Fear of being speechless. Fear of not relating. Fear of not feeling deeply. Fear of not being compassionate enough. Each of these core fears were at the root of an anxiety of mine – not being able to interact rightly with those who were grieving or suffering. How could I grieve with them if I didn’t personally have anything to lament? How could I live into the beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”?
I wrestled with questions like this for years even as some of my own friends experienced loss, injustice, and seeming hopelessness. I just couldn’t seem to relate, no matter how desperately I wanted to.
MOURNING: CIRCUMSTANTIAL OR CULTIVATED?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This sounds like a promise to the individual who is hurting, for the one who is crying out to God. It seems like a promise that is circumstantial, only coming if hardship presents itself.
Each of the rest of the characteristics listed in beatitudes is a choice… being poor in spirit, being meek, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, just to name a few. Each of these qualities is something that is developed, something that is cultivated over time through intentionality.
What if mourning, too, is something that is developed and fostered with conscientiousness, not only the product of personal suffering?
INDIVIDUALISM, AN INHIBITOR OF LAMENT
When asking a friend who is an international student what the biggest aspect of culture shock was when she moved to the US, my sister was surprised to hear her answer – that individualism was far more present in every day life than this friend expected.
Individualism affects the way we make decisions. It affects the way in which we fend for ourselves. It has also crept in our churches, robbing us of the richness of community.
What if our understanding of mourning is narrowed and even obstructed by our own current context of hyper individualism?
Paul refers to the church as a body in 1 Corinthains 12 to drive home the point that each gift (part of the body) is essential for it to function properly. If one the members of the human body is hurting, the entire body feels pain in sympathy with the one that is injured.
The same should be true of our churches, the body of Christ. If the members of our church are bound to one another, when one member experiences the loss of a loved one, the entire body is affected by this loss and mourns alongside them. If someone experiences a debilitating health issue, the whole of the community feels pain too. When a brother or sister experiences the oppression of racial injustice, the full body cries to God in desperation with them.
My health is integrally bound to yours. When you suffer, I grieve alongside you because our healing and our hurting is woven together.
But our individualistic mindset blinds our eyes to this foundational truth about our relationship with others in the faith. We are told by our individualistic culture that we can do life on our own and that if we have too many problems of our own, there is no responsibility to walk with others through their heart aches.
DWELLING WITH THOSE WHO SUFFER
If individualism is so ingrained into our nature, what possible hope is there to change?
Look to Jesus.
He did not look down on the hopeless, sinful state of his people, refusing to empathize and provide hope. He chose to obey His Father’s will by becoming flesh. Soong-Chan Rah wrote in his book The Next Evangelicalism, “As Christ chose to dwell among people and live in the flesh with all its limitations, the doctrine of incarnation would demand that the body of Christ (his church) would dwell among those enduring suffering.”
Jesus took on our suffering. His example calls us to do the same – to step out of our indifference, dwell with those who suffer and to mourn with them. Mourning with others is something that is cultivated as we seek to become more like Jesus.
It is this example from Jesus that gives the motivation and the compassion to grieve with the one who has experienced loss or oppression or abuse or any hardship in life. It is Jesus that enables us to lament with others.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” - Matthew 5:4.
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THE BEATITUDES MELODY
Abigail Houston from Melodically Memorizing wrote and recorded this melody to help us write The Beatitudes across our hearts! We LOVE her ministry and passion for God’s Word! We hope this song blesses you as we memorize this passage throughout the “Blessed are…” Blog Series!
Find her on instagram @melodicallymemorizing
MATTHEW 5:3-12 [THE BEATITUDES]
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.