“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
— Matthew 5:4 (NRSV)
The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ main teaching discourse, has proved contentious even within Christian circles. The Beatitudes, which are at the start of Matthew’s account of the Sermon, intrigue the reader, for, how could there be blessedness in mourning, for instance?
But as we dig deeper into the muddy earth of this text we gain a sense of its truth: those who genuinely enter into the sorrow of their (others’ and the world’s) grief will be most blessed.
So far as grief is concerned, we are to grieve with a grief “which so takes possession of the whole being that it cannot be hid.” (R.C. Trench, 1953)
Wisdom About Grieving
Viewing the Sermon on the Mount as a longer form of Wisdom (in the tradition of Old Testament Proverbs) is beneficial. This Wisdom is from God himself. And the beginning of this particular Wisdom, how to mourn, is given in this verse.
We worship God in Spirit and in the truth (John 4:24). Whenever we worship God we know we are on the right track. In the context of grief, we worship God, and are blessed, when we mourn—in the fullest sense—giving credence to the truth by our honest and courageous willingness to undertake the experience of the full force of our anguish.
Certainly there are days when we have the strength for it. On the days we don’t we pray for God’s help—for the strength to get through.
We don’t have to have lost someone to grieve. When we lose a job, we grieve. When there is a significant relationship separation, we grieve. When we lose a pet, we grieve. The wisdom about grieving is simple: we give accurate testimony to what the grief means—and in this we’re healed. Inevitably we seek to find our way through the sorrow to transform it into the blessing of merited acceptance.
Blessed Are Those Who Honour the Truth
If we were to search for the underpinning message behind the Beatitudes we may find it is about adherence to the truth: blessed are those who honour the truth.
When we honour the truth, in this case within our grief, we allow God to give us wisdom regarding how we will view our relationship to the loss from now on.
It may seem a scary concept to wallow in the truth in great sadness. But as we do so we learn to rely on God, and therefore trust. God will never leave us to languish, but wants us to engage with the truth of our sorrow, complete with the support of wise and trusted advisers; those mentors with caring hearts. For instance, God teaches us more about compassion and empathy through suffering than through any other means.
God honours the broken when they have the courage to honour the truth. When we trust God enough with our sorrow and other spiritual dilemmas to honour the truth, God ultimately blesses us with the purest possible recovery. In faith we sow, and in faith we shall attest to the faithfulness of God to carry us all the way through.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.