Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
The psalmist writes about reversals in Psalm 30, reversals not just of outlook, but of fortune. The writer felt secure and prosperous until, as he says to God, “you hid your face.” Eventually his cries for help are answered with healing. God’s momentary anger changes to a lifetime of favor, weeping turns to joy, mourning is transformed into dancing. And God is praised.
It’s a traditional plot line for myths and movies. Heroes endure misfortune and then triumph over it. Travelers lose their way and find it again. Plans, relationships, lives falter but are put back together. Yes, there’s work that has to be done, churn to be endured, lessons to learn. But eventually, in the morning, or maybe many mornings later, things get better.
But is this true — always? Life shows us that many stories do not end happily. And often we wake up in no better shape than when we fell asleep — or tried to sleep. The diagnosis is still what it was, the bank statement looks worse than it did yesterday, the loved one is still dead.
But we do not have to feel that God has turned away from us. Weeping and mourning are times when God comes very close. We recognize this as we observe Holy Week and hear the story of Jesus’ Passion. One thing after another goes wrong, until even Jesus cries out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” But God is still present. There is an earthquake. The curtain in the temple is torn in two. The centurion says of the one who suffered and died, “Surely this was the Son of God.”
One of the things that I have learned about the experience of grief is that the tears never entirely go away. I have also learned that weeping is not antithetical to joy. Deep and radiant joy respects tears and treasures them, whether they are tears of sorrow or even tears of anger and despair.
The assurance that we are bound up in God’s eternal life would not be true without the story of Jesus giving himself up to death. The faces of the women who went to Jesus’ grave on Easter morning were surely damp with tears, tears that became part of deep and energizing joy as they took in the miracle of the resurrection.
Joy in the morning is more than the relief that comes from a reversal of fortune. It is faith and hope planted deep in our being, where God meets us night and day in both sorrow and rejoicing.
Suffering God, you meet us in the night where our tears linger and in the morning sunshine. Help us to respond with faith and hope and joyful praise. Amen.