I’ve always loved the scripture from Psalms, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Without fail, these words have filled me with hope; the will to move forward when times were difficult.
Not too long ago, I looked up this scripture in my Bible—and it was then that I realized the verse is often misquoted. The first sentence is usually omitted; left off; forgotten.
“For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life;
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
It has taken me many years, and many miles of grief to understand the entire verse, and to realize that without those first sentences, the weeping and the joy are hollow. All the emotions, and outcomes, and struggles, and redemption don’t mean anything until you understand the power and the strength that lies in the oft forgotten phrase:
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life
Favour means “God stepping into one’s situation to make a worthwhile difference.” God wants to bless us! Even in the hard times!
As I’ve studied this scripture, I see parallels in the sentence structure, as well as the joining together of two opposites: anger and blessings (favor); weeping and joy.
As we dissect this further, the meaning of the first part of the text is, “the anger lasts for a moment; the favour lasts for a lifetime.” The everlastingness of the one, and the brevity of the other.
I spent countless years waiting for the morning to come and for joy to come with it. It was time for things to feel better. It was time for unabashed happiness to be mine. I believed God was disappointed or angry with me. Why else would He take my dad at the age of fifty-seven? I must have done something to deserve this. And whatever it was, it must have been big enough that along with my dad, he took the favor out of my life. It seemed everything was harder for me. And I don’t mean in an extended, pity-party kind of way. At times it truly felt that I was pushing a boulder up a mountain, with no relief in sight.
As I searched for meaning in my grief, and turned over random stones, thinking that the hidden reasons for my loss would be found there, I looked past all the blessings. For me, the weeping seemed endless and the joy seemed brief. It was camouflaged in sadness. Any good times and fleeting moments of contentment didn’t seem to be mine for the taking. After all, I felt I was unworthy.
I always had things pretty easy. The concept of loss was foreign to me, as I had coasted through my life virtually unscathed. I was ill-prepared to deal with the unexpected death of my father, to say the least. The sudden, jarring reality that descended upon me without any warning, only magnified my inability to process and navigate my way through this devastating loss.
If you’ve experienced grief, you might understand these emotions. My hope is that you are completely oblivious to these feelings, and don’t understand a word of what I’m saying. That would mean, for you, grief is a foreign entity.
But I know different. None of us escapes grief. Death is a part of life. And grieving is a part of overcoming. Some of us just do it better than others.
There is no timeline for grief. For me, it took over two decades to fully go through the cycle: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I look back now and see the moments I “almost” came to the surface. The times I almost started breathing again. The times I briefly understood that Dad’s death wasn’t my fault; it wasn’t about me needing to be nicer, or better, or stronger, or kinder.
But then the liar would whisper in my ear and tell me that I was haughty, and arrogant, and selfish. That I wasn’t good enough. That if I’d only been a better person, things might be different. The weeping continued, and when morning arrived, I was still joyless. And grief, this thief of joy, made me feel forgotten. Overlooked. Unimportant. Alone. Not only had I lost my joy. I had misplaced my purpose.
I hope this sounds crazy to you, as you read these words of self-destruction. Because as I write this, it doesn’t just seem crazy, it seems “crazy house” crazy.
How did I ever get to this point? How did I drown so deeply in the waves of regret, and sorrow, and loss?
I know what I’m about to say might step on toes. I might unintentionally offend someone, but to be completely transparent, and honest, and in order to share with you how I grieved all wrong, or simply did it badly, I have to say it. Here goes…
During times of loss, especially when a death is unexpected, friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers are at a loss for what to say. Looking back, I understand that just showing up for someone who has lost a loved one is enough. No words have to be uttered. Just being there for comfort and support is the best thing to do. It’s okay, and possibly even best to admit you’re at a loss for words, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you if you need me.”
When I suddenly lost my father, we were lifted up by people who called, sent flowers or food, came to visitation, and/or attended the funeral. We were overwhelmed by their care and support. But as I look back, there are words and phrases that I remember clearly, and when they were spoken, they absolutely pierced my heart. Many kind and well-meaning people stated this about my father’s death, “It was God’s will,” or “God just wanted your dad in heaven,” or “It was his time,” like the buzzer had sounded and the game was over.
All of these rote phrases don’t bring comfort to those who are reeling from a loss, or at least they didn’t bring comfort to me. In fact, when I repeatedly heard that it was God’s will to take my dad, it made me angry. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that God wanted my dad to die. Yes, I know that was not the intended meaning, but when people are dealing with the shock and sadness of death, they aren’t thinking clearly.
And then there was my boss, who upon my return to work, six days after my father died, gave me this advice: “The best thing you can do is move on.”
The flower arrangements from the funeral hadn’t even had time to wilt, but I was told to move on. What do you do with that?
Well, when you’re at work, you do just that— move on. You don’t appear to be sad. You stuff your feelings deep down inside of yourself. You fake it and look like you’ve got it all together. You push forward, you stay strong, and you ultimately become a complete, emotional mess.
Yes, I grieved all wrong, but I didn’t know how to do it. I chose not to talk about my pain because I didn’t want to be a burden. I thought this was how it was supposed to be. After all, I was a grief rookie, and this was my first season in the league.
