The Best Tears: Embracing the Beauty of Grief
If Jesus had a Greatest Hits teaching album, the Sermon on the Mount certainly makes the cut. One of the most famous sections is the Beatitudes, a list of character qualities that all begin with "Blessed are the…" The Greek word for "blessed" can also be translated "happy."
Maybe this is why it's so odd that Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4.) Isn't it just like Jesus to throw out a line that says "Happy are the sad"? It feels disorienting, contradictory, paradoxical. Shouldn't he say something like, "Blessed are those who avoid suffering, for they won't ever have to mourn"? That's a spirituality I'd sign up for.
But he doesn't. Apparently, there is a deep spiritual benefit to grief. The map of life is checkered with wounds, betrayals, setbacks and losses. You lose your first love, your dream job, your financial standing, someone you care about. To mourn indicates you cared about something in the first place. If you don't have any attachments, you don't shed any tears. The capacity to mourn reveals one's ability to feel deeply. Yes, you can go through life without any grief, but you'll have to surrender your willingness to hope and to love.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
I saw a stained-glass window with this verse in Latin. Instead of "comfort," it used the word "console." It reminds me of a book I read recently about fully recognizing and leaning into your emotions. The author describes bringing her infant to the pediatrician for some injections. When the baby shrieked at the shot, her first instinct was to soothe her, saying "It's OK. It's OK." The wise nurse administering the shot replied, "It's not OK, but it's OK that it's not OK."
Consolation doesn't whitewash our pain. True comfort welcomes healthy tears. It says, "Yes, this is horrible. No, it's not right. It's OK to say that it hurts; it hurts a lot. I'm going to be right here. We'll get through it together."
I believe this is what Christ wants to say to all of us when we hurt, but just as there is no mercy without confession, there's no comfort without mourning.
So, let it go. Stop fighting back the tears. They are right. They are appropriate. They will break you open for the comfort and the consolation you so desperately need.