We are in desperate need of Jesus’ words, spoken long ago to a crowd gathered on a hillside. While we may not be able to connect to all that the divine teacher had to say, at least on this point, little translation is necessary.
This past week, the nation has mourned the death of an 18-year-old and a life that could have been, were it not for a struggle outside a police car. This week, the nation has mourned the loss of one of our most popular and beloved comedians; a life overcome by depression. This week, the world has mourned in response to the horrifying reports of violence perpetrated at the hands of a violent group known as ISIS.
Add to these complex and disturbing tragedies our personal reasons to mourn and it would appear that Jesus’ words have a bit of a hollow sound to them. Do you feel blessed in the midst of your mourning? Do you see evidence of happiness as you have occasion to mourn?
And yet, here are the words of God-in-flesh, calling what is not into being, as he has from the beginning. Blessed are those who mourn. If this is the case, he has certainly cast a wide net. Or has he?
Is it possible that the emotions we take as mourning are but a cheap substitute for what might otherwise be summoning us to the depths? When Jesus’ audience heard these words, their associations with the term mourning were more than mere emotions. This was a time when death was entered into with days of weeping, of remembering the dead. We are accustomed to funerals that last all of an hour or two.
This promise then, is not meant simply for those who write blogs to commemorate the dead. It is not a promise to opportunists, seeking to gain credibility by stepping on a soapbox and offering their opinion on suicide. This is a promise for those who are willing to meet death face to face and enter into all it means to lose someone they care about.This is a promise for those who are willing to do the impossible work of mourning.
Can you feel the weight of what it means for us, when we are willing to enter into the desert places, the dark nights of the soul, and even death itself, to know that comfort awaits us?And this comfort, like the mourning, is not simply an emotional experience. The word itself is the same word that is used to describe the Holy Spirit. The word “comforted” is better translated “come alongside.”
This is a promise for those who are willing to enter the isolation of death: you will never be alone.
From the outside, we may not realize it, but it takes great courage and requires incredible freedom and trust to weep. It takes guts to mourn. And it takes compassion to follow in the steps of Jesus and to enter into grief with those who are there. But this is the strange and wonderful (perhaps even playful) way that the Holy Spirit makes good on Jesus’ promise. We come alongside each other. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we “weep with those who weep.” And when we are the ones who initially weep, the community of Christ is here for us.
May we have the courage to mourn. And may the promise prove as true to those who mourn as it will prove to us when it is our turn to grieve. May we make good on Jesus’ promise to come alongside those in distress.
May we play well together, even in the darkest night of the soul.