At first glance, you probably thought I misspelled that title, but in fact, I typed it just right.
Humanity is quite good at avoiding and wishing away certain experiences, particularly, suffering. We pray for protection, for health, for guidance, and even for certain things to go smoothly. We choose the easy way out, because the opposite may require some perseverance. Sometimes we skip a few steps in a process, hoping not to encounter a hurdle. We often perceive a successful life or a life well lived as one that does not experience pain or difficulty. Another way to describe this kind of pain or difficulty is the idea of mourning. No matter the cost, we do not want to walk through periods of mourning, whether that is mourning a lost one or mourning the lack of things going the way we want them to. Mourning could be understood as the heart wrenching reaction to pain, or an emotion experienced in the aftermath of difficulty.
The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” speaks of the Lords simple yet enduring goodness. He reveals Himself and His character as faithful, and the author of this hymn explains that with each morning, God’s mercies are evident. Not only are they evident, they are radiant, bursting forth along side the morning sun and its gentle warmth. With each new morning, the Lords presence is made known.
Now, what if we took a look back at our previous word “mourning.” It sounds the same, has quite a different meaning, but provides us with a revelation that requires some pondering. Let’s say we replaced the word “morning” with “mourning” in a certain portion of this hymn. It would then read, “mourning by mourning new mercies I see.” This word replacement causes the reader to possibly squirm a little bit, maybe due to unfamiliarity, maybe due to conviction…
The point I want to make is that I believe there are certain mercies of the Lord that are only revealed and distributed in times of mourning. The act of mourning leaves us desperate, empty, lonely, and quite honestly, hopeless. The physical tears that fall from our eyes represent a heart that is full of ache and pain, the exact kind previously deemed “avoidance worthy.” But if we always deny the act of mourning, we would never welcome these unique mercies that are discovered and eagerly treasured in these hopeless states. Remember how sweet sugar tasted after re-tasting it following a diet? Remember how great it was to get back into your favorite sport upon finishing the off season? Sometimes this hunger is the best time for the Lords transforming and redemptive power to fill and satisfy. Denying mourning, out of fear, means that we are unsure of the Lords faithfulness to reveal His mercies and comfort to us in that time. Maybe His presence is made known in a completely more ravishing way in mourning than with each morning. If you never mourned, would you ever experience comfort?
Now, I am not in any way denying how immensely deep pain can be, nor am I saying go out and pursue suffering. I have walked through certain periods of mourning, and I am not blind to its ache and effect. But what I am saying is that without a doubt, in some way or another, suffering will make an appearance in our lives. In these times, maybe our song should change. Rather than by singing “Morning by morning new mercies I see,” we will declare “Mourning by mourning new mercies I see.” Perhaps, both speak to a different part of His complex character, yet thoroughly faithful character.
Take a quick peek at one of my favorite philosophical poets. Though he does not clearly label himself a believer, his thoughts on joy and suffering are mind boggling. This excerpt is from Khalil Gibran’s writing on “Joy and Sorrow” in his book “The Prophet.”
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Mourning by mourning, may His new and unique mercies be seen.
words and photo by Kylie Hultgren