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Grief’s Fruit

I recently published this in our Church’s quarterly publication, but also wanted to post a modified version here.

At the beginning of this year, our Church entered into a season of grief and lament over the loss of the ordinary, over political tensions, and over sickness and death due to disease.  When my wife and I lost our baby boy, Adlai, they joined us in additional grief and lament.  It seems to me to be additional mourning for a season of mourning, more lament for a time of lamentation, grief added to grief, loss added to loss, and confusion added to confusion.  These words are not unacceptable for the Christian to utter.  In fact, they are necessary to speak and to feel in order for us to walk forward in a healthy way as bearers of the cross of Christ.  But we do not speak or feel these things without faith or hope in the restoration we shall receive.  

We are told how to view grief mingled with hope in Psalm 126:5-6 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”  The context of this verse is the Old Covenant believers in exile, imagining the joy that will follow when the Lord brings his people back from exile.  They were in exile on account of the sin of their forefathers, and because of their personal sin.  They anticipate that after they have mourned over their sin, God will restore them to the land.  And so the Psalm ends with a truism—if you sow seed while weeping over the lack of food, you have still sown the seed, and so eventually you will have joy in the abundance of a harvest.  This then applies to a spiritual reality—if you grieve over personal sin and over loss because of the curse, you eventually will be comforted and restored.

This gives us two things to ponder.  The first is that mourning is not to be shunned.  This reality is confirmed and clarified in the New Covenant with our sympathizing Mediator, Jesus Christ.  He promises that those who mourn are blessed, for they shall be comforted.  His thought is that we mourn over our sin, and over the effects of sin—the curse and its conditions.  Consider Jesus, knowing He is to raise Lazarus, mourning Lazarus’ death.  He is moved to tears by the pain that gripped His holy and perfect heart—the pain of loss, and the sorrow over what has afflicted His friends.

But a second thing I see in Psalm 126 is that we are to “go out” while weeping.  This is Jesus’ great command to us, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations”.  Our labors do not cease while we mourn, but neither does joy.  We weep over the hardness of heart we see in our friends and family, and labor over them in prayer.  One day, our tears will turn to joy if and when they finally embrace Jesus.   We mourn the effects of the curse, and wretched death’s grip upon us, but one day, that final enemy will be defeated.  “He will swallow up death forever” (Is. 25:8).  When we compel people to believe that Jesus is the Savior of sinners, we invite them to mourn over their sin with us.  But we also invite them to know the hope, grounded in Jesus’ resurrection, that our mourning is accompanied with “joy inexpressible” now, and will be transformed into shouts of joy.

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