There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecc. 3:1-4)
A time for everything
I always figured I could endure any trial as long as I had him by my side. Together, we could face adversity. So when I lost my marriage, I had no courage or game-plan. My normally joyful spirit became deflated, depressed, and I dealt with suicidal thoughts.
After months of dark days following my divorce, the sun began to peek through. I was asked to lead a lady’s Bible study. It forced me to fellowship and serve when I wanted to be alone. During that time, I was accepted into the Master of Letters program in theology at The University of St. Andrews. I also received a letter from a small publishing company telling me they wanted to publish a book of my poems. I walked out from under darkness and silence into the light of comfort, people, and opportunities.
This last year, I have continued to heal and happiness has resurfaced. A year ago, I met a man who was grieving the loss of his wife to cancer. We talked as friends, but over time, it became something more. Though I put up a hundred walls, his patience and faithfulness knocked each one down. We fell in love and recently, he asked me to be his wife. “You make me believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” he told me (Ps. 27:13). Evan has been God’s kindness to me; a gift I didn’t dare hope for. I smile all the time now.
When I stop to consider the contrast between my current happiness and where I was just three years ago—on the broken stairs outside my apartment in Tulsa, crying on the phone to a friend, asking: “What do I do? How do I live? How do I love?”—I see that healing is possible. Happiness after loss exists. There is a season for everything, “a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
The challenge of happiness
But on the other side of pain there are times that C.S. Lewis says make us so happy that we “have no sense of needing Him.” This is the danger of contentment. I’m up against this beautiful challenge lately, as I replace crying myself to sleep with imagining my future home with the pastor and poet I’ve fallen in-love with. I am reaching the end of my Master’s program and have seen confidence and opportunities grow like flowers through cement. Peace has begun to replace my panic and I can write about healing as a reality instead of a hypothetical hope. I can say with confidence that joy really does come some mornings and the people who told me “you won’t feel this way forever” were right. But I also see how this new joy could cause me to loosen my grip on God. Consequently, I’m determined to dance toward, not away from Him during this season of joy.
Dance in worship
In one of her poems, Blair Linne wrote that “suffering is a heavy load/but we shrink in the wash.” Suffering minimizes everything else as we look desperately to God as our only hope. As the pain subsides, I find it easier to take my eyes off my Redeemer. I am no less needy but I feel more independent. As a result, I can miss an opportunity for worship. Just as I experienced sweet closeness with God during my suffering, I can experience the beauty of dancing in His presence. Suffering shouldn’t be the only thing that causes me to worship God intensely. Whether through tears or with arms raised high, “the sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.” (Ps. 118:15).
Dance in prayer
Suffering didn’t produce my most eloquent prayers, but it was in the depths that I learned about prayer as a form of surrender. My fear and trust mingled in unpolished, honest pleas. I was a subject trembling before a King I knew would do right; a sinner asking her Savior for mercy. This holy intimacy transformed my prayer life.
As I experience healing and new joy, I find that I no longer pray from a consistent position of prostration. The moment I am able to articulate more than, “God, help me,” the luxury of this seems to flatter my soul into thinking that I am okay—that maybe I have some strength apart from God. This, of course, isn’t true (John 15:5). As my mom recently pointed out, “we never get beyond dependence.” But I’ve noticed that if I can go a day without crying I am more likely to go a day without praying. As I heal, I can let this gift of peace push me to worship God or allow it to lull me into prayer-forgetfulness.
Dance for the mourners
When grieving, entering the happiness of others can feel like walking into a loud, obnoxious theme park. You are just trying to survive the day, while the person next to you is bobbing up and down, eating cotton candy. There will always be discomfort when grief and joy collide, but as Christians we must learn to live in the balance. We weep with those who weep, even when we would rather be undistractedly happy. We rejoice with those who rejoice, even when our hearts are breaking. This is what it means to love one another.
Something is lost when those who mourn hide their pain. So too, when those who rejoice try to downplay their happiness. God has His people in different seasons, at different times, for His sovereign reasons. I needed to hear my friend call and tell me about answered prayer the week my husband filed for divorce. She needed to hear me call and announce my engagement after she received hard news. We need to see God working in the valleys and the hilltops.
Through storms and sunshine
I don’t want to be the kind of Christ-follower who only follows Jesus when I need something. I want to follow Him when my legs feel strong and my spirit, confident. Regardless of what season I am in, He is Lord and He is worthy. Though I cherish the times with God when I would so readily throw myself upon Him in desperate dependence, depression often stole my voice. I was humble before God, but often too weak to speak, fellowship, or write. Now, I am in a season where I can turn the energy of joy into thanksgiving. I can thank and praise God in a way I wasn’t able to when I was depressed and weary.
Right now some of you are experiencing a storm while others are enjoying sunshine. But it’s never that simple. Grief and glory hold hands in the Christian life. If you are healing, even dancing, remind your soul of what is “kept in heaven” for every child of God, then turn to your hurting brother or weary sister and link arms. Lift drooping hands when yours are firm with confident joy. The Body must hug itself when its outer extremities get cold. It is always winter for someone. Don’t stop at acknowledging their pain and weeping with them. Share your joy, too. When we do it right, sharing about God’s good gifts is not boasting in what we have and others lack, but rejoicing in who God is and what He can do.