One of my favourite parts of the book of Ruth in the Bible is when Naomi returns to the land of Israel, impoverished, having lost her husband and both sons, with only Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law as companion. Upon arriving back in Bethlehem, the residents questioned, “Can this be Naomi?” Naomi responds, “Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant). Call me Mara (which means bitter), for the Almighty has made my life bitter!” (Ruth 1). She is figuratively, if not literally, shaking her fist at God and blaming Him for the calamities that she has experienced. There’s no record that God condemns her anger, and if you finish the story (it’s only 4 short chapters), you’ll find that God blesses her and she, of course, does not stay angry. I find this story encouraging because it reminds me that God understands my sorrow, grief, anger and pain, that He does not judge me for expressing those feelings. He does not expect me to “just get over it”. He does not call for me to “choose joy” in the midst of my grief.
Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), so it’s not a sin to feel the depths of my sorrow and pain and express them.
Jesus wept (John 11:35), so I can go ahead and cry my heart out and sob with gut-wrenching, soul-crushing sobs.
I can scream and shake my fist at God, if I need to. His shoulders are broad enough to take it. He is not put off by my anger. He knows and understands. And in order to experience full healing, He knows I need to allow myself to go through the grieving process. Therefore, He does not call me to “choose joy” in my time of sorrow.
The Bible says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b. The long night of grief and pain may seem to last forever, but just as the day dawns gradually, so, too, our grief will lift, our pain will heal – gradually. We don’t have to choose joy. It will come – in small bursts, as the healing comes, and as it gradually dawns towards fullness of joy in the resurrection morning