31 May 2011

wear sackcloth and ashes

Wearing sackcloth and ashes isn't exactly common place in American society these days.  Mourning, however, is still common.  Grief and sadness have been around for a long time, the method in which we express it has changed greatly with society to match cultural norms.


Starting in Genesis we can read about how people mourn.  In Genesis 37:34 Jacob tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and publicly grieved.   Jacob wasn't the only one to mourn like this, Job did it after his family and possessions were taken from him and Jonah did as well.  Those are still only a few of the examples in the Bible of mourning and wearing sackcloth.

It was common for them to tear off their clothes and then followed up by sometimes putting on sackcloth.  Sackcloth wasn't a warm and fuzzy outfit, it's more like a rough, course, and ugly garment.  These are some ways that you could show your grief publicly.

There were other ways to show grief as well.  Singing songs of lament, coving yourself in ashes, hiring mourners to stand around you and cry, removing shoes, public crying/wailing, fasting, shaving your head, not saving your face, wearing dark colors, and so many other ways.  Mourning was a public thing, it was something done in a community.  When one person would mourn, others would recognize and come to comfort their friends and family as part of a community.

Some of the ways we mourn today still follow some of the biblical models.  In America it's common for someone who has lost a love one to wear black and to surround themselves with family and friends.  In Jewish families, the loss of a loved one causes a period of mourning that is even closer to the biblical model.  I could try to explain it, but I am sure I would mess some of them up, but they have guidelines about what clothes they can wear, about tearing their clothes, about showering, their diet during that period and even looking in the mirrors.  Mourning is important.  It's a way for us to expel our emotions and move on from them.

Grief and mourning are more than just for the death of a family member or friend.  I think this is where we sometimes forget that mourning is for more than just for dealing with death.  And mourning is not something we are supposed to do alone either.  God made us to be social creatures.  He gave Adam a partner because He knew that we needed other people.  If we were meant to sit alone in our pain, then God wouldn't have blessed marriage and families and created friendships.

So when we are mourning, we should allow others in.   We can't shut them out.  God created others so we would not be alone.  Who are we to say that we can do it alone?

We also need to pay attention to those around us who are hurting.  We need to support everyone who is in pain, whether they are friends and family or strangers to us.  It's our job to love others in our community and be there to support them, physically, mentally, and spiritually.


God, 
Thank you God for loving me.  Thank you for surrounding me with people that love me when I am sad and in pain.  Lord, I even thank you for the pain, without it, I wouldn't appreciate the joys in life as much as I do.  Thank you for making me a social being so I would have others to help me when I am alone.  
I have ignored others in their time of need because I was/am selfish.  I have pushed others away when I should have embraced them.  I have rejected help in my times of need out of selfishness and embarrassment.
Please forgive me for trying to do things alone.  Forgive me for not seeking comfort and holding back all of the negative feelings I have.  Forgive me please for not helping others in their times of need.  Forgive me for not reaching out to those who need help.  
God, please be with my friends and family today.  You know the needs that each of them have.  You know who is hurting, even more than I do, and I pray that you bless them this week and help them to heal.  Lord, please be with all of the families that have been hurt by the recent storms, those who have lost their homes, processions and other family members.  Hold them close as they are suffering.  Surround them with peace as they search ways to put their lives back together.  I also pray for those who are reaching out to them physically.  Be with the volunteers, keep them safe and strong as they comfort those who are hurting.  I also pray for all of those in your service in the mission field.  They are doing your will all over the world.  I pray that you keep them safe and help them as they spread your Word and hope to the world.
And Lord, of all of the people who may read this prayer, I pray that you will give an extra blessing to the one that needs you the most.  Again, you know all of their hearts and pains more than anyone else and only you can heal them.  
I am going to be benefit to my community.  I am going to seek those in trouble and comfort them in any way that I can.  I am going to love others and allow them to show me love and compassion when I need it.  
I pray that you give me eyes that see what you want to show me, ears that hear what you are trying to tell me, a mouth that speaks only the truth that you want me to share, hands that reach out to those you want me to reach, and a heart that cares for others in the same way that you care for me.
You are a loving and compassionate God.  You are so awesome and I am not worthy of sympathy.  I stand in awe of you and all that you have done for me.  I can't even imagine what you have in store for me.  
Amen.

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A year of wisdom.

I’ve decided that I could use a little more wisdom, so for a whole year I’m going to focus out of the 3 books of Wisdom. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. I also know that wisdom is a process, and it can’t all be gained in one day, so I’m changing up the format.

Each week I’ll pick a passage, it’ll be longer than they have been in the past, but we’ll spend the entire week picking it apart and going a little deeper than we did before. This means we can focus on each passage more and not feel rushed to jump to something else.

On day one, we’ll talk about the idea it presents and read the text. Hopefully you read it more than once and just let it sink in.

Day two and three we’ll break it apart and see what it really says.

Day four we’ll talk about life application and what it really means for us.

On the fifth day we’ll pray about it or pray it. Obviously I hope you pray daily, but on that day our prayer will be more focused.

On day six, we’ll reflect on it, and put our own lives into perspective a little more.

On the final day of the week, we’ll celebrate it.

I’m praying for you as we take this journey.