Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
I’m good at hiding my true feelings. I’m good at pretending and putting on a happy face. But maybe you’re like me, and you’re not really okay. With all that has been going on, I feel dislocated, isolated, unsure how to feel about this present moment. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends at school, I don’t even have a graduation ceremony for closure. If I’m being perfectly transparent, I hate it when people throw encouraging cliches at me. Sometimes the situation isn’t a matter of perspective. Sometimes we need to admit things are just bad right now.
Ecclesiastes 3:1–11 speaks to this point. The writer, Solomon, is being honest about life in a broken world. He tells us there is a time for everything. Notice how the painful human experiences aren’t omitted or disregarded, they’re a valid part of life. Whether we like it or not, there is a time to die and a time to hate. And right now we find ourselves in a time when we have to refrain from embracing (v. 5), a time when many are dying (v. 2), a time where we weep and mourn (v. 4). This is a time when many of the worst parts of these verses seem very true.
As a culture, I think we haven’t been taught to take time to mourn. Sometimes life is just sad, and the appropriate and even biblical response is what Scripture calls lament. True lament is mourning. It brings our grief and our loss before God. It allows us to be honest about what we are experiencing and feeling. In this modern era, we can feel rushed to be okay with everything, to be happy. The Bible shows us that we need to make space to lament. Mourning loss and asking God important questions is a normal part of the human experience, and a necessary part of processing pain.
For us as students, we have had hopes deferred and plans canceled. We hear about death and suffering around the world. That need to be mourned. We’re not supposed to just lie about it, pretend everything is fine, and put on a happy face. Yes, this pandemic is a time we probably didn’t wish for. Yet, God has taught us that there is a time for all things. Even this. In this Ecclesiastes 3:11 the writer says “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This is a promise we can take comfort in even as we mourn. I don’t know how God can make this time beautiful, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
When one of my friends passed away at the age of 15, the grief broke me. I created a painting of a broken mirror reflecting a rose placed in a dark room. The painting was meant to remind me that even things that are broken can be made beautiful. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon assures us that there is a time and a place to mourn. Take comfort in knowing that only God knows the end of the story. It’s okay to be where you are—hanging onto His promises, even in the midst of pain.
Have you made space for mourning? Consider also if there are others in your life you need to allow space to mourn. Maybe start a list, even now, of the ways God is making this painful experience beautiful. You don’t have to put anything on it yet, but as the weeks and months pass, slowly add to it. It may take you a while, like it did for me with my friend, but be patient and trust God. Give yourself and others permission to mourn.
Author’s Note on Photograph: This photograph is actually of me (Elizabeth/Ellie) crying. I had someone in the house help me take this photo one night up in a little attic space. It was after I had finished writing this devotional about mourning and I wanted to show you all not just tell you all that mourning is okay. I was actually crying as I leaned against the door-frame in this dark room, thinking about everything that is happening in my life and around the world. But, I also have hope. I am now able to see some of the blessings of being back here; for example, I am able to celebrate someone’s birthday that I would otherwise not have been able to. This is the beginning of my “what good things God is doing through this” list.