Mourning and grief will visit you. The intensity and affect varies, but it is inescapable.
I have known Christians whose grief was inconsolable and ended in taking their own life. Still, Jesus described God’s heart toward mourners and grievers. They will be comforted.
Is it fair to say that God’s comfort and human comforting are available, but not always embraced? I would not want to assign blame on sufferers who appear inconsolable or suffer from a mood disorder that robs them of the possibility of feeling better. The Kingdom of God is eternal and there is a past-present-future reality to Jesus wiping the tears from our eyes. Some tears will not dry until we are face-to-face with Jesus.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross[i] defined 5 stages of grief and loss. When faced with great tragedy and loss people progress through:
· - Denial
· - Anger
· - Bargaining
· - Depression
· - Acceptance
Kubler-Ross has certainly identified common attitudes found among those who are grieving. Certainly some will recognize themselves working through stages.
But, critics of the Kubler-Ross model react to the linear, progressive process and do not believe everyone will experience grief the same way. We have all known people who have been deeply hurt and not found relief after decades of suffering a particular loss. For some people, there is no ‘getting over it’. Instead, there are changes to the intensity and frequency of suffering.
For the one who finds they are devastated by deep grieving and mourning, there is relief from God. The problem for many comes when their grief seems inconsolable and insufferable. The promise of comfort from God may seem to be just a cliché. That in turn may lead to feelings of shame and failure for not dealing better with the pain. How many people have you heard apologize for their tears? “I’m sorry. I should be handling this better.”
God’s comfort is sometimes found in lonely moments where His presence is felt. Some days, it takes the form of sympathetic human companionship. The ancient Jewish practice of ‘sitting Shiva’ involved coming as a group alongside the mourner to comfort with your presence. That is what Job’s comforters attempted to do. The problem is they tried too hard to explain and assign blame for Job’s misery. That is very discomforting and we should not try to become therapists. Better to be quiet, loving friends who allow weepers to weep. Good comfort gives permission and the grace to validate feelings.
There is a grief that comes from seeing injustice. You may be deeply affected by trauma and the horrors of the world around you. Tragic realities can harden your heart and cause you to become cold and cynical. Or, they can motivate a yearning for God’s Kingdom and inspire acts of comfort.
Matthew Payne describes a situation that stirs mourning based on injustice.
In Sydney, Australia where I live, there is an infamous suburb called Kings Cross. That suburb is the place where all the street walking prostitutes ply their trade. In the main street of that suburb there are four places that are strip clubs and brothels combined. The men come in and watch young strippers and when they are in a position that they can be tempted, they are asked if they want to come upstairs for sexual relations. All of the prostitutes that work in these clubs are heroin and cocaine addicts and the club not only takes 50% of the money that they make as a prostitute in their premises, but they also sell the drugs that they use. One third of the clients that come to these workers take a twenty minute booking and buy drugs from the prostitute to have their very first shot of heroin with a needle. Not only are the prostitutes using many thousands of dollars worth of drugs themselves, but they are introducing people to a new drug habit.
Now mourning is in knowing all these prostitutes are slaves to their trade through their addictions. You mourn when you know the fact that the clubs that they are working for sell all the heroin and the police force in that suburb know it is going on and support it by taking bribes. The new officers make a pretense of stopping small time drug dealers while the higher ups allow massive amounts of heroin and cocaine to be dealt by the clubs.
Mourning comes from knowing that young boys and girls from about 15 years of age arrive in Kings Cross from all around Australia and within half an hour they are taken to private clubs for prostitution. Knowing that members of the police force, the judicial system and any other person who has good connections can hire these youngsters for sex makes me cry. The police know that this happens also and they do nothing about it.
Mourning is knowing about something that is wrong and an injustice being done and not having the power to do anything about it. The only place that you can get comfort for this is in the arms of Jesus.[ii]
So, how are those who mourn blessed? When grief leads us to God’s comfort can we claim that suffering has value? Grief rips away the fake allowing us to see the real. God is present when we stare down the ugliness of loss and brokenness. The Kingdom of God is being unveiled. The fake world is being tore down and comfort awaits the disillusioned and horrified.
Being poor in spirit; we are able to see the generous mercy of God who will reconcile the world to Himself and judge the oppressors.
[i] Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death And Dying, 1969
[ii] Matthew Robert Payne, http://ezinearticles.com/?Blessed-Are-Those-Who-Mourn---Matthew-5:4&id=2381505