To the Word

Reflections on the call to live by the Word of God

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

How Can a Mourner Give Thanks?

"Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever." -- Psalm 30:12,13 (ASV)

It's hard to live very long without finding our share of mourning. Death, cancer, sickness, injury, abuse--these are sewn into the fabric of life in a fallen world. Even as Christians our only response to some circumstances is simply sackcloth and ashes--deep, gloomy, soul-wrenching mourning.

One of the beauties of the Psalms is that they face life's agonies head-on. The Psalmists knew that even for God's own, life can sometimes be hard--nearly unbearable. And you won't find any superficial, feel-good advice in the Psalms either, no cheap look-on-the-bright-side optimism. Psalm 88, for example, shows a troubled soul crying out time and time again to God for help--and receiving no answer. Whether or not in this life we ever understand why, there are times when God, for reasons only he knows, allows his own people to go through darkness.

Yet underlying every Psalm, every page of the Bible, is God's steadfast love. Redemption does not come cheaply--God's son had to die for it, after all--but it does come at last for those who put their trust in the Lord. God does not want us to pretend everything is all right when it's not. And he certainly doesn't expect us to dance in our mourning or pretend our rough sackcloth is silky gladness. Only after we have acknowledged our sadness and turned it over in faith to God does he turn our mourning to dancing and our sackcloth to gladness.

And once God has done a work like that in our heart, how can we be silent? Like the Psalmist, God has then equipped us to sing praises to his name, and give thanks unto him forever.

Copyright 2004, New York Avenue Church of Christ


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