression would overtake me. And that's ok. The key is to keep moving forward, keep sharing with Him, and keep walking through the valley of the shadow of death. On the other side, you will see the Son.
Give God The Mud
You know what else is ok? It's ok to tell Jesus just how horrible the whole situation is. Some of us go through some really awful things in life, but you know what? He's not afraid of a little muck and a little ick.
He can handle any mud you sling at Him, and He will love you through it all. He just wants you to keep coming back to Him, keep talking to Him, keep looking at Him and beholding Him. When we do that, our mud and our ick that we sling at Him, he spins it into fine gold and gives it back to us. The more we share our mud with Him, the more He can work a miracle in our hearts and remove the mud, and replace it with heavenly treasure, heavenly goodness, heavenly gold.
One day you will wake up and the pain won't be quite as intense, and you will have learned to love deeper, have greater compassion for your neighbor, and experience a joy that goes beyond anything this earthly happiness can offer. Purpose is born out of the pain, and when we look in the mirror, we find we have changed.
Loss Is Hard
But don't be afraid to truly mourn the loss. All of our losses matter to God, whether they are big or small. I mourned the loss of having an ideal pregnancy when I was pregnant with my twins (it was definitely NOT ideal). I mourned the loss of not having a breastfeeding journey with my twins like I did with my firstborn. I mourned the loss of our dog when she passed, of my children growing out of newborn clothes into bigger onesies, and the loss of my friendships when we moved across the country.
There are so many big things we have to mourn in our journey through this life, but there are also little losses along the way too. These little losses, while they might seem silly or insignificant, they matter so much to God. It's important that we mourn our little losses too. Bitterness, in any form, has no ability to take root and grow in our hearts when we deal with the little things as well as the big things. And guess what? Jesus wants to hear about it all.
So bring it to God when you're sad because you move from one home to another, even if the new home is bigger and better; but it doesn't contain the memories of your old one. Mourn the loss of loved ones when they pass on. Mourn the loss of your favorite boots, or favorite jacket when it's time to put it in the grave (trash). Mourn the loss of pets when it's their time. Mourn the loss of divorce, broken friendships, miscarriages and an empty womb. God cares about all of it. (1 Peter 5:7)
I pray that as you read this, you are encouraged. I pray that you find comfort in knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ also go through similar trials and suffering, and they come out on the other end. There is an end to the the valley, but you have to walk through it to get there. On the other side you will find peace, joy, gladness. And you will be blessed. You will be oh, so blessed. James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:2-3)
Perseverance is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. But it also means continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation. Perseverance is a state of grace! So know this my friend, during your season of mourning, your faith is producing perseverance and you are in a continual state of grace. And your faith, while it's being tested during your state of sadness, is growing.
It may seem dark now, but the darkest part of the night is right before dawn. Soon you will see the streaks of light in your life as the shadows begin to recede, and the sun breaks forth. Press forward, press ever on until the glorious end. And know this, nothing, absolutely nothing, is wasted when we put our trust in Jesus.