In The Morning
ne of the many encouraging promises of Scripture is that, "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30: 5, NRSV) Not necessarily tomorrow morning, but eventually God will help heal the hurt. A new friend shared with me this week that his beloved wife of many years died just ten months ago and that he has not yet experienced the morning, but that he is at least beginning to look east in anticipation of the sunrise. In Christ, there is an assurance of morning after mourning.
God does not force recovery from deep bereavement upon us, we have to want it. Anticipation and desire give hope amid hopelessness that on some glad morning we will be resurrected from our mourning. Most of us know this is true because we have been there. And now we are able to worship, nearly the same as we were before the pain, but still recovering. Twelve Step recovery groups teach that the alcoholic, drug addict, etc. is really never freed, but always refer to themselves as persons in recovery. The recovering Christian is typically more tenderhearted and thin skinned emotionally.
If you have not suffered bereavement yet, and perhaps do not feel the relevance of this sermon, just wait a while for sooner or later, we all go through the deep dark valley of the loss of a loved one or friend: It may be the hardest experience of life. The death of a parent leaves us feeling orphaned, at any age. Not even wonderful memories can replace the person who gave us life and nurtured us on their knees. The loss of a spouse changes one's whole category in the community: Suddenly you are a "widow," a "widower." Other people have borne that tag, but it is an unbearable box that you are suddenly stuffed into. The loss of a child may be the worst; at any age. She may be fifty years old and living in Amarillo, but she is still your baby: a child is irreplaceable. Bereavement, mourning is the darkest night. But still we read in God's Word that there will eventually come a new joy, if we will open our hearts to it. We hear people saying that they have survived even the deepest emotional stress. We remember that we too have recovered from calamity in past sojourns. We have been almost defeated before but we have overcome. This is not a foolish Pollyanna attitude, but is our life's experience.
And when that new day has come we have embraced its rays of hope. We have sung with the veteran of the darkness, King David, the Psalmist, when we blurt out with exuberant joy: "O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me." (v. 2)
What we learn from our down time is that our Creator has made a way for our recovery. Is it not logical that since God created us with this giant capacity for emotional pain that He would build into us a way out? Whenever cavers crawl deep into a pit they tie a string at the opening so that they can follow it back out. Modern day hunters carry satellite location devices deep into the woods so they can get back out. Likewise, God has instilled in us a capacity for recovery.
We have also learned that among the many random pieces of advice that caring friends and counselors have poked at us, there were a few words that did sink in. This tells us that we too can become a caring friend. Almost by accident, we find ourselves drawn into the pain of another. We have become something of an expert. We feel like an evangelist. We are like a wounded soldier dragging a buddy to the medical unit. We can help lift up others because we have learned that in time God will restore joy.
Best of all… the next time we are personally back in that familiar deep valley of sorrow; we know that we can anticipate the morning. This optimistic attitude can't help but affect our whole attitude about the rest of life. There is something everlasting about having experienced the morning that leaves us with a rosy, bright and sunny attitude. We become more confident in our work, even bullish about life, to use stock market terminology.
And yet, we are wiser in the aftermath of sorrow. Because the emotional and feeling level of recovery was so real to us, we can logically and intellectually become more confident. In his book, Speak What We Feel, Frederick Buechner, shares that the common thread between his own favorite authors, Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain and G.K. Chesterton, is that they wrote in their own blood about the darkness of their lives and how they had managed to overcome it, even to embrace their bereavement, pain and sorrow as being their building blocks.
Of course, all of the above assumes that we are talking as people of faith. Without faith there is no assurance of an afterlife because the person who has rejected spiritual things has rejected eternal life. Likewise, the faithless life has no room for an emotionally based new sense of optimism. Nor would there be much of an altruistic desire to minister to others from a secular and merely psychological partial recovery from grief. Again, the secularist attitude would not include the assumption that God has created us with the capacity to recover from common times of bereavement.
Secularists do have some good ideas about dealing with death that we believers need to incorporate. For example, you might hear a worldly person say something like, "Get over it, for Pete's sake!" There may be times when we need to hear that. The worst thing that a secularist might engage in is denial. To just pretend that it has not happened. They might go on a trip, or get caught up in a new hobby as a way of shutting out the pain. Adversity is so common to all of us that there must be a way for it to provide value to our lives. All of our pain is at its deepest level the same and it binds all humanity together. Everybody everywhere wants to protect their children. We do not want to experience random terroristic acts. We share with all humanity the desire to live free from fear. As Christians, we therefore feel compelled to share our deep experiences that have come from overcoming the pain in life. We are people of the new morning! It has been our experience that Christ has made a way for us to begin to look eastward!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor