On Tuesday, a young lady that I had the pleasure of meeting briefly at a youth conference I ran late last year passed away suddenly. She was a passionate advocate for social justice who lived out her faith practically. She had been planning on increasing her involvement in social justice activities even more this year, and her sudden passing has been a shock to all who knew her, especially the other young people she worked and volunteered with.
No matter what age we are, death is a disturbing event, something that interrupts our daily routine. But when you’re young, this interruption is particularly strong, because death simply isn’t part of the script. I can vividly recall the last time I saw a young man from my school alive when I was 16. He passed away during our school holidays, and it had a profound effect on me: it simply felt too soon. It wasn’t right that a young man should be taken with his whole future ahead of him. Similar emotions came to me today.
I found myself reflecting on Jesus’ words in the beatitudes regarding mourning: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I find this to be a very confronting statement. No mourner that I’ve met has ever wanted to be told that they’re blessed when they’re mourning. So why is it that Christ says such a strange-sounding sentence?
I believe Jesus exhorts us regarding grief because mourning draws us closer to Him. To mourn is to allow ourselves to feel loss: to acknowledge in a powerful way that something is not right in our world at this moment. Mourning presents us with a chance to draw near to a God who experienced the loss of a close friend (in Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ passing), and to a God who chose to identify with death Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. And in a wider sense, when we mourn, we identify with the wider injustice that threads its way throughout the world. We are united in grief; united in our need to cast the burden of grief onto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
But here’s the real kicker in what Jesus said in Matthew 5: His words about mourning are fully realised in the promise of Revelation 21:4 – that God will one day wipe away every teardrop; that sorrow, crying, and pain will be no more. In heaven, those who mourn will be perfectly and eternally comforted forever. They will be eternally blessed.
It’s that hope in which we trust: The day of making things right. The day of perfect comfort, when the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15 are realised:
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.