My husband Brendan uttered those two words, and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room.
“It” is ulcerative colitis, which Bren first had as a little boy. Ulcers multiplied in his colon, forcing him to run outside and bury his belly in the snow to numb the pain. After years of failed treatments and embarrassing incidents that scarred him for life, the doctors suggested the last resort: a colostomy bag. To eight-year-old Bren, this was unspeakable. “No mum,” he said. “I think you should let me die and go to heaven.”
Later, nudged by the Holy Spirit, a friend offered to pray for him again. As they prayed, warmth rose in his stomach. He cried, “Jesus healed me!” When they returned to the hospital for a check-up, the doctors were stunned: The ulcers had vanished.
I’d adopted this miraculous story as my own, a testimony to God’s supernatural power. Here was a peek at heaven walking around my home in the form of my husband!
But now, our miracle had been stolen. I didn’t understand. Why, God? Why steal Bren’s healing? I felt betrayed. Bren did all the “right” things: He studied the Word everyday, he was the loudest singer at church, and we were even helping to plant a church at that time. Sure, we knew that our lives weren’t going to be trouble-free just because we loved Jesus, but this?
I muscled up; I needed to be strong for him and our two daughters. It was easier to harden my heart than to wrestle with the why.
Four years later, Bren is still sick, but he never uses it as an excuse to duck out of life. Indeed, his joy in the Lord is miraculous in and of itself. But Bren isn’t the only casualty.
As my heart calloused over, my joy dimmed to the tiniest spark. I became impatient. I laughed less. My creativity was evaporating. In trying to protect myself from the hard conversation with God, the scar tissue started spreading to parts I didn’t foresee.
The other day, my therapist said, “It sounds like you haven’t mourned.” Her comment stopped me in my tracks.
Mourning isn’t reserved solely for the loss of loved ones. We can mourn the loss of dreams, hopes, and expectations. But mourning presents more of a mystery here in the Western world.
When my mother-in-law’s grandmother died, in keeping with Persian tradition, she and her mother wore white for forty straight days. Ancient Jewish tradition prescribed a period of thirty days, during which one shaved their head and put away all finery. Professional mourners, wailing women, would come to your side to mark the occasion. Elders would sit in sackcloth and ashes. The cultural understanding was that mourning takes our time, energy, and spirit. There was no need to lie or pretend you were okay when you weren’t.
King Solomon, who wrote “a time to mourn and a time to dance,” also recognized that mourning was encouraged by God. The beginning of this famous passage struck me:
There is an appointed time for everything . . .
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NASB)
Like birth and death, every event under the sun is ordained by God. We’re on His schedule. When I dodged my own mourning time, I stepped out of lockstep with Him. God, in His kindness, knew I needed time to process this loss. Who was I to deny what God wanted to give? I dread going to the dark places, so I took comfort knowing I wouldn’t get stuck there because there was an appointed end to it. For those who find comfort in mourning, what an encouragement to move on to the next stage, no matter how intimidating, because God has written the schedule of our lives.
Perhaps the greatest reason to enter a time of mourning is that Jesus waits for us there! Isaiah describes a Messiah who would “comfort all who mourn.” Seven hundred years later, that Messiah declared:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 (NASB)
Go to Jesus in your mourning, and you will be comforted. That has been my very experience this year. While He hasn’t answered my whys, He has, at least momentarily, settled my heart with His peace.
But how could mourning be a blessing?, I wondered. Well, Isaiah offers a clue:
“I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,
Creating the praise of the lips,
Peace, peace to him who is far and to him that is near.”
Isaiah 57:18-19 (NASB)
In being comforted by God, our wails of mourning are transformed into songs of praise. Our mourning becomes our testimony. This is a truth I know from helping many women walk through postpartum depression, a dark valley I’ve traversed twice. He will redeem our time in the darkness.
Sometimes we need the encouragement to mourn. I know I did. And so, if this message resonates with your soul, hear me friend: Run to Jesus and shed your tears in His presence. It’s not self-indulgent. You won’t stay in the dark pit forever. I’m here, in sackcloth and ashes, and while I dreaded it, I’m okay. The Lord waits for me, and in our time together, I can see that someday, He will turn my mourning into dancing. My joy, once a dim candle, is slowly building, and I have hope again.Leave a Comment