Written by Andrea Nwabuike
I was sitting at work on Boxing Day, enjoying the slower pace of the day and dreaming of the glorious Christmas leftovers calling to my spirit from home. My sister was meant to go out to lunch with family so I texted her to check if she had found the restaurant. To my surprise, she told me that they had cancelled their plans. When I asked why, my sister hit me with news that I had never have expected and will never forget.
It is important to note that my family is not very skilled at sharing bad news. We don’t beat around the bush, believing that a blunt recognition of reality makes life easier. Instead of deciding to call me or waiting for a more opportune time, my sister just texted, “…she died. So we thought it would be better not to go out.” Our eldest cousin died in Nigeria, a few weeks after giving birth to her first child. If the simple fact of her death was not hard enough, the details of how she died only served to broaden the depth of our loss.
When grief hits you, one of the first thing you want is for it to go away. The discomfort and confusion of experiencing multiple emotions at one time is so overwhelming that it’s terrifying. Unlike most other problems or situations, there is nothing you can do to change the pain of an encounter with loss. You don’t get over grief or move past it; you simply go on with it. You learn how to carry it in a way that does not rob you of all your energy. But the only way to do so is to wrestle with it and allow yourself to mourn. To sit under the weight of grief and finding an outlet for its expression.
In his most famous sermon, Jesus teaches that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. So often we jump to the comfort part. We highlight the promise without recognizing the condition for the promise. It is in our mourning; the moments when we truly allow ourselves to confront the realities of death and loss, that we will be comforted. Not a shallow comfort but the comfort of God, rich enough to soothe even the deepest of wounds.
Jesus demonstrated this in mourning the loss of his friend Lazarus. He knew that illness and death would not win over Lazarus, confidently stating, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Yet, Jesus’s first response upon encountering the sadness of Lazarus’s family was to weep. The only one with the power to reverse death and bring back what is lost found it necessary to mourn with those who were mourning. His grief was not an obstacle to God’s glory but a vehicle by which it could be demonstrated for all.
In a world enslaved to sin and death there is much to mourn. Where brokenness and destruction have been woven into the very fabric of our society, there is mourning to be done. Where respect for human dignity is an ideal more than a reality, mourning is imperative. Our mourning is certainly not devoid of hope, but it is real. And through it we are comforted.