“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalm 30:11-12
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. We mark this day as a time of penitence; confessing our sin, seeking reconciliation, and re-committing ourselves in the pursuit of discipleship. I write this to you with ashes on my brow, a reminder of the temporariness of life as well as a sign of my contrition for my sins.
Contrition, mourning, sorrow and lament; these are appropriate responses to our sins. When I stop to think how I have taken for granted the grace and mercy of God, when I realize how I have scorned the gentle call of my Savior, when I am struck by my stubborn refusal to follow the guiding of God’s spirit, when I consider, as the hymn says:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness,
all I’m left with is terrible shame and sorrow for the way I have broken the heart of God.
But thanks be to God who has not left us alone in our shame and despair. As the psalmist says, “God has turned my mourning into dancing, He has loosened my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” While we journey in the “valley of the shadow of death,” we never stop there, we are simply going through. God transforms our mourning, our grief, our sorrow into songs of praise.
How? By forgiving us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. When we were lost in our sins, God proved His love for us by sending His Son to die for us (Rom 5:8). While we were dead in our trespasses and sins, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us… made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5). God didn’t wait for us to come to him in contrition and penitence, but launched a preemptive strike of grace and mercy, saving us through the righteousness of His Son, so that when we do repent, we know the joy and peace of forgiveness immediately.
Out of the ashes we rise to sing the praise of our Gracious Heavenly Father. The song of the redeemed is sweet in His ears. It is a song of love, of thankfulness and praise. It is our greatest glory join in the chorus. Even in Lent, especially in Lent, we may sing: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”