By Russ Ramsey
God created us as complex creatures, capable of feeling and sensing a whole garden of emotions. Made in the image of our Creator, we can both grieve the wrongs of this world, and celebrate the sweetness of this life. This 2-week reading plan will lead us through a series of passages from Scripture that examine the seasons of mourning and dancing in the life of a believer. In the written responses here on the site, our writers will enter into this tension, articulating their personal experiences with grief and joy in hopes of freeing you to explore your own. By immersing our hearts and minds in God’s Word, and honestly presenting our laments to Him, may we remember that God is present with us, He is good, and He is faithful.
There is a time for everything. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Occasionally, the seasons of these seeming opposites come at the same time.
I have a friend who died from cancer. He was one day older than me. I miss him a lot. He was a wonderful man who loved the Lord. When I met him, he was in the late stages of the cancer that took him. Multiple surgeries on his brain had left him partially paralyzed. He struggled to speak. But his love of life, Christ, and his wife, family, and friends made him someone whose memory encouraged me greatly when I later faced a life-threatening illness of my own.
His wife was also my friend. They lived a few houses down from us. When my friend died, I had the sad, holy honor of presiding over his funeral and walking with his family through their grief. I remember how, for what seemed like the next few months, my friend’s wife always had tears in her eyes. She wasn’t openly weeping continually, but her eyes were always hot with tears. I remember how they would just roll down her face, even as we talked about mundane things like mowing the lawn or an upcoming church picnic. Tears. Always tears.
At first, this made me nervous when I would talk to her. I didn’t want to trigger her sorrow. But after a while, she told me she wished her tears would cease so that people would stop avoiding the subject of her husband’s death when they were around her.
She said something I hope I never forget: “The tears are here because I’m sad and I miss my husband. My heart is broken. But I want to talk about him. I want to remember him with others who knew him and loved him. That brings me joy, even as it causes me to weep. I want people to understand that I can feel more than one thing at a time.”
Such wisdom. It is a mark of spiritual maturity to be able to feel more than one thing at a time. God has given us the capacity to simultaneously feel the depths of sorrow over the loss of a loved one and a swell of gratitude to God for the gift of that person’s life. This isn’t easy. In fact, it may even be something of a learned skill. But God has given us an incredible ability to feel things deeply in their time—even conflicting emotions at the same time.
Scripture has much to say about our deepest pains and brightest hopes, and as we read, we are invited to grow in our emotional, spiritual health. It’s okay to feel. In fact, it is vital.
There is a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4)—and those seasons may come joined to each other. Now may be the time for you to weep. Now may be the time for you to celebrate. Now may be the time for you to do both. Remember, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). So lean in and welcome the scrutiny of Scripture as we lay our hearts bare before the Lord.
Written by Russ Ramsey