James 4:8-10--Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Mourning is not something we hear discussed much. In truth, our society does not want much to do with mourning—it lives for pleasure not for sorrow. Yet Scripture is filled with great teaching about the importance of mourning and there are significant reasons why we ought to embrace this sorrowful concept.
When Aaron and Moses passed away, the entire nation mourned for a period of thirty days for each of them (Numbers 20:29, Deuteronomy 34:8). The Jewish custom for the loss of a relative is to spend a period of seven days called shivacompletely focused on grieving. During this time, the community treats the mourners with great care and respect by providing food and comfort. After the shiva, for another 23 days, mourning takes place encompassing a 30-day timeframe known as Shloshim. While the ones mourning return to work or their normal lives, they avoid parties, concerts, or any forms of public entertainment. Children who have lost a parent may observe Shnat ha-evel,an 11-month period of remembrance.
When Jacob died at the end of the book of Genesis, Joseph had his father embalmed in Egypt; a process that required 40 days to complete. After he was embalmed the Egyptians mourned for him for seventy days. This is incredible given that he was a foreigner! Following this period of grieving, Joseph and all his family took Jacob’s body back to where Abraham was buried. When they reached the site of burial they “lamented and wept loudly, and Joseph mourned seven days for his father” (Gen. 50:1-3,10).
Solomon taught that “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart” (Ecclesiates 7:2). Priests commonly set aside a period each year just to mourn (Zechariah 7:3). The prophet Daniel, after receiving a troubling vision spent three weeks mourning (Dan. 10:2).
When we make the time to fully embrace sorrow several things happen. First, we gain a better perspective. Life on earth is transient. Death has a way of grasping us by the throat and forcing us to evaluate what we believe about God, hope in eternal life and what we have established as priorities.
Second, for those of us who trust that Jesus is our Savior and that we can look forward to living forever with Him, we have the opportunity to mix joy in the bowl of tears and pining. What greater testimony is there then handling death with dignity and having the ability to share the hope we have in Christ! The most attentive audiences I have ever spoken to are those who are attending funerals. Death makes us think, listen and evaluate.
Third, when we mourn our attention is directed towards what God wants. Three times in Scripture we learn that God grieves—once over creating man (Gen. 6:6) and twice over immoral behavior (Psa. 78:40, Isa. 63:10). Paul warned believers not to grieve the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. Understand that we should not just mourn over loss of life we should grieve over loss of truth, holiness, faithfulness and obedience. Anything that causes God grief should deeply bother us! This is why James wrote, “Be miserable and mourn and weep.”
How wise it is to set aside time to pray, fast and lament over sin. Jesus shared that“Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Grieving shows Him that we are serious in our quest to follow Him and in our love for those struggling. When I think of my sins, tears readily come to my eyes. I am so grateful that my Father has forgiven me and buried my transgressions but I sorrow over the things I have done that are not of His will and plan. To mourn is to look deep inside my heart and that is where truth resides in noble silence.
Oh God, how short I fall from Your standards. How I hurt over the fact that You had to send Your precious Son to horribly suffer to save me, an unworthy creature made from dust. Your love truly is unfathomable.
We hinder healing when we attempt to bypass our time to mourn because we disrupt the natural flow of life.—Carol A. and William J. Rowley in On Wings Of Mourning
©2017 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)