Mourning after Darkness
Reading the first chapter of Joel this morning I realized I have a problem. I think we, as a church, have a problem. I’m going to say the problem is sin, and you might say “duh, Brandon, tell us something we don’t know.” I don’t think sin itself is our biggest problem, though. The prophet Joel uses the word wail four times, mourn or mourning three times, and also tells Israel and her priests to grieve. In a chapter of twenty verses Joel references some form of despair eight times. There is a theme here. Israel had been broken because of her sin. She turned her back on the Lord, and because of this sin her land and people had been overrun. What was the response Joel asked for? Did he ask for them to get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness? No. Did he ask for them to pray a certain prayer so that all would be forgiven? No. Did he ask for all to feel really guilty over their sin? No. He told them to wail, to mourn, to grieve. Brokeness…that is what Joel urged to the nation of Israel and what God desired. There was no festival, there was no worship, there was no moment that could just make it all better. Israel needed to feel the weight of their sin and truly be grieved over it. Their hearts needed to be truly saddened by what they had done and what had happened to them. Not just because of what had happened, but because of what had led to it. They were not to feel just guilty. Guilt can too often be the result of the consequences rather than true brokeness. Mourn, wail, grieve…not words we use to often when we face our own sin are they?
This is where I have a problem, and where I think in a lot of ways the church has a problem. We do not mourn, wail, and grieve over our sin. The state of the world and of ourselves does not leave us broken-hearted and in despair before our Creator. I am too often broken or sadness just simply because of the consequences. It is not until I pay the price for my sin or my mistakes that I come before the Lord humbled. But, it is not over sin itself that I grieve but what sin has done to me. We come forward in churches all over the nation over what sin has done, but how often do we just look at sin itself and grieve. This world, the church, our very beings are at times riddled with sin and yet we do not despair until we feel the brunt of its pain. Joel wanted Israel to feel this. He wanted to priests and elders to lead in despair. He wanted the people to follow and be in mourning over the sin of their community.
Do you want to change? Then mourn. Do you want this world to be different? Then mourn. Do you wish the sin that is in your life and that brings you down would be removed? Then mourn. Don’t mourn the consequences, but mourn the sin itself. Mourn over the fact that we tear ourselves down and separate ourselves from the only one who can heal and give the love we desperately seek. Jesus said blessed are those who mourn…so be in mourning over the ways of this world. Only then will we be upset and broken enough to truly change and grow. Only then can we see real change. We are stubborn and weak, so therefore consequences often are not enough. We too often either avoid what caused those consequences out of fear of suffering them again or we figure out how not to get caught the next time. Guilt and punishment are not enough and that is why we still sin. We need to be broken. We need to mourn, grieve, and wail. Be mourners.