I can't believe it's been a year. A year since we experienced one of our highest highs to almost immediately experiencing one of our lowest lows. We've learned a lot. We've grown a lot. But, let's be honest, it still hurts. You can quote all the Bible verses you want to us, but that doesn't magically rewrite history or erase memories from our minds. Rest assured, we still trust God whole-heartedly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and we still have faith that his ways are higher than our ways and he has a plan through all of this (Isaiah 55). The fact is, we still live in a sinful world where hard things happen, and yes, we have to persevere through them, but we have to remember that it's okay to mourn.
One thing that has stuck out to me this year is that others are quick to rejoice with you, but fumble around, or simply have radio silence, when it comes to mourning. And, that's understandable. When someone is going through heartbreak, you don't want to say the wrong thing so maybe you don't say anything, or maybe you want to somehow mend their heart with your words, so you end up saying something that results in putting your foot in your mouth.
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn" (12:15). In this passage, he is giving instructions to the Lord's people on how to care for one another and love one another, and in that, we are called to both rejoice and mourn. Rejoicing is the easy part. It's easy to send a meal, gift, or communicate via text, phone, or card. It's more difficult to join in mourning or to know exactly what to do, but we should still try.
In our experience of mourning, we observed varied responses and reactions. Like I said, some were helpful, and some were not. Let's take a moment to look at them so we know what to do or not to do when we want to walk with someone else through their mourning.
The Similar Storytellers: Something similar happened to my cousin's friend's uncle. Does listening to this story help you feel better?
In this scenario, someone is trying to help and remind you that you are not alone because others have endured a similar situation. I think this is helpful in the long run, but giving these stories immediately isn't that helpful. The person mourning is trying to wrap their mind around what they are going through. They don't really need to be given other disconnected stories, especially when sometimes, they're only "kind of" similar.
The Blame Gamers: What did you do wrong for this to happen? Shouldn't you have known better?
I think this one cuts the deepest. I think people, in their own obscure way, think they are helping when they ask you these questions, but it does not help in the slightest. "Let's add a little guilt and shame to your sadness and mourning..." Even Jesus, in John 9, tells his disciples that the man's blindness was not a result of anyone's sin. It was because we live in a fallen world. That still holds true today. Hard things happen, and it's not because of anything we did or didn't do. It's just life.
The All-Knowing: I guess you didn't have enough faith. God is trying to teach you something, and let me tell you what that is because I have a direct line to him, and you don't.
Oh, the self-proclaimed, all-knowing. Help us show them grace when one day, they are mourning! This response confuses me because I don't even know if they're attempting to join in mourning or they just want to boast about how close they are to God, how much time they spend in prayer, or how many Bible verses they know. All I know is, If faith was all that was needed to heal, then the healing would be more dependent on the level of our faith than in God's overall plan and sovereignty.
The Silent Ones: I'm going to give you space because I don't know what to say.
I completely understand this response, but I've learned that a simple text that says "praying for you" goes a long way. Sometimes, people just need a reminder that they're not alone while they're mourning. This has challenged me and convicted me to look at how I react when others are mourning. Just be brave and send or say something simple. Maybe just open the door of communication to let them know they can contact you if they need anything.
The My Schedule Mourners: I'm going to let you mourn on my time frame, and I'll honestly mourn with you, but when I say you're done, it's time for you to move on because I've used up my quota of grace and patience.
This is a hurtful and awkward situation. Everyone grieves on their own schedule, and grief comes in waves. You don't know what will trigger someone's grief, especially when it's still near the situation, and honestly, you don't have the right to tell someone when they should be done. Also, just because someone is trying to continue with their life doesn't mean everything instantly snapped back to normal.
The True Mourners: The ones who are wiling to cry with you and for you. Their heart hurts for you, and they do their best to try to understand what you are going through.
Finally, there are some who know that what they do won't heal the hurt, but they just want to do something to help. They admit that they don't fully know every emotion and heartache that you are experiencing, yet their heart hurts for you. They wish they could heal your pain, but they know they cannot, so they'll just be there to pray for you and cry with you.
Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to be a true mourner in John 11. I encourage you to read the account. His friend Lazarus has died. Jesus knows the outcome. He knows he will raise him from the dead. Yet, when he sees Mary, Martha, and the others weeping and mourning, his heart aches for them. So, before raising Lazarus from the dead, he stops, and weeps and mourns with them. Remember, he knew the end of the story. He knew that what he was about to do was going to help, but he chose to mourn with them and acknowledge their pain.
I pray that this is a challenge to us as we encounter others who are mourning. What we do will not help them or heal them, but we can be there and be even the smallest bit of an encouragement and hope. When we're tempted to say too much or not say anything at all, let's remember Jesus' example of how to mourn with those mourn.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Several months ago, we decided to rent a storage unit to start clearing out our house and get a head start in the moving process. We figured we'd only have it about three to four months until our house was finished being built. Then COVID came, delayed everything, and nine months later, we were finally getting the last of our belongings out.
As we pulled up to the unit to get the last of our things, we noticed part of a guitar stand on the ground and my side of the unit door was unlatched. "Wow," I thought, "we must be getting really tired of moving to be so careless."
But, alas, we were not careless. The latch on the other side of the door was cut so when we opened the door, we saw that the remainder of our belongings were strewn about the unit, leaves were everywhere, and several tubs were now empty. It was so disheartening. We are still not exactly sure what is missing, but honestly, part of me doesn't want to know and learn that something precious is gone forever.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that someone was sitting in their house on a Sunday night and came to the decision that a fun activity would be to get some tools and go break into several storage units and steal things. On the other hand, do you read the latest news articles? Or even just read the headlines? It's pretty obvious that people make bad decisions all the time. Evil is everywhere.
In the book of John, Jesus says that in this world, we will have trouble. He doesn't say 'might' or 'possibly'. He says 'we will'. In other words, we are guaranteed to encounter trouble. So, why do we act so surprised when there is trouble? When there is cheating, hate, deception, and so many other awful things. We live in a world that has become blind to sin so certain things shouldn't shock us.
I'm not saying we should accept the bad or condone it, but how should we react? Jesus says that we will have trouble in this world, but we can also find peace! And we can find our peace in Him alone. Instead of adding to the chaos and sin, let's shine His light of peace. Let's counteract with love, compassion, and simply being the bigger person. We need to stop being surprised by sin and stand strong.