Grieve, Mourn, Wail!
I don’t like crying. I like the benefits of crying, but I don’t like crying. I am not entirely sure why, but for some reason you are deciding to read this article about crying. One would think from info in the “Daily Journal” feed that I came up with this idea recently. I didn’t. I have been planning this article for months. I have eagerly anticipated its arrival. Not because I like crying, but I love how God gives us full permission to engage our emotion in following Him. (I was going to say all of our emotions, but that is something I am not sure I agree with and is a topic for another time.)
James instructs us, “Submit yourselves then to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
One of the things I have noticed is God does not instruct us to be joyful about everything. Sometimes we should trade our joy in. I love how James gives us several instructions about our emotions. He tells us to consider trials “pure joy”. He also tells us later to turn joy in for gloom, which is a pretty depressing word and state of mind. Then later he says those in trouble should pray, while those who are happy should sing songs of praise.
I, for one, am glad God wants me to engage in a wide range of emotions. I shouldn’t expect a life of following Christ to always be singing. It certainly won’t be all crying either, but there are times to cry – like while I am repenting.
It’s important to cry apparently. Personally, I have cried a lot while repenting. Sometimes I cry because I am sad the sin hurt other people. More often I cry because I don’t want to give up the sin or it hurts so bad to give it up that it has me in tears. Most often the latter.
I have cried because I am not God and can’t control my life. I have cried because I can’t pay for even one of my sins by myself (and my pride kicks in and I am like “why not?”). I have cried because I can’t eat certain foods when I am fasting and am hungry. I have cried because sometimes I feel like all I have to do is touch a situation for it to all fall apart. I don’t know if that last one has anything to do with repentance though.
So I think there are appropriate times for crying. Repenting seems to be one of those times.
Then I think of another story in Scripture. I think of a young man who was told to repent and so became very sad. Maybe he even cried. His emotions seem to fit those in the instructions in James. Only he missed a key element. He didn’t actually repent!
And Jesus’ analysis of the situation was, “it is hard for someone like him to enter the kingdom of heaven.” I imagine Jesus shaking his head in sadness as He pointed out this truth to His disciples.
Jesus was talking about rich people. It’s tough to be rich. Just ask me. I lust for money like nobody’s business. It takes almost nothing to have me lusting and running after it. That’s why I carefully live a life in which I can’t pursue it. I am in the middle of making life decisions right now. One of the very difficult factors is that whatever I choose, I can’t make much money. It narrows the field of work available to me to almost nothing. In some ways, it narrows how big I can dream, or perhaps allows me to dream even bigger.
The young man went away sad because Jesus asked him to give his money away and he wouldn’t. The moral of the story?
When you hear the gospel message and the call to repent, don’t go away sad. Obey it, change and run toward Jesus! Grieve, mourn and wail! Do whatever you need to do in the process; but in the end, repent! Respond with joy and gratitude. Be happy. Be grateful. Worship Him.
But whatever you do, don’t ever just go away sad!!!