Jesus gives a curious word of consolation to his disciples in Matthew 5:4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Mourning can be understood as grief and sorrow caused by profound loss. Certainly when I reflect on how the troubles of this year have impacted us, this is a fitting response. This has been a year filled with sorrow caused by the devastating effects of the pandemic, overt racial injustice, hostility and rioting, and an extremely divisive political climate, just to name a few. You may have also been hit personally with the loss of something or someone you love. This extends to hopes and desires you did not see realized this year: walking at graduation, celebrating the wedding you planned for, pursuing your career. These each have their own unique heartache. So how can Jesus call those who experience mourning blessed?
“… for they will be comforted.” Those who mourn are called blessed because they will have the comfort of God himself. Jesus speaks these words in the first section of his famous sermon on the mount. In the opening beatitudes, Jesus is sharing who it is that belongs to his kingdom. These are the ones he calls his own – the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the meek, etc. Grieving the brokenness of this world and the condition of your own poverty and need before Christ is the path that leads to comfort. My fellow believer, I want to encourage you to invite Jesus into the losses you are grieving, that you might receive his care and comfort for you.
There are a number of ways you may find God’s comfort in mourning, such as receiving prayer from a friend who cares for you, being reassured God is with you in your pain, or knowing Christ is one who can sympathize with your experience, having shared in our human condition. I want to particularly encourage you in this advent season with the comfort of God that can be found in hope.
This is how Isaiah speaks of Jesus’ coming:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
– Isaiah 61:1-3
Jesus has come and will fulfill what was foretold about his coming; he will bind up the brokenhearted, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve. Instead, he has a crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. This is the secure hope you stand on in Christ Jesus. What a beautiful truth to behold!
I pray in this season that the pain of your grief might be lightened by the comfort of this hope.
Citylight Resident Counselor
I remember that one very difficult period of loneliness in my life came as I was graduating seminary and transitioning into the work world. I had grown really close to a small group of friends in my program after spending three years together. We became like a little family. As graduation came near, I remember a familiar voice rising up in me: “Here we go again, another goodbye to people I care about; another transition; another time having to start all over again.” Admittedly, I had a bit of self-pity thinking about other painful experiences of my past, but I was dreading what I knew was the close of a significant chapter in my life. After graduation, our friend group dispersed and the dynamics of our relationships inevitably changed.
In the loneliness that followed, God met me through a loving rebuke while reading the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer describes community as the “roses and lilies” of the Christian life, a gift from God that he bestows in accordance with his wisdom and providential care for us. This gift may vary in different seasons of our lives, but we must remember that all relationships with other believers are nothing less than a gift of grace from the hand of a loving and sovereign God.
This began a shift in me from discontentment and sadness to gratitude for the gift of community he had given to me and a realization that God was drawing me closer to himself in this time.
I wonder what your struggle with loneliness looks like. 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. The year of social distancing: stay at home orders, Zoom meetings, online church services, and extended periods of time away from those you love. Perhaps you struggled with loneliness long before COVID, and now the feelings have only intensified by these circumstances.
One of the most challenging aspects of loneliness is feeling like you don’t have anyone to share in the things you experience from day to day. No one truly “gets” you; even if you are regularly with others, you still feel isolated and alone.
Christ was no stranger to this experience. In Matthew 26:36-46, we find Jesus in Gethsemane going off to pray during one of his darkest hours. After crying out to God in his sorrow concerning the pain he is to endure, he returns to his disciples only to find them sleeping in his greatest time of need. This doesn’t happen just once, but three times! Jesus was alone on the road to endure the cross on our behalf.
Will you cry out and invite him into your loneliness today? Although we are not guaranteed our ideal relationships or freedom from the pain of loneliness in this life, we are promised the intimate presence of God with us today and the future hope that he will one day bring us home. My prayer is that you would know God’s intimate care for you today.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:26-28
Citylight Resident Counselor