What does grief look like? We express our grief in many different ways. At times, we may mourn in private. Other times, we long for the support and company of close family and friends. We may find comfort in staying busy or planning an event or memorial in honor of the one we’ve lost.
When Mordecai learned about the king’s edict against the Jews, initiated by Haman, he was grief stricken. In a traditional expression of grief, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, roamed and wailed throughout the city (v. 1). His grief—even months before the actual massacre was scheduled to take place—was public and profound.
He was not alone in his response. Throughout the kingdom, the Jews reacted “with fasting, weeping, and wailing” (v. 3). The phrase quoted here is a “literary echo” to the writings of the prophet Joel. When authors use a literary echo, they assume that their readers are familiar with the corresponding Scripture or literary work. The author assumes they will understand one passage in light of the other. By using the phrase “with fasting, weeping, and wailing” the author of Esther was likely connecting this part of the Esther narrative to Joel 2:12. Consider all of the meaning that this connection carries. The phrase “Rend your heart and not your garments” (v. 13) certainly furthers the link. The author was likely casting this edict given by Xerxes as a call of God to His people to return to Him—not just outwardly, with all their heart.
God uses pain in our lives in many ways. It disciplines (Heb. 12:1–11). It builds empathy (2 Cor. 12:6). It drives us to dependency on Him (Ps. 34:18). It gives voice to the gospel and reveals the glory of God (1 Peter 4:12–19). And it calls us back to Him.
>> Author C. S. Lewis once called pain, God’s “megaphone.” If you currently find yourself in a time of pain or grief, allow God to speak to your heart. And, perhaps, you can also reach out to someone today who is experiencing a difficult time.