The Bible says that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). The time in the wake of disaster is certainly a time to weep and mourn.
There are important sections in the Bible called laments where God’s faithful people grieve over what they are experiencing and ask God why He allowed such a thing to happen to them. Some of the laments are by individuals who have suffered. Others are by people who love their nation and mourn over its suffering. There is an entire book of the Bible, Lamentations, devoted to mourning for the sufferings of a nation.
Jeremiah cried, “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). He wanted to weep because of the pain in his soul. Jeremiah’s words following that statement show that the weeping would help bring healing to his soul.
As we struggle with pain over our family, community, or nation, expressing our sorrow will help release the pressure and make us more useful to those around us.
This is what happened to Nehemiah. When he heard about the sorry state that Jerusalem was in, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed for days until the king noticed that his face showed the signs of deep sorrow. But after the period of mourning was over, he got down to action and became a national hero whose brilliant leadership style is a great example and is still used almost 2,500 years later.
In the Bible, we find several ways that people express their mourning, like fasting (2 Sam. 1:12) and putting on sackcloth (Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31) and ashes (Est. 4:1-3; Jer. 6:26; 25:34). We need to find ways to express mourning that fit our own culture.Certainly fasting and praying for a family, church, community, or nation is most desired in times of tragedy. In Sri Lanka after the tsunami, people hoisted white flags as a sign of mourning. Every culture has its own distinct expressions of sorrow.
When Dorcas died and Peter went to her house, “All the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). This type of scene is very common in Scripture.
We need to think seriously about how we can bring culturally appropriate expressions of mourning into our churches that are in line with the biblical understanding of lament.