There is . . . a time to be silent, and a time to speak" (Eccles. 3:1,7). This is a time to be silent.
Oh, there are so many things to say. I know them well. "God knows what He's doing and He's in control." "The baby miscarried because it wasn't healthy in the first place." "Maybe your wife's too old to have children. It's risky after 35, you know." "The pain will make you a deeper person . . . draw you closer to the Lord and to each other."
Reasons. We always have to have reasons. They may even be true, but like the words of Job's friends, they never reach far enough to touch the pain.
It's not easy giving birth to death. I just watched a surgical Hoover evacuate the remains of our fetal hope into a plastic bag while a nurse hid the scarlet evidence and joked to cover the tension. The blow was dealt and so deeply felt by my wife.
This is a time to be silent. Why is it that we always have to have something to say? Sometimes we need someone to sit next to us and stare at the ground or kick at the darkness.
"[There is] a time to weep and time to laugh" (Eccles. 3:4).
Jesus wept. He wept over the death of a friend and over the loss felt by the survivors. There are as many reasons for this as there are New Testament commentaries. but it's really not that difficult. Jesus wept because it was a time to weep.
If there are times to weep, I must be missing a lot of them because I've had only a few in my lifetime. I envy my children for this. Their tears flow so freely and laughter is always so close behind.
The psalmist says that God collects all our tears in a bottle (Ps. 56:8). My bottle must not be very full. But it's not because I haven't had anything to cry about; I think it's because I don't let life touch me. The tears are there, collected in a guarded reservoir somewhere behind my eyes, but gradual spillways keep the floodwaters under control.
This was a time to weep.
"[There is] a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Eccles. 3:4).
Mourning is different than weeping. It's coupled with dancing, which gives it a sense of celebration a celebration of sadness. Weeping is a sudden response, mourning is planned; weeping is spontaneous, mourning is scheduled.
Old Testament prophets tore their clothes and covered themselves with ashes to mourn the sins of the people and beseech the mercy of God. During Jesus' time, mourning the death of a loved one lasted seven days. Professional mourners were even hired to inspire grief.
These practices may not be transferable to our Western culture, but there's something we can learn from the intent. Mourning is meant to let grief run its course, give it some visible expression, and celebrate sadness. But we're so quick to resume the clatter of daily life that we never let our hearts know what really happened.
There's something else important about mourning. It's not an unending action. This is true for all three of these responses; life isn't all silence, weeping, or mourning any more than it's all talk, laughter, and dance. Each feeling gives the other a context, room to breathe, a reason to be.
There's a time to get up, wash our faces, put on fresh clothes, and join in the dance. But could it be that without really mourning, we may never hear the music of the dance?
Part III || Table of Contents