I know Gentle Reformation has been relatively quiet recently. I know for me my inactivity here has been mostly due to grieving that, like the chaotic storms we have witnessed as of late, has hit me from different fronts.
Though the Lord has blessed us in so many ways as we have moved from Indiana to western Pennsylvania, and we are enjoying building new friendships here, still it is a sad business to pull up roots and leave behind those you love. The feeling of separation is akin to grief.
We also were rocked immediately by an event in the congregation where we now worship. On our first Lord’s Day there, we were greeted warmly after the service by a deacon and his wife, and walked out of the sanctuary with them. The next morning he was dead, leaving his wife and four young children behind. When I heard about it, I wailed and looked in disbelief at the hand that had shaken his the day before. Even as I write now I cry.
Then as I wrote recently, my wife’s mother passed away shortly after we moved. Though Americans seem too busy for such things anymore, in olden days the people seem to think it fitting to mourn their losses for long periods of time (Genesis 50:3; Numbers 20:29). Could it be they showed more wisdom, valuing godly lives more than we do, understanding the Lord Himself views as precious or costly the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15)?
As I went through planning Mom’s funeral with Dad and a retired Evangelical Covenant minister, I appreciated their desire for the service to be sober and dignified. Yes, four granddaughters sung beautifully together at the service, but what may be remembered most by those in attendance is the girls openly weeping then hugging one another when the congregation stood to join them in the last stanza. That sure seems to be more appropriate than the giddy “celebrations of life” that I have seen in too many modern funerals, where tears are not encouraged and silly anecdotes about the deceased are told as pictures flash overhead. Many evangelicals enjoy the trivia about what is the shortest verse in the Bible, but why can they not understand its context and simple message? “Jesus wept” when Lazarus died, as He witnessed and experienced the awful grief that sin and death have brought to this world. If we want to be like Him, and know He is with us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, should we not learn to cry and grieve like Him as well?
So life in our household has been quieter and more pastoral as of late. Dad is here, and we are enjoying quiet talks and remembering the last weeks together. Working on projects in the yard and home, interjecting how Mom would have enjoyed helping or ideas she would have had, all the while seeing my wife wearing little scarves from her mother in her hair, have not been morbid in the least but healing in nature. Though laughter is still present, hugs and tears flow more freely than normal. Meditating and praying for others, especially those most impacted by the tragedy mentioned above, are more important to us at this time – here I confess my sin – than they are at others. How thankful I am for our God who encourages us to come to Him with tears and draws near when we mourn.
As Philpot reminds us in today’s reading from Through Baca’s Vale (based on II Corinthians 1:7, which says in part “as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort”):
What am I, and what are you when we have no trials? Light, frothy, worldly-minded, carnal, frivolous. We may talk of the things of God, but they at a distance…But when affliction, be it in providence or be it in grace, brings a man down; when it empties him of all his high thoughts, lays him low in his own eyes, brings trouble into his heart, I warrant you that he wants something more than outside gospel. He wants power; he wants to experience in his soul the operations of the blessed Spirit; he wants to have a precious Jesus manifesting himself to his soul in love and blood…”
The Christian is to want something more than “outside gospel.” To aid him in this, God brings seasons of mourning to help increase that want.
Yet in many ways, these seasons, like summer storms, should be of little surprise to the believer. For when he is walking with Christ, every day he know joy comes through a dying to self, through a knowledge of the blessing of a mourning that brings comfort, through a holy grieving over his own sin.