“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.” Esther 4:1 (NIV)
A cheery cupcake, decorated as a caterpillar, stood in sharp contrast to the grief that gripped me.
My friend Linda was throwing one of the no-holds-barred birthday parties for which she was famous. She was also valiantly facing her last days with cancer. I giggled along with the children partying around me, but I wanted to put my head down and weep.
When I saw Linda heading for the kitchen to grab more food for the ravaged buffet, I followed to plead with her. “You look so tired. Please, please sit down a minute and rest.”
With a gentle gesture, she laid her hand on my arm. “Amy, this may be the last birthday party that I throw for my son. I truly appreciate your concern, but I’m not resting.”
That poignant memory is over 20 years old now, but because Linda died later that year, I’m crying even as I type it. I still miss my friend.
There are some losses that never lose their sting, and there are some hurts that hold on forever. Death ushers in an uncertainty like none other. But these are the griefs that can point us straight to the heart of God, connecting us with Him in a way nothing else does.
In the book of Esther, one of the main characters, Mordecai, grieved deeply and publicly when he heard that his people were about to be annihilated in an evil plot. Instead of hiding or repressing it, Mordecai vented his grief fully.
“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.” (Esther 4:1)
As our key verse says, Mordecai even tore his clothes, an external, cultural expression of deep, internal grief, exhibited by many in Jewish culture. Joshua tore his clothes after a defeat in battle. (Joshua 7:6) King David rent his clothing after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. (2 Samuel 1:11) After hearing the Torah for the first time, King Josiah ripped his clothes over his own sins and those of the people. (2 Kings 22:11)
That expression of grief may seem strange to us, but it’s an indication these people knew God could handle their strongest emotions. After experiencing God’s faithfulness for generations, the Jews knew the One who would hear their cry. They leaned into their feelings and were connected to the heart of God in the process.
I once heard a Christian counselor give some advice I’ve been trying to live by ever since: “Feel all your feelings,” he said, “and then lay them at the foot of the cross. Give them to Jesus.”
Feelings aren’t selfish. They aren’t a weakness or evidence of a lack of faith. And we need not fear our feelings. We can lean into them, experiencing them all fully — without the dread of wallowing — by bringing them to Jesus, our Savior who understands.
We can feel our grief as fully as Mordecai because we who believe have a Savior who can handle our strong emotions. He felt them, too. (Hebrews 4:15) Our God never changes, and in Jesus, we’re blessed with a gift Mordecai couldn’t have imagined!
Lord, I surrender myself to the goodness of grief, knowing that You’re with me there. Instead of numbing or stuffing my grief, I will trust You to bring comfort and healing as I feel my feelings fully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Esther’s story, found in the biblical book titled with her name, is truly epic. There is so much for the modern woman to learn as she studies this ancient woman. Today, preorder a copy of Amy Carroll and Lynn Cowell’s new study, Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World (releasing July 12)!
Visit estherbookstudy.com today to find out how to receive a free resource, “A Deeper Dive into Esther,” with a preorder of Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV)
When have you experienced a grief that lasts? How have you given full vent to your grief, or how have you repressed it?
What thoughts and feelings are sparked in you by the realization that God grieves with you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Matthews, NC 28106