For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)
There’s much evidence in scripture that God speaks to people in their dreams. Five times in the first two chapters of Matthew, God communicates by dreams. If God didn’t speak in this way and if people didn’t listen, Jesus may have died or been killed as a baby.
I have no doubt that God still speaks in dreams. I would not say that God frequently speaks to me on my own, but there have been enough times when I have felt God speaking in this way.
Late this summer, about six weeks after Anna died, I had a dream in which I believe I heard God’s voice. There was no face, no background, no movement, just a voice that said very loudly: “GRIEVE, DON’T DIE.” I went from sleeping to waking in an instant.
Before having this dream, God had seemed far away. Although the message in the dream was clear, I didn’t know what to do with it.
A few weeks later, I heard some wise counsel from a therapist that helped me to make sense of the message. This therapist was speaking to me from her many years of practice and also from having lost a child herself.
She said, “I found it helpful to give myself a certain amount of time each day to grieve for my daughter. I would go to my bedroom and just let the grief wash over me, and then I would gather myself up and put my grief away and resume life.”
A few days after listening to this therapist, I was able to connect her advice with the counsel from the dream. If that therapist/mother hadn’t put some brackets around her grief, her pain could have consumed her. If I didn’t figure out a way to put some brackets around my pain, I felt like I was never going to see colors again, hope again, or feel joy again.
Grieve, don’t die. I believe this is what God wants for me. I don’t believe God wants me to dismiss my grief or pretend it wasn’t awful and life-changing, but I also don’t believe that God wants my grief to consume the rest of my days.
There is a feeling aspect to grief—anger, loss, regret, guilt, pain—and one must accept that grieving is a process with no quick fix or escape. There is also a willing aspect to grief, which means that we need to use our willpower to get back to living, to other relationships, and to other commitments.
I don’t believe that God wants us to die when someone we love dies. Even with our broken hearts, even when we feel like something has been amputated, even when the future may look bleak and lonely, even when we may think that we will never have meaning and purpose again, God wants us to live. God will both join us in our grief, and He will give us the love and support we need to join life again.
Today’s scripture says that we all go through emotional, spiritual, and psychological seasons. Just like the actual seasons must change, so must our own internal and personal seasons.
“There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Even though I know that I will cry and mourn Anna’s death for the rest of my life, I don’t believe that mourning needs to be the only reality of my life. I don’t believe God wants this. I don’t believe those who love me and depend on me want it. I don’t want it. And if I could speak to Anna from this side of life to her new life, I also don’t believe she would want weeping and mourning to consume me.
When I first began to consider how grieving could be a season, I felt hesitant. Was it dishonest? Unrealistic? Unloving? But then the voice in my dream kept coming back to me, and whenever I felt like I was going to get stuck in the darkness, I would try to hear the message again.
One day out in the woods, I just began to cry. My daughter must have carried around so much pain; she must have had so many struggles—pain and struggles I didn’t even know about. And then I realized something I hadn’t seen before. If I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and if I believe that Jesus carries us through death to our next life, and if I believe that Anna has seen His face and that she is now healed, whole, well, free, and at peace—then God’s message is one that Anna would want me to hear. When I saw that Anna’s voice could be joining God’s voice, I had a glimpse that laughing and dancing would, in time, be things that both God and Anna would desire for me.
- What might the message “Grieve, don’t die” be saying to you? Are you dying from grief or shame or fear or anger right now?
- Where are you in the seasons of your life? Are you accepting the ups and downs that inevitably come, or are you stuck in some unhealthy season?
- What would bring more laughing and dancing to your daily existence?