As the days and months passed, and I heard comments about “enough time having passed,” and “things should be getting back to normal,” I dug deeper into my grief. What was wrong with me? Why did I still feel so much pain?
In reflection, I’ve pondered these words and phrases, and nuggets of advice for years. I even began to think that I was wrong in how I felt about them. And then, one day in the middle of August, on a Sunday morning while at church with my husband and mother, the preacher addressed this very thing.
And in that moment, when I heard him say certain things shouldn’t be said in the middle of someone’s grief, I felt resolved. It was a victory of sorts. After twenty-nine years, my emotions had been validated.
That might seem shallow, and possibly even rude to feel this way about those unknowing people who thought they were helping me during one of my darkest moments. But the sermon entitled “Bad Advice and Miserable Comforts” gave me new insight into a story I had heard many times. A story that centered around a person who endured much grief, as he suffered many devastating losses—Job.
Who has suffered more than Job? His animals were taken away, his sons and daughters and servants were killed, and Job was inflicted with sores all over his body. Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God, but he refused.
Job’s friends heard about all the bad things that happened to him, and they went to comfort him.
But they did anything but that. One of his friends was convinced that all of the bad things that happened to him were due to a sin Job committed, and he urged Job to seek God’s favour.
Two other friends agreed, and thought Job should exhibit more blameless behavior. Another friend surmised that Job’s children brought their deaths upon themselves, and yet another friend implied that whatever Job had done wrong, he probably deserved a greater punishment than what he had received. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
We all need to be reminded that the sinfulness of man is a given, but so is the grace of God. And as the old hymn says, it’s “grace that is greater than all our sin.”
Please know, I’m not putting the blame for my unresolved grief on those who honestly were trying to console me. It’s simply a reminder for when you’re at a loss for words. Just remember, physically being there is enough, and hugs can say so much more than words in situations like this.
In this day and time of “prosperity gospel,” many people mistakenly believe that God rewards our increase in faith with increases in health and wealth. The idea that if you’re a “good person,” good things will happen to you, or if you’re not a good person, then you deserve whatever bad things come your way. No wonder people are so messed up and confused.
In my confusion and grief, I had fallen into this same line of thinking— that I was being punished for something, although I wasn’t sure what. How foolish of me to think that I had enough power to control God’s plan.
I’m so thankful to be reminded of the truth I’ve known all along: It’s not about what we do, it’s about what God did for us. Health and wealth aren’t “reward points” handed out based on our virtue. To receive an eternal reward, one must accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and have a relationship with Him. We will mess up. It’s not about good and bad, it’s about asking for forgiveness and being forgiven, and following Him.
This doesn’t guarantee a life free from pain, or loss. In fact, it might be the opposite. At times, you might feel picked on, or feel as if you can’t catch a break—but it’s in those times that God is fighting the hardest for you. Pushing you to give it all to Him. Remember, God has a purpose for your pain, a reason for your struggles, and a reward for your faithfulness.
Job questioned God, and pleaded with Him. But he also continued to praise God through his pain. His faithfulness increased his wealth several fold. He had more children, and lived for another 140 years. Not because he was good, or because he deserved it, but because he remained faithful to God.
As I look back on my grief and the journey through it, the answers are so obvious. I clung to my grief because I was afraid to let go, fearing I would forget. Grief had become my friend and my excuse. Grief became a comfort for me because it had been with me for so long. It was dependable and real. It connected me to the father I adored. I truly believe that great grief comes from great love. I just had to learn to separate the two. Thankfully, love always wins.
Please understand, I wasn’t miserable and unhappy everyday. There was just a void, and some days were worse than others. I figured out how to cope, and how to carry on so that others didn’t have a clue what I was feeling. I was stingy with my grief, and didn’t want to share it.
Being married to a coach and raising two boys kept me busy. I was constantly on the go with work and extracurricular activities at school. I never thought to put “resolve my grief” on my to-do-list.
As long, and winding, and tortuous as my trip through grief has been, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. My grief has made me. It has shaped me. It has given me a resilient spirit, and within my grief, I have discovered my purpose. My wounds and scars are simply reminders of how deeply God loves me and how relentlessly He has fought for me.
It’s hard to believe that my dad has been gone for twenty-nine years. I was that age when he died, so I’ve lived half my life without him.
Some days it seems like forever, and other days it’s as fresh and raw as it was in those first minutes and hours without him. Many of you have read my book, Mockingbird Moments: A Memoir, and you are familiar with my story and my grief. If you haven’t read the book, I hope you will. For me, it’s a story of personal triumph. It’s a time capsule, buried within the pages of a book. It’s my life, unfiltered, with all the blemishes, and flaws that collectively make me who I am. It’s my tribute to my dad—-my hero. I miss him every single day, but I am grateful for all the lessons Dad taught me in our short time together.
He truly was a great man.
As the seasons change, and the days get shorter, and the house smells of apples, and spices, and Autumn, I feel like I’m changing too.
I’m moving into this new season of life with a sense of freedom. I’m no longer held back by untruths, or sadness, grief, or sorrow. I no longer focus on the “what ifs” and “what should have been.”
Morning has broken, and the new day is filled with joy.
I’m able to see and feel the goodness. I’m able to receive the blessings, which are overflowing.
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…
Charles William Brown
October 23, 1935 – October 20, 1992
You were a good man, Charlie Brown…