No one who is healthy likes pain. That’s actually pain’s job, to get us to avoid situations where we have to experience it. There are times, though, when avoiding short-term pain means losing out on long-term reward. In fact, avoiding short-term emotional pain (sadness, hurt, anger, fear) inevitably causes long-term problems.
Jesus makes a startling assertion in the beatitudes that many of us haven’t given much thought to. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Taken at face value, it would seem that Jesus is saying those who mourn will be blessed with comfort. The opposite would also seem to be true: those who skip mourning will not be blessed with comfort. In fact, I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying. When we fail to mourn we miss God’s special blessing of comfort.
Sadness is the natural emotion we feel as a result of loss. Whether we’ve lost a loved one, a job, a dream, a relationship, or a career opportunity, our hearts naturally feel sad. The healthy human response to sadness is grief, mourning. Too often in contemporary society we gloss over these losses. We have forgotten how to feel sad and actively mourn. Some even see mourning as a weakness.
Several years ago a man I knew committed suicide. His wife was part of our church, so a number of us rallied around to see how we could help. “How is she doing?” was an oft-asked question in those first days after his death. “Oh, she’s doing well,” was the hoped-for answer. “Doing well” meant she wasn’t crying too much; she was keeping her chin up; she was doing what was necessary to interact with life. My perspective was somewhat different. I wondered when she was going to break down. When the man you love takes your own life you should feel sad, you should feel overwhelmed, confused, angry. Being able to just move on with life isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a sign of denial. Glossing over grief and choosing not to mourn causes us to miss the blessing of God’s comfort. And it means we will be less able to comfort others in their time of grief.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
Allow yourself to be sad, to feel the full weight of your loss. The truth is, your heart feels it even if you try to ignore it. Take the time to mourn and receive the blessing of God, himself, comforting you.
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