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.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
We recently moved, and wow, was that a lot of work! It technically still is as we are unpacking, organizing, and getting rid of things that we don’t need. We tried to do our best in planning ahead, packing a little everyday, and being wise with what we could control. Unfortunately, we couldn’t control everything and have learned a lot about patience in human error. People are not perfect. Amen?
During the past few weeks, it seems that mistakes made by others have cost us hours of time and hundreds to thousands of dollars. I won’t go through every detail, but one example is that even though we completed our financial paperwork months in advance, the bank was one day late in filing their information so our move had to be delayed. This meant getting a hotel room, renting the moving truck for more days, and hours on the phone quickly arranging all of the changes. And honestly, this was not the most expensive human error that we had to fix during the moving process!
This time has really challenged me in thinking of how mistakes and sins affect others. They don’t even have to be mistakes that are made on purpose but simple oversight or ignorance. One moment of forgetfulness can cost someone else hours of stress or having to rearrange their schedule completely.
Have you felt this in your own life? Has someone else’s mistake cost you precious time and money? What about the flip side…has one of your mistakes cost someone else precious time and money? Maybe you delayed in paying a bill and someone had to spend time calling you or writing you a letter to remind you to pay it. Maybe you didn’t want to do something so you simply procrastinated. I know I’m infamous for procrastinating when I need to ask someone a question, and I don’t know what their answer will be. Ironically, it makes my anxiety last longer so costs me my own precious time.
I think something that we need to remember is that there is at least one thing we all have in common. We are all imperfect beings! In Romans, it says that we have all sinned and we have all fallen short. Yet, we are all given God’s grace! Pretty unbelievable that He sees all of our mistakes but still gives us grace. I want you to think of that the next time someone lets you down or makes a mistake that affects you. We have all fallen short and “we” includes you and me. God gives us grace so let’s give grace to one another.
Take some time in prayer right now and confess your impatience with others, times that you know you have been imperfect, and ask God to give you some patience in the days to come.
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5
Our house was sold, and then it wasn’t. When the COVID-19 social distancing was just starting, it wasn’t too hard to handle. Someone had just put an excellent offer on our house, and we were waiting for the final paperwork. Stay in the house for 3 weeks? No problem. I would have the house packed up in no time, and then we could see what was next.
A day passed by, and then another day, and then a couple more days. And, sure enough, the buyer was backing out for fear of the virus and the certain down-spin of the economy. I was crushed to say the least. I really thought we were finally going to find a new house. And with the social distancing mandate, there was no way someone would come look at our house or consider moving during this time. Disappointment was unbearable and inevitable.
I am thankful to have a roof over my head, but this house has caused me grief since day one. It pushes my anxiety over the top. See, I am not a country girl. I was not made to live where there is little internet or by a corn field that welcomes pests of all sorts. I want to be near civilization in a house that I feel comfortable with organizing like you wouldn’t believe. I want a house where my belongings get to be moved in immediately instead of five months later. I want a house where I actually know where my jewelry ended up.
There was this huge burst of hope, but now, hope seems to be gone. Hope seems to be dwindling. When will this end? When will people want to buy houses again? The thing about hope is that it seems to be gone, but it’s never truly gone. Even when disappointment seems to be reigning, there’s always a glimmer of hope, and hope does not disappoint. Sometimes, we need that hope to keep pressing forward, persevering, waiting for what’s next.
In my disappointment, I know I need to focus on being thankful and taking care of what God has given me. I am thankful that since our house was for sale, it was extremely clean before all of this started so we are able to tidy up each day and keep it fairly clean. I am thankful that we have fixed up so much in this house and have little fear of anything breaking since so much is brand new. And, I am thankful that the market as a whole is paused and it’s not just our house. These reminders keep hope alive in me. Above all, I know that God is in control.
So friends, what are you needing hope for right now? What disappointment has you so downtrodden that hope is having a hard time peaking through? God brings hope. He brings peace. Trust in him while you wait. Bring your disappointments to his feet and ask for help. Ask for hope. He’s got you.