Our Good Crisis #4: Mourning and the Comforter

Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies. Think of grief as the container. It holds your thoughts, feelings, and images of your experience when someone you love dies. In other words, grief is the internal meaning given to the experience of loss. Mourning is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside yourself. Another way of defining mourning is “grief gone public” or “the outward expression of grief.”

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Eight Critical Questions for MournersAnd the Answers That Will Help You Heal

I am reading Our Good Crisis* by Jonathan Dodson … I invite you to join me! As I read, I am processing thoughts here. Dodson suggests that the Beatitudes are “the key to human flourishing.” If that is so, then we need to dig in!

What does it mean to mourn?
What’s the connection between blessing and mourning?

Many experienced losses this year – big losses, little losses, and everything in between. We’ve been grieving, experiencing the loss internally, and some of us have been learning how to lament, expressing our grief aloud.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

There is coming a day when there will be no more mourning, no tears, no pain of grief! While it’s “not yet” we have that confident assurance that God dwelling among us is in our future – maybe even sooner than we realize! Hallelujah!

In the meanwhile, in our present situation we weep with those who weep. We lament. Jesus is our example!

We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.

Hebrews 4:15 MSG
  • Jesus grieved the death of John the Baptist: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)
  • Jesus mourned the death of his friend, Lazarus: “He wept” (John 11:35)
  • Jesus wept over the idolatries of His people in the city of Jerusalem; “when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41)
  • Jesus lamented His impending death: in Gethsemane, “he began to be sorrowful and troubled …overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:37b-38)
  • Jesus cried out, “why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)

Come near to God and he will come near to you. 
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 
Grieve, mourn and wail.
Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:8-10

We don’t just lament physical losses but we also lament our own sin, the sin of our society. David wrote, “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” Ezra wept over the disobedience of the people returning from exile. King Ahab, a wicked man, mourned his sin, and God noticed! Jonah preached to the Ninevites, and they repented, mourned their sin, and God relented setting aside the destruction He had planned. We mourn the things God mourns – our sin grieves Him.

Dodson’s premise in Our Good Crisis is that in this age of distraction we have difficulty mourning. We fill our lives with noise to drown out sorrows – earbuds, streaming services, surfing the ‘net. We bury ourselves in work, thinking we can just push our grief aside. We use lawful, unlawful substances to escape. Or we obsess over our grief, allowing anger and bitterness to overrun our lives.

… we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

We are told in Ephesians 4 not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was given to be our helper, the one who comes along side of us to teach, guide, direct, support, and to comfort! When we mourn rightly, we lean into the Spirit of God, allowing His ministry to be fulfilled in our lives. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God invites us to cast our cares on Him. As we cast our cares on Him and allow Him to comfort us, we become instruments of His comfort, instruments of His grace to others!

As a result of our encounter with the mercies of God, we’re moved to live in a way that draws us closer to the fountain of his comfort. We are wooed to goodness, which in turn sends goodness back into our relationships, communities, and world. So learning to mourn meaningfully actually helps address the crisis of good around us.

J. Dodson, Our Good Crisis, pg. 55

C.S. Lewis says in The Great Divorce, ““That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”” Joseph, after having been thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, imprisoned for his integrity, testified that what others meant for evil, God meant for good. There is coming a day, as I stated at the beginning when God will put all things right – even our suffering.

Comfort is both an “already” and “not yet” phenomenon found in the kingdom of heaven ushered in through the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior!

When beset by sorrow, trust God!
Tell Him all about your grief and pain.
Lament, and remember the mercies of God!
You will be comforted!

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Cleavant Derricks, 1937

*Dodson, J. K. (2020). Our good crisis: Overcoming moral chaos with the Beatitudes. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, an imprint of InterVarsity Press.

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