“A time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
When was the last time you had a good cry? In my teenaged years, it seemed like I cried at least every week: someone said something mean to me or about me; afriend let me down; a boy I liked said something mean to me; my parents were getting a divorce. It was so frustrating to me to have these bouts of sadness written off as a symptom of being a “moody teenager.” It’s not moodiness! I wanted to scream. These are real reasons to cry and no one seems to understand that but me!
Adults seem to forget sometimes that crying is part of growing up: beginning in infancy, it’s a way that children express needs, hurts, and frustrations. Teenagers don’t cry anymore because they’re hungry or sleepy, but the tears do flow when there’s a need for human closeness. It reminds me of my one-year-old clinging to my leg and crying for attention. It’s frustrating to me sometimes when I can’t hold her, but the need for security and affection is real, and never goes away. When that need is not met, emotions are close to the surface.
The important thing to understand here is that crying is not a result of some sort of defect or failure to process emotions in a healthy way. Solomon, a wise man, a king, wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there are times to be cry and laugh, and to mourn and dance. The teenaged years definitely have more of these “times” than the grown-up ones. In high school and college, your relationships are forming and growing, your intelligence and likability are being judged daily, and you’re making important decisions about who you want to be. You feel all these things exquisitely, and so emotions come out.
When you feel these things, they need to be expressed, not withheld for another “time.” Enjoy each shining moment with a burst of laughter, and when you feel sad, let yourself cry as soon as you have a moment to yourself.
This verse also mentions the extreme versions of these emotions: mourning and dancing. Both of these emotions are so intense that they must be expressed physically. The Hebrew word for “mourn” means “to wail or lament.” This is intense sadness, usually caused by the death of someone close, a loss that elicits a scream of agony and days of sustained quietness and depression. There is a time for this.
The time for dancing usually comes after an extreme trial, period of sadness, or great triumph: it’s a physical expression of joy and celebration. Today’s dancing is often an idle pastime and a way to flirt or seduce the opposite sex. There isn’t a time for this kind of dancing for a girl of God. But Miriam danced with joy after the Israelites escaped the Egyptians through the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20). And David went “leaping and dancing before the LORD” when the ark of the covenant was returned to the Israelites (2 Samuel 6:16). There is a time for these physical expressions of joy!
Emotions are part of being human, and they bubble over often when you’re growing up. Don’t be ashamed of your “moodiness;” express your emotions at the right time, and in a healthy amount. Just don’t let them overcome you and limit your ability to reach out to others. There is a time for everything, including agood cry, a hearty laugh, a period of mourning, and a joyful dance.