“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” Daniel 9:3
I find it interesting how God will put things in my heart for me to “marinade” in for a while only to nudge me through a word from someone else or from some teaching that I hear a little while later. I have been thinking a lot about “sackcloth and ashes” lately but, it was a post from a fellow blogger tonight that nudged me into writing this post.
As I started thinking about this post I decided to lookup what significance sackcloth and ashes really have and this is what I found as the results of that search.
Sackcloth is a coarse, black cloth made from goat’s hair that was worn together with the burnt ashes of wood as a sign of mourning for personal and national disaster, as a sign of repentance and at times of prayer for deliverance. – Search results HERE from biblegateway.com (reference credit: Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.)
“Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?” Isaiah 58:5
I said earlier that I’ve thought a lot about sackcloth and ashes lately. That’s because my heart has been in this place for several years now. The name of my blog “This Narrow Path” came from my thinking about how this season in my life has been a walk down a dark, narrow, cold, rocky, mostly dry, thorny, and very lonely path. Like the quote says this has been a season of mourning, repentance, and many prayers for deliverance.
As the famous verses of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 say, there is a time for everything. This includes a time for mourning, a time for tilling up our hearts and allowing God to plant new things, a time for repentance, a time for pruning off the “dead” things and clearing the “weeds” in our lives. Sure, we all want the times of joy, the times of dancing, the times of celebration, and all of the other good times but, if life is to be balanced and those times of joy are to really stand out and be joyful we must go through seasons of hurt and pain as well.
This is a season when as true friends we are to draw near and join in to sorrow and mourning with those around us. As we read in Job 2:11b-13 “For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”
Now these are true friends! To sit, weep, mourn, and just be silent support for their friend for 7 days and 7 nights… This is true friendship!
If you haven’t read the book of Job I would encourage you to do so. Job’s friends start off well and I’m sure that they meant well but they made a huge mistake by opening their mouths. In the end God makes them repent and offer sacrifices for their folly and wrong words…
So what’s my point? My point is that we all go through these times whether we are innocent like Job or need to repent and turn from some sin in our lives. Life is difficult, life is a struggle, life is full of both good and bad but we must remember that God is with us through it all. There is no shame in a season of weeping and mourning even if it’s for an unfulfilled dream, or for your own broken heart. God created us with deep and rich emotions (yes my brothers, even us!) and there is no shame in showing those…
I would like to encourage each of us as well to be good friends and supporters of those around us who are experiencing a season of “sackcloth and ashes”. Just be with those people in silent mourning and if you do offer words let them be few, gentle, and loving. Just like a hurt child sometimes a silent embrace is enough. Sometimes it’s all about knowing that we’re loved and cared for…
“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” Psalm 30:11
I think it’s important to include these two verses because of the encouraging message they bring to us. God, is a God of infinite love and of joy and goodness. We can be assured that He will see us through these dark seasons. We can be assured that He will return beauty for those ashes and that He will clothe us with gladness and return joy and rejoicing for our mourning.
At times I’m left scratching my head at the end of a Psalm because of the Psalmists thanksgiving and joy in God after crying out of deep sorrow and pain. These verses remind me that even in these sorrows and this pain God is a good and amazing God, He is our Father and He loves us and wants the very best for us. Just like any loving parent He doesn’t want to see us hurting. We can be assured and give our thanks and praise to Him even during our times of mourning, repentance, and praying for deliverance from our hardships… So I’ll close with the last verse of Psalm 30.
“To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30:12
Father God, whether we come to you today in sackcloth and ashes or rejoicing of your goodness we bow before you in humility as Your children. I pray that You would shine down on us and show each and every one of us what it means for You to give us beauty for our ashes, the oil of joy for our mourning, to clothe us with gladness and to turn our mourning into dancing. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 27:13 I am confident Lord, that I will see Your goodness while I am here in the land of the living! I love You and I give You thanks and praise! Give us each a heart of love today, help us to be a comfort and encouragement to those around us who are suffering. Lift us out of our despair and set us on Your lap Father. Put Your loving arms around us and give us Your blessing. Bestow Your glorious gifts upon us and set our feet to dancing out of gladness and joy. Fill us with Your goodness and love until we overflow and give us voices and boldness to shout of Your glory and love from the rooftops! I ask these things from the bottom of my heart as I sit here clothed in sackcloth and sitting in the ashes of my broken dreams and hopes, with a bleeding and lonely heart, and crying out to You for deliverance in the name of Christ Jesus my Savior and Lord. AMEN!
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the God of hope lift up His countenance upon you, show you His favor, give you His peace, and fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Num 6:24-26, Rom 15:13