Few events in our culture conjure up images of festivity and celebration like a wedding. As the bride approaches her groom, those in attendance stand and turn to observe this radiant woman.
When we hear the opening chords of “Here Comes the Bride”, we turn expecting to see a young woman beaming with smile, carefully coiffed and dressed in a brilliant white gown. This bride has just spent an inordinate amount of time prepping and primping so as to convey outwardly the joy she is experiencing inwardly.
Now imagine that when the gathered witnesses turn, they see quite a different sight. Instead of radiance, the bride projects sadness. Instead of smiles and laughter, there is only sorrow and tears. Instead of having hair and makeup in place, she is disheveled and unkempt. Instead of a white gown of joy, she is wearing a black dress of mourning.
Would those in attendance not wonder if the wedding had been replaced by a funeral?
Such is the imagery provided by the prophet Joel when he calls God’s people to lament their loss of favor with God.
Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth
for the bridegroom of her youth.
(Joel 1:8 ESV)
How do you respond when the hand of the Lord is against you rather than for you? When he brings judgment rather than grace? When he strips away instead of provides?
The answer for the prophet is to lament and return to the Lord (Joel 2:13-14). Joel describes this as being with a whole heart that is also torn heart. The Lord is described in these terms:
- Slow to anger
- Abounding in steadfast love
- Relenting over disaster
It is worth noting that Joel does indicate that we cannot presume upon the grace of God.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him?
(Joel 2:14 ESV)
Has God blessed you? Then rejoice.
Or are you experiencing the hand of God against you? Then lament and return to the Lord. Mourn instead or rejoice. Be like a bride wearing black instead of white.