Mourning: A Blessing in Disguise
Dear brothers & sisters,
Here we are, at the second of Jesus’ famous beatitudes. Last week, we explored the radically paradoxical implications of what Jesus meant when he said, “blessed are the poor” (Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20). If you haven’t read that article already, we encourage you to do so as it’s clear from reading the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament that wealth & poverty is an extremely important theme for us as Christians.
This week’s topic–blessed are those who mourn–seems a bit more straightforward, probably because mourning is a lot less controversial than Jesus’ revolutionary economics. Still, this second beatitude is paradoxical, and hopefully we can start unpacking a bit of that together!
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.Luke 6:21
Like we mentioned at the start of our dive into the beatitudes, it’s interesting to note that Matthew’s version seems to focus more on the state of one’s spirit, whereas Luke’s version is more focused on the physical side. Here is a great example: Matthew writes about a mourning spirit, whereas Luke focuses in on what people who mourn actually do (i.e. weep).
And what powerful language these two words are! Mourn and weep. It suggests bereavement, like the loss of a loved one. Which of course brings to mind the orphans and widows whom Jesus & his disciples often expressed compassion for (Luke 7:12-13, James 1:27), or the fathers who sought for Jesus to heal their sick children (Mark 5:22-24, Luke 9:38-41, John 4:47-50).
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. It’s how we face these challenges that makes all the difference. In our American culture (as well as many others), it is often viewed as a shameful thing to express deep pain or sorrow, especially for men. But when we suppress our natural instincts to feel and show grief, we’re actually denying ourselves the chance to experience deep healing/comfort. That’s at least part of what Jesus is saying in this second beatitude. Our loving Father wants to offer us comfort when we mourn. He joins us in solidarity with our pain. Or maybe the reverse is more accurate! When we grieve, we actually join in solidarity with God who feels the pain of the whole world down to each individual.
And it’s not just for our own, personal suffering that we must learn to allow ourselves to mourn, either. Do we mourn for our brothers & sisters who are being persecuted in far-away countries? Do we mourn over the fact that approximately every 10 seconds, one child dies of hunger-related causes (BBC)? Do we mourn for this war-torn world? Do we mourn all these things and more, or do we allow our love to grow cold (Matthew 24:12)? The great suffering of every human, creature, and even plant-life is validated & mourned in the eyes of God, and so we must be in solidarity with God on this, too. (Although the suffering of the world is more of a discussion for a later beatitude, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice” [Matthew 5:6, NLT].)
In this second beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”, we will stay focused on personal sorrow and the comfort that God wants to extend to us. Here is the heart of the paradox: it is blessed to mourn because in that state of vulnerable surrender to pain, we open ourselves up to the opportunity to receive God’s loving comfort. If we deny the pain, then we simultaneously deny God’s offer of comfort because we are too proud to admit that we need it. It takes strength and a humble spirit to admit weakness and accept help, which seems to be what Jesus wants us to understand in this beatitude.
So it’s probably fairly obvious how this particular saying of Jesus is part of the Good News (i.e. the Gospel): if we lift our grief up to God, He will reach down to offer us comfort. But maybe it’s not so readily apparent what this has to do with loving God, our neighbor, and each other. Still, it’s there if we dig a little deeper…
Embracing this relational exchange with God of our sorrow for His comfort is part of a deeper, more mature relationship between ourselves and our Heavenly Father. Rather than try to fix our pain all by ourselves, we can learn to bring our problems to God and place them in His hands. This is an act of humble surrender that isn’t always easy to do (because we too often think that we should be able to take matters into our own hands!), but each time we do practice this exchange, our relationship with God deepens and we learn to trust & love Him more.
Surrendering to our pain also shows love for our neighbor as well as for each other in a few different ways, depending on the situation. If we are mourning for the loss of a loved one, then we are acknowledging the deep impact this person had on us. Our grief is a testimony to the loving relationship we had with this person. If we are mourning in solidarity with the pain of another person, then we are showing empathy which is surely a sign of deep love & care for the other. And even if we are mourning for a private hurt, there is opportunity to experience interpersonal love if we take our pain to a loved one or community of loved ones. This last example is very similar to the relational exchange we described in the last paragraph between ourselves and God (where we give Him our sorrow and He gives us His comfort), and in fact, going to loved ones with our pain may be one of the ways that God moves to comfort us!
So even in our difficult experiences with life’s inevitable suffering, even when we feel like we are drowning in pain, we have an opportunity to make this very human experience a fulfillment of our call as Christians to love God, our neighbor, and each other. Now that is truly a blessing!
What do you think? What does it mean to you to be blessed for mourning? Have you had an experience of suffering where you experienced God’s love and comfort? Please share in the comments below, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Love & Prayers,
Luke & Allie