Published March 7, 2017

Paul's Epistle
"Mourning Into Dancing"

     It's been raining for so long
     I barely remember when the sun was bright
     And the world was right
     I've cried tears I didn't know I had
     Some nights I've just held on
     And prayed for dawn
     God has promised me this
     One day the clouds will lift...

So begins this month's number one Southern Gospel song, "Mourning Into Dancing," as sung by the Bowling Family.

Why is that song so popular? Because the message of the song touches the hearts of so many Christians who are facing everyday problems in their lives. Every successive day brings word of some acquaintance who has died, some financial burden that seems overwhelming, some family problem, or...well, you can fill in the rest – because I'm sure you've been there.

But the key is in the song's chorus. About the Lord, the song says,

     He said He would turn my mourning into dancing
     He said He would turn my sorrow into joy
     His promise is that every day His mercy will be new
     And I believe that He will do
     Just what He said He would do.

"Mourning into dancing" is inspired by Psalm 30:11, where that expression is found as David praises the Lord for delivering him from his foes. Scripture tells us David frequently danced before the Lord "with all his might" as a show of his joy and thankfulness for the Lord's work in his life (see 2 Samuel 6:14).

"Sorrow into joy" is inspired by many Scriptures, including another verse in that same Psalm: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5b). Psalm 126:5 reminds us, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy."

Christ Himself said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). Comforted by Whom? By the Lord Himself. How? By the assurances that He's given us. Jesus warned us that "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The problem is that when the world seems to come crashing down on us, it's sometimes hard to look beyond whatever's causing the "mourning" to what will allow the "dancing" in the future. But we have the Lord's own word for it that better things are ahead. And, as Paul famously wrote, "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). But it's all because of Christ.

Think, for example, of how a non-Christian mourns the death of a loved one. It's definite mourning that often goes to complete, overwrought despair. But that's because it is a mourning devoid of any hope. There is nothing more to look forward to. It's over.

Compare that with how a Christian reacts to the death of a loved one. Certainly there is mourning. But it's a different kind of mourning. It is the kind of mourning we saw when Jesus came to Lazarus' tomb. The Bible tells us "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Why did He weep? It surely wasn't because He didn't know what would happen – because, of course, He did. He wept because He loved those around Him and knew the mourning they were going through. In that sense, He shared in their grief – because of their grief. And because He loved them – just as He loves us.

When my dad died a few years ago, someone who attended the "celebration of life" service for him said they had never been to such a "joyous" funeral. And why wouldn't it have been? We were celebrating a life well lived in service to Christ. Our mourning was because of the loss of a loved one here and now. But we know we'll see him again, reunited in that land God has promised.

Note that because Jesus wept, mourning itself is not, per se, a sin. But it would be a sin not to accept or even to reject the promises of God that He will bring us through such circumstances — from a time of "mourning" to a time of "dancing."

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail" (Lamentations 3:22).

The key is to have faith – trusting that the Lord will bring you though. It might not be today, or tomorrow, or this week or month...or even this year. But He will bring you through. Be assured that those things which are causing you mourning today will be used by God to strengthen you and, yes, bring you joy when it's time. As the song says,

     So let the storm do what it will
     I'm gonna keep trusting God is in control
     I will rest my soul
     And I'll be standing when the storm has passed...
     I know He'll do what He says...

So, go ahead, be like David – do a little joy-filled "dancing" before the Lord, even if just figuratively.

As David wrote after going through his mourning, "You have...clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever" (Psalm 30:11b-12).

- Paul
"Mourning Into Dancing," by Gina Vera and Sue C. Smith, Christian Taylor Music BMI, Universal Music Brentwood Benson Songs, Songs From Bobb Avenue, Willydot Music BMI. Excerpts quoted by permission.

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