Those who Mourn

Continuing my reflections on The 8 Beatitudes 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 We surround our lives with things and people and interests which, for the most part, try and make us happy, cheerful and humoured.  But the word  for “mourning” is the strongest word in the Greek language that has to do with sorrow and grief.  It is the word used for mourning the dead.

If it’s about mourning and sorrow and sadness, then we would most likely prefer to avoid it.  All funerals are sad occasions, some, because of the age or circumstances surrounding the death, are more tragic and sad than others.

The word Jesus uses here is the word used to describe the enveloping  kind of grief which takes hold of a person in such a way that it cannot be hidden or contained. Its like a river which bursts it banks. 

Many of us in this world carry our grief sealed inside us as a tin can and once it begins to be opened or peeeled away it opens up vast torrent of emotions ranging from anger to sadness/depression or  to anxiety and addictive behaviours.
Yet ....................................................................................................

“Blessed is the man who has endured the bitterest sorrow that life can bring.” The Arabs have a proverb – “All sunshine makes a desert.”
As rain is essential for growth, so too,there are some qualities in our lives which only the experience of sorrow and mourning can produce.
When things go well in our lives, we can live for years simply on the surface of things; but when sorrow comes we are driven to the deeper things of life, and if accepted rightly, a new strength enters the soul.

There is a blessedness which comes from mourning well, rather than trying to escape the pain and sorrow of grief.
True mourning faces the losses of life and admits and accepts and even embraces those losses. We are made stronger when, in poverty of spirit, in utter dependence on God,  we mourn that which we have lost, and look to Him for grace and strength.
Click this brief link to Different Mourning Cultures Across The World.


This beatitude can also mean : “Blessed are those who are desperately sorry for the sorrow and suffering of the world.”

Bohnhoeffer describes those who mourn as mourning for “the guilt of the world,  its fate and its future”. 

The Oil Crisis in The Gulf and these heartwrenching  images from the NYT and here from The Boston Big Picture .

They cause us all to mourn for the loss of life and certainly to seriously question our own responsibility in causing this.

It is those who have taken to heart the pain and suffering of the world, who most often do something about it, and who find the strength and courage and grace of God to bring relief to those who suffer.There are many examples  where people have reached out to others in need;  all have come about because individuals have mourned over the suffering of others.

Post below extracted from here.

The concept for the painting above was inspired by C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed” notes written by the author himself, which describes the grieving process he went through after losing his wife to cancer.
El Adios depicts a man cleaving to the lifeless body of his wife. The expression on his face is one of anguish, terror and denial as well as one of tenderness.

His body language speaks volumes as well. The man is running, holding on tightly to his wife’s body, as a desperate part of him believes he can elude death and certain separation from his beloved companion.

Henri Nouwen said “Mourning makes us poor; it powerfully reminds us of our smallness. But it is precisely here, in that pain or poverty or awkwardness, that the Dancer invites us to rise up and take the first steps. For in our suffering, not apart from it, Jesus enters our sadness, takes us by the hand, pulls us gently up to stand, and invites us to dance. 

We find the way to pray, as the psalmist did, “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30: 11), because at the centre of our grief we find the grace of God.”
Losses in life may be non-negotiables.

The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.  ~Arthur Schopenhauer.

This is a great music video that resonates with loss in hard times and the futility of war : a Stephen Foster classic popular during the American Civil War. The photographs from the Civil War are from the United States National Archive. The quotations at the very end are pretty sobering too.

But we have a choice: How do we live these losses? We are called time and again to discover God’s Spirit at work within our lives, within us, amid even the dark moments. We are invited to choose life.

The dangers of getting stuck in our mourning.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. 
 ~Jan Glidewell.


Every evening I turn my worries over to God.  He's going to be up all night anyway.  ~Mary C. Crowley.

The first three beatitudes tie together – when we are poor in spirit, we recognize the utter helplessness and hopelessness of our spiritual state as sinners in rebellion against a holy God. Then we turn our stubborn wills to be meek. The mourning in our spirit is a result of truly acknowledging this fact, letting it sink in.

Those who are truly blessed, will not only recognize the fact of our sin, we will be broken over it. We will mourn before Him and our hearts will cry out as Isaiah did, “Woe is me! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips!”

How seriously do we take our sin? What do we do when God points out our sin to us through His Word, through our greed in materialism in the world that results in environemntal degradation and human  suffering. Do we brush it off as insignificant? Do we justify it and explain it away? Do we get defensive and angry?

Or do our hearts break, do we mourn, over the sin God points out to us in our lives?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Related articles on Mourning
  • Great reflection here from Luke Parrott and here from Simon Lucas


Tim said...

Phil, this is so rich. I will be back to read it again.

I think irrepressible grief terrifies us because it takes control of us until it's fully expressed. The cool, calm, and collected image we try to portray melts in our sobs.

I had one of those episodes recently. And once again, I found the cleansing was so powerful, it ended it utter joy. It turned me around, and in the turning, turned the situation around. The same thing happens on a metaphorical level when grief for our sins gets the better of us. We're cleansed and redirected.

Thank you for this. It blesses me beyond words.

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Tim,
I always look forward to your visits and comments as they express so much.
When you say that "irrepressible grief terrifies us" that really catches me. I need to dwell on that because it is worth exploring.

There are so many terrors in our world and even if we are to experience many only second hand I believe they still have a huge subliminal effect on us.
As I get older I think that the cumulative effect of the world situation does wear us down even if we are optimists at heart.
As Henri Nouwen put it, there is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our life so that even in our most happy moments there is often something missing. In every satisfaction there is an awareness of limitation. Every bit of life is touched by a bit of death. The world can give us peace, except it never does this perfectly.

And there's a sad irony in that when we need to express normal grief and be honest to our experience that is the time when other people often seem to distance themselves.
Like you say, the catharsis of expressed grief does cleanse and we have to learn to honour these experiences with others. The tortured complexity of grief needs to be expressed if we are to be fully understood.
Sadly for many people it never does.
Thank you for your comments- as always they inspire!!