Got a couple of private posts today from people talking about “mourning.” Some thoughts…
I think that one of the most common needs or difficulties a pastor comes in contact with could be put into the category called “mourning.” It may be mourning for a person who died or mourning over a person from whom we have been separated, over a relationship that has ended; it might be mourning over a lost job. An Occupational Health doctor back in 2016 challenged me with this question: “Have you ever mourned your loss of health?” I had not allowed myself to do that. Henry Nouwen says that sometimes there can even be mourning over a form of Christian devotion or worship which meant so much to us, but is now deemed to be out of date, irrelevant and not fit for the present times; what was precious to us in the formative years of our Christian experience can come to be almost outlawed and drowned out with cynicism or sarcasm as no longer fit for purpose.
Christian life in practice means a whole lot of little deaths, little mournings, followed by little resurrections. It may have been brother Roger of Taize who said that, but I am not certain. No one escapes. Leaning to mourn and move on is vital. Not only is it vital but with Jesus it is possible when it seems impossible. He helps us mourn our losses well, and then to rise to the next chapter of new life, the good things prepared beforehand for us to live in and do, when His Father chose us for life in Christ before the foundation of the world.
The evil one tells us that our life was lost in what was taken from us or never given to us in earlier chapters of our story. He tells us there is no life possible, no recovery of joy or happiness in the face of loss. Living in Christ means our truest self is never in the past, whether that was a good or dark story, but waiting for us in my present journey towards my future which God alone can unfold in time and more fully in eternity. This is called “Hope.” It meant more to early believers than to many believers now, I think. They did not make themselves as at home in the happenings of this life as present day believers. They did not look for their life in what could be taken away or had been taken away, in what can be stolen or destroyed, but in what can never be lost. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Let the glory of what you will be on That Day rise like the sun and shine in glory across the plains of time from eternity. Walk into who you are. The thankfulness of faith affirms, often through mourning and tears, that I am more me than I was this time a year ago, despite my fears to the contrary. Resurrection Hope says I am not yet who I will be, but that is where I am heading. I choose that life…
So may God help you and I with our losses when they happen (and they will) and enable us to receive His promised comfort in our mourning, and then to sense the sun rising on us as we look forward and onward.
I heard of a leader who made a huge pastoral mistake, in my opinion. After hearing someone give their testimony they stood up publicly and said, “That testimony has just glorified Satan.” The person had majored on the difficulties they had been living through. The pastor should have spoken to them privately about the imbalance of their story and what is meant by giving a testimony; it is never right to humiliate a person publicly. Even the best of leaders get it wrong from time to time. However I know what that leader meant. Take care about how you talk about your sufferings. Never give Satan the glory. Glorify the God who promises true comfort in true mourning, The God of all comfort, the God of all hope, the God of resurrection.
The Revd. John Miller, the well known former minister of Castlemilk in Glasgow, was once asked by a 6 year old, “What does a minister do?” His reply? “A minister helps people to know that there is a way to be happy even after bad things have happened.” I like that…I really do… because of Jesus, it can indeed be so… Look to Him…
This is so relevant. Many people are now celebrating the life of people instead of having a time to mourn their death. Even as Christians we need to take time out and allow grief at the loss of a loved, person , place , activity etc to take its toll. It is becoming increasingly documented that not doing so can lead to physical and mental illness later down the road . As Christians we need to be taught clearly about heaven as our true home, but equally we need to learn to mourn . The Jewish traditions of mourning make for interesting reading & we can learn a lot from them .
thanks for writing this one, so helpful and reassuring.