*Please note: this post discusses the topic of rape and sexual trauma. If you have experienced any kind of sexual trauma, please know that it is ok if you prefer not to read on. There are great resources and crisis hotlines for help also available at rainn.org.
*photo overlay made with the vrsly app
Day 3 – Permission to mourn
Remember in Day One of this week’s study, when we talked about weeping? You may be wondering why the need to discuss mourning two days later? On Day One, we highlighted the overload of emotions associated with weeping. Tears can come for any number of reasons. Mourning, on the other hand, is intimately connected to grief and loss. The Hebrew root in Ecclesiastes 3 for mourn is saphad and is intimately connected with loss. You can fix in your mind a picture of the traditional Biblical lamenting with weeping, beating the breast, tearing the hair, sack cloth and ashes.
2nd Samuel 13 has one of the most painful stories we can find in Scripture, and more lamenting in one chapter than I can begin to wrap my head around. This Bible story is PG 13 for sure, so be warned. I’m going to ask you to dig your Bibles out or hop over to Bible Gateway for a moment and read 2ndSamuel 13 in it’s entirety. I will only highlight the first half of the chapter below, for want of space, but we will discuss the entire chapter:
“Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”
“Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” (2nd Samuel 13:1-19)
This is a story of rape, the human experience of shame, despair, rage, and a family broken. There is a reason there is so much lamenting. It is an entirely appropriate response to what is taken, what is lost, and what is broken.
In verse 18, Tamar weeps and cries aloud. She puts ashes on her head. In verse 31, King David is mourning the mistaken information that all His sons are dead. In verse 36, all David’s servants join him in mourning the lose of Absalom. This is family heartache, household trauma. When things like this happen they are not simple. They are not an individual loss, they very much affect the entire family, the entire community.
We all have things we have mourned in such a way or maybe are currently mourning. We may not put on sackcloth and ashes, but lamenting is not less just because it is done quietly. The thing that makes mourning what it is and not just your run of the mill crying is acknowledging there is a loss. And this action is oh-so important.
The Jewish act of lamenting was often within the context of a time of mourning. There are seasons in life when we need just that…time. We need time to heal. Time to think. Time to sort. Time to rest. Within the Christian context of the Body of Christ, this also means that we are invited to a time of comfort from those around us.
2nd Corinthians 7:5-7 tells us that comfort is part of the life of the Body. Christ’s comfort comes out of each of us into one another:
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast,comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.”
His comfort, found in one another. How precious is that! Who around you is hurting? Maybe the hurt in this season is your own, what kind of comfort do you need? Our loss may be the death of someone we love, the loss of a childhood due to trauma, or even the loss of what we thought our lives would look like at this stage. There is no small loss and there need be no small comfort. Christ’s comfort fills up and overflows, sister. So much more than a warm baggy sweater and a mug of green tea on a rainy day, Christ gives us one another and Himself in each other.
Rape is certainly worth lamenting. It is also worth comforting. We NEED one another in times like Tamar experienced. We need to share our secret shame. When we rush head on into the fear and struggle, like Absalom, we NEED brothers and sisters that will come after us and restore, restore, restore. We have a Father who does that. Mourn what is deserving of mourning, honor the one mourning by sitting beside them in the darkness.
And rest in this: no doubt about it, whatever your lament is, He redeems even that. He says it over and over in His Word. Nothing is outside of His Grace, outside of His restoration. He redeems each and every thing in our lives.
Where do you see the need for comfort in our world today?
Who around you is hurting?
What is a simple way to give comfort when someone is hurting?
What difficult situation have you seen Christ redeem?