blessed are those who mourn

kathyescobar healing, incarnational, jesus is cool, spiritual formation 11 Comments

Candles on cemetery“blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” – matthew 5:4

if you’re new here, this is 2nd in a series of posts centered around the beatitudes.  the first one is blessed are the spiritually poor.

this second beatitude–blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted–changed my life.  literally.  it might sound kind of corny but the truth is that years ago i entered into a very intentional time of healing from a lot of shame & pain in my past.  during this season i intersected with this verse in a new way.  i began to stop talking like a news reporter sharing the facts but actually let myself feel the magnitude of the pain i had experienced.  i hadn’t really cried much before; i had been subtly & also directly taught that crying was bad.  self-protection was my main MO & i was really good at it.  somehow during this season, my defenses were down & i let God stir up all kinds of trouble for me–good trouble.  the best word to describe it was true lament, an anguished cry, an i’m-afraid-now-i-might-not-ever-stop-crying-but-i-can’t-keep-it-in-any-longer-kind of feeling.  the dam broke loose, and i began to allow myself to mourn.  and, consistent with what Jesus said, i felt God’s comfort like i had never felt before.

oh, how i wish i had a container to do this years earlier.  so much less collateral damage would have been done.

i consider mourning allowing ourselves to feel hurt, sorrow, anger, loss, and grief.  along with spiritual poverty in the first beatitude, it implies a softness of heart and an openness to feel.  i believe strongly that in contemporary christian culture, the whole idea of mourning is far underrated.  in fact, many have been sent the direct message that those who feel sadness & anger are somehow lacking in faith and trust in God.  almost exactly 5 years ago when i was in a painful season of leaving a big church staff & filled with feelings of anger & sadness i can’t tell you how hard it was for people to let me feel.  i had been around the block for long enough to know that if i didn’t–if i stuffed it and pretended it didn’t hurt as much as it did and refused to allow myself to feel the magnitude of the pain– it would come back to bite me like it had before.  so i let myself mourn.  cry.   feel anger.  express my sadness and loss.

and in the midst i felt God’s comfort & the comfort of other good friends in so many beautiful ways.  over time, i made it to the other side.  yes, like other parts of my painful past, it is still a wound in my story that won’t ever fully be gone this side of heaven. but instead of taking years and years to fester and finally break through (after doing far more damage), this time i stayed in the moment and let myself mourn.

it freaked some people out.  it freaked me out.  but i don’t think it freaked God out.

Jesus is familiar with pain.   he can hack it.

the question is–can we?

my experience has been that so many people i know–especially conservative christians–have a lot of trouble expressing sadness, sorrow, pain, and loss.  i can only speak from my own experience and what many people have shared along the way, but i think a big reason behind it is “good Christians” somehow aren’t supposed to be filled with all these difficult emotions.  if we trusted enough, prayed enough, believed enough, claimed enough, then we wouldn’t be feeling these things.  so we stuff.  we pretend.  we hide.  we try to will it to go away.  we overwork. we do all kinds of crazy, unhealthy stuff to numb out that in the end causes us far more trouble than actually mourning.

there is so much freaking pain in this world, in our cities, in our neighborhoods, in our faith communities, in our own families.  to me, part of living this beatitude out requires that we become people willing to stay in touch with pain.  like Jesus, we can become people & communities who become good pain-welcomers (this was part of a series of posts a few years ago on some dreams i have for church). it means we will have to first get in touch with our own pain & allow ourselves to mourn and feel.

then, we can hold the space for others.  then, we can stand together in real situations and be present in the mourning.

for the injustices that don’t seem to be made right.  for the losses of people, jobs, relationships, children, health, church, faith and a whole long list of other casualties.  for the failures.  for the innocence that got shattered through abuse & neglect.  for the hurting children, the suffering, the aging, the silenced.

we can become people & communities who learn to lament and grieve.  to create a safe container for others mourning.  to honor and welcome pain & loss instead of offer quick fixes & hyper-spiritualized-solutions.  to hold our friends hand in the dark & let them hold ours when we need it too.

this is what this beatitude means to me.  i’d love to hear what it means to you.

God, help us be people & communities who are willing to mourn, to feel, to allow pain & sorrow to emerge.  as we receive your comfort, may we pass that comfort on to others, too.