You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever!
– Psalms 30: 11-12
The Bible talks about God changing our mourning into dancing. Have you ever thought about that and what it means? We know in heaven there will be no more sorrow or pain. But here on earth? Well, that’s a different story.
When I think of mourning, I’ve often wondered how God can take something the world says should knock us off our feet and keep us down and change it into something beautiful and useful for His kingdom. It seems to me that life would be much smoother if God would just take the things that bring mourning away completely.
When I go back through the scriptures and read the stories God gave us to teach us about Him and His kingdom, the pages are filled with spiritual rags to riches stories; examples of God taking something awful and turning it into something far greater than anyone could ever have imagined.
Joseph had older brothers who hated him so much they actually sold him into slavery. He didn’t do anything to cause such a challenging situation, it was forced on him. He remained a slave for many years. But God was with him and used his captivity to save a remnant of God’s chosen people. (Genesis 45:4-7)
Moses was God’s mouthpiece for a nation of slaves when God rescued them from years of captivity in Egypt. God used the time spent in a dry, dusty desert to teach them about who He was and what would be required of them once they reached the land God had promised to give them. But even Moses was vulnerable to sin and made a bad decision that prevented him from entering the promised land. He wasn’t allowed to enter it, but God gave him the privilege of seeing it from afar. (Numbers 20:2-12)
David took another man’s wife, got her pregnant and then had him killed to cover up his sin. When he confessed and begged God to forgive him, God did forgive him but David had to live through the consequence of his sin and the baby died. Because David’s heart remained devoted to all that God asked of him, the lineage of Jesus came through that very same union later when David and Bathsheba’s son Solomon was born. (2 Samuel 11:1-27, 12:1-14)
But what about now, today? I suppose I can look back on my own life and see where God took a challenging situation, a poor decision, an inescapable consequence and turned it around into something good and positive. But why does He do that? To encourage us so we don’t feel completely beat down? Yes. To show His power and glory? Yes. To continue the story of His redemption and strength to a world that still needs Him? Yes. Yes to all these things.
But I believe there is also another reason and I find it in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Christians.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When I’m going through something hard that fills me with sorrow, having someone come along beside me who has been through the same thing gives me courage that I can get through it too. Knowing that someone truly understands my pain because they’ve walked that same road is as comforting as feeling Jesus’ arms wrapped tightly around my burdened shoulders.
As I’ve matured in my faith, whenever I experience pain and sorrow I find myself thinking, “when I get to the other side of this, God’s going to use this to help someone else.” I find that thought does two things. It helps take my focus off of my own pain, which can feel like it will swallow me whole, and puts my focus on what God is going to do in the future. The second thing it does is it opens my eyes to see others going through a similar situation so I can come along beside them to encourage and comfort them and to be Jesus to them.
God asks us to love each other. He told us to love each other the same way He loves us. And His love is complete and full of compassion. It looks for ways to draw the world to Him. It shifts the focus from thinking about my own problems to seeking out others I can comfort because of the experience of going through all I’ve gone through.
I remember hearing a missionary speak at my church many years ago. When asked how we could help those he was ministering to, his answer struck a chord. He said, don’t pray for God to take away all their problems and struggles. Pray that God will give them a stronger back to be able to carry even more hardship. He knew the simple truth that Jesus struggled when he walked on earth. And because we are His followers, we need to expect to experience the same struggles. His suffering took Him all the way to death on a gruesome cross. God gave Him a stronger back to be able to go through all that was planned for Him.
Are we willing to pray for a stronger back so God can continue to use us to bring glory to Him? Am I willing to not pray for things to be peaceful and go smoothly but instead pray for a stronger back to be able to take on more of the work God needs me to accomplish? Can I be patient enough to wait for my mourning to be turned into dancing once I get to heaven rather than beg for it to happen now? Are you?
Lord, I know that You have promised to turn my mourning into dancing and that heaven will be a place where there will be no need for tears or sadness because we will be in Your Holy presence forever. Thank you for the hope that brings me! But for today, I pray for a stronger back to be able to handle all the world may throw at me so I can be a light for You. Give me open eyes and a willing heart to use my struggles to hold up someone else who may be struggling. Give me the strength to really be Jesus to someone today. Amen.