When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:1-3
Some things are worth crying over. In American culture, we want to feel happiness all of the time. But, negative emotions, well, we could do without those, especially if you’re a man. The problem is if we stop feeling the bad stuff eventually we’ll stop feeling everything. (I grew up in the Midwest, so trust me on this.)
Many cultures in the world today present elaborate demonstrations of grief. Unless women are wailing, people are throwing themselves on the casket, or folks are jumping into the grave, well, onlookers might doubt their love for the deceased. In some cultures, the family actually hires professional mourners. I know a few people who could make a good living at it.
Mordecai and the other Jews weren’t merely putting on for others. Sackcloth and ashes were common signs of mourning in their culture. Their people were on the verge of extinction as ordered by the king’s edict (Esther 3:12). The day and time had been set. The Jews could do absolutely nothing to defend themselves.
In all of his grief, it’s interesting that Mordecai still followed the king’s rule by not entering into the king’s gate while in mourning. Good grief, what did Mordecai have to lose? Mordecai was a man who determined to do what was right, even when he was overcome by his emotions.
Not to over-analyze this setting, but the fact that the king wouldn’t allow mourners within his gate does speak to the king’s detachment from the consequences of his actions. Xerxes didn’t want mourners in his gates. He didn’t want to face the music of their wailing. Xerxes’ chief interest was Xerxes, and he liked it that way. Just keep the casualties out of site. Xerxes needed to get on with keeping himself happy.
Please understand, I am not encouraging you to become a bunch of cry babies. I also don’t want you to become a clod of dirt either. God created us to feel. In fact, the Bible has quite a lot to say about God’s emotions. God, Himself, is pleased (Luke 2:14), angry (Numbers 22:22), saddened (Genesis 6:6), and joyful (Zephaniah 3:17). Being made in God’s image, we have the same range of emotions.
Our emotions are not just something to get over. Our emotions are also part of God’s curriculum for our lives. Much like the warning lights on our dashboard, our emotions tell us things about ourselves that often our minds miss. Emotions are not something to merely get over. They are signals of something deeper going on inside us. Maybe we’re out of our depth, and we’re anxious. Maybe we’re discouraged and long for someone’s approval, but it’s not the someone we think.
How are you handling your emotions these days? Do you write down your thoughts? Do you hope that bad feelings will just go away? Are you becoming more disconnected every day? Or are you overwhelmed by your emotions and you can’t escape them?
What is God trying to teach you through what you feel?
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