She really was extraordinary—funny, loving, and firm when she needed to be. If a perfect teacher exists, she would be at the top of the list, in our house anyway. Thankfully for us, our younger son was in her class, not once, but twice. When we found out he would have his kindergarten teacher again for 5th grade, we were elated. The unpredictability of 2020 was especially difficult for him. While we couldn’t be sure which activities, even school itself, would go on, we could be sure about one thing: Mrs. W. And she delivered—suddenly breaking into song, encouraging dance-offs, dressing up in wild costumes. If there was anything an 11-year-old would love, she did it.
Now that life has resumed some normalcy, we have tried to embrace change. My boys started new schools this year. While they were excited to move on to new adventures, the subtle dread of leaving this enjoyable relationship behind haunted us all. My son periodically says, “I miss Mrs. W.” After six great years under her tutelage, we all miss her. We mourn this transition in our lives.
Mourning comes in all shapes and sizes. Not only has our family mourned transitions, we’ve mourned broken relationships, and the passing of dear family members. Life is filled with losses and each one brings us great grief.
A Life of Mourning
The teacher in Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to mourn” (3:4). But in all reality, life can sometimes feel a lot more like one long mourning period. It seems the longer we live, the more we mourn. While we definitely have reasons to rejoice, our lives, more often than not, mirror Paul’s description in Romans of “…groaning together in the pains of childbirth…” and “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption of sons…” (Romans 8:22-23).
We mourn and groan because we know things are not as they should be. When God created the world, there was no mourning. Things didn’t break. Relationships didn’t fail. Bodies didn’t age. And there was no death. Until the Fall of man when our first parents sinned. The effects of that sin have reverberated through the ages since. Mourning is now a way of life.
In our day, our culture attempts to cope with the decay of all things through modern medicine and technology. It presents a false hope, a “promise” of sorts that we can bypass the mourning that others in former times couldn’t. Or at least delay it. We plan our pregnancies and deliveries, develop cures to diseases, purchase insurances for every inevitability, take all of the right supplements for a long life, and plan our children’s perfect path to success from the age of 2.
But in the end, mourning comes knocking at our door anyway.
While the certainty of mourning is discouraging, great news cuts into the bad. The gospel of Jesus Christ entered our dark world with the promise of hope. This gospel is what many consider “upside down.” By this I mean, darkness becomes light, pain brings freedom, hate breeds love, and enemies become brothers. Most importantly, Christ transforms our mourning into life-giving joy. In both Isaiah 61 and Jeremiah 31, the Lord responds to Israel’s mourning. He promises not only to comfort them in their time of grief, but to transform it. He says he will “turn their mourning in joy” (Jeremiah 31:13) and “bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and oil of joy instead of mourning…” (Isaiah 61:3). This happened through the life and death of our Savior who conquered sin in our place.
Shortly before Christ’s crucifixion, he spoke to his followers, comforting them regarding his upcoming departure. He explained, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20). Christ’s crucifixion is the ultimate example of how God transforms mourning for his good purpose; he brought life from death. Jesus then closed John 16 with another upside-down promise: “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Not only is our mourning transformed by the gospel; it is part of our message to the world. When we mourn with joy, it points the lost to the hope of Christ. In 1 Thessalonians— a chapter devoted to instruction for Christian living— Paul explained how a Christian mourns. Our mourning, he said, is different from the world’s. He exhorted believers to “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (4:13). Christ’s death and resurrection is a game changer. It brings a comfort that nothing else can. Just as Christ “rose again… God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (4:14). After a refresher on the promise of the second coming, the chapter ends with the reminder to “… encourage each other with these words” (4:18).
Mourning is a part of life, one which we can’t avoid. But Revelation gives us this hope and promise: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain…” (21:4). Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice for us, all the heartbreak we endure in this life will one day be exchanged for eternal joy.
About the Author:
Jessica Roan has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from Oklahoma Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Montana State University-Billings. She is a high school English teacher, mentor, and blogger. She can be found at carriedalong.blog. She enjoys writing, hiking, skiing, and traveling. She lives in Billings, Montana with her husband and two boys. Her home church is Rocky Mountain Community Church.