“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, New American Standard Bible).
Several recent posts have looked at Matthew 5:4 from several angles. When we speak of “mourning,” we can refer to grief over suffering in the world, sorrow for our sins, or the bereavement we endure when we have lost a loved one.
Many people have suffered losses over the last two and a half years. COVID-19 has caused over six million deaths worldwide (over one million in the United States), in addition to the people who died of the illnesses we had before COVID. Suicide has been on the rise as well. Two of my uncles died, and then my mother passed away in November 2021. None of them died of COVID. I cannot help but think that Mom lost interest in living after her brother died, contributing to a rapid decline in health.
As bad as this would sound in ordinary times, I know families who have suffered more during the pandemic. Probably most of us have suffered grief during the age of COVID.
For those who are grieving, do not try to go through it alone. Find a compassionate brother or sister in Christ who will allow you to express your grief without judging. Perhaps you can talk to your pastor. You may also know a mature, caring church member who has a gift for showing mercy. Grief counseling might be necessary. No two grief experiences are identical, so find someone who will not say things like “You should not feel that way,” or “Well, when my mother died…, so you should too.” Just because one person’s grief followed a particular course does not mean it will be identical for you. (Grief experiences will be different even for one individual. My experiences were very different while grieving the deaths of my father, sister, and mother. Relationships, circumstances, and my spiritual condition were different every time.)
If you are trying to comfort someone who is mourning, do not cut them off with a quick, “He/she was saved and is with Jesus now. Your loved one is in a better place.” Grief hurts, even when you are confident about your loved one’s salvation. It hurts even more if a believer has doubts about the deceased person’s spiritual condition. Too many Christians focus on the spiritual condition of the deceased person as an excuse to avoid the bereaved person’s feelings. Likewise, if you are in mourning, avoid seeking support and compassion from people who try to use the deceased person’s salvation as an excuse not to be sad.
One option worth considering is a ministry called Griefshare. This ministry is available at churches nationwide. Each meeting includes a video discussing different aspects of grief, followed by an opportunity to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a nonjudgmental, confidential environment. You can learn more about Griefshare here and find a group near you here. Some groups meet online and others may meet in person. (This is not a paid advertisement or endorsement. I share this because I believe in the ministry.)
O merciful Father, who has taught us in Your holy Word that You do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of Your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of Your goodness, lift up Your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.)
Where have you found comfort and strength during times of grief? What advice would you have for someone who is grieving or for someone who is trying to comfort the bereaved? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.
Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.