“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
A blubbering mess
It’s been happening a lot lately. I’ll be going about my day, minding my own business and all of a sudden I’m feeling like I’m about to cry. And I do. You know that familiar feeling when your heart drops to the pit of your soul, you feel like you’ve got a golf ball in your throat, and your eyes begin to well up with child-like crocodile tears? For the next 10-15 minutes I’m a blubbering mess.
It’s been an extremely rough year for my family. We’ve experienced unrelenting waves of trial after trial. Broken dreams, broken relationships, broken hearts—a broken year to be honest. A year that challenged my trust in God, or perhaps God’s trustworthiness all together.
I don’t know how many times I’ve felt like giving up on God. I don’t know how many times I felt like giving up on myself too. And there were a few times that I did give up, only to find myself praying over and over again with severe desperation for God to save me from the hurricane that seemed to be swallowing our lives.
To be honest, I didn’t cope well most days. I was on survival mode. I was too angry and hurt to mourn. Too stunned and insecure to “stay calm and carry on.” I needed God to save me from myself, because, even when my heart was desperate for God to rescue me, the flesh sought comfort elsewhere. I began to drink, smoke and find “comfort” in pornography. The old self was coming back with a vengeance, one last hurrah in what felt like the end of my world and the end of my rope.
But that’s not to say there weren’t moments of insight though, like when I realized that trusting in Jesus when life hurts is the sure and right way to survive a shipwreck of this proportion. Or that when Jesus is present with us in the storm, the waves can become ways of deeper trust.
Baptism into real life
I’m convinced that life in reality with God is not so much about pursuing idealistic standards of moral and spiritual purity, but more about simply and faithfully trusting Jesus regardless of our perceived spiritual condition, or the condition of the world around us. We are human, and God has embraced us in our fallen state. In Jesus, God has lowered Himself into the shadowy darkness of human reality, into the mud and the dirt, into the chaos of contradictions that are part and parcel of human life. I love the words of Jonathan Martin in his new book, How to Survive a Shipwreck:
Salvation is baptism into reality, out of the world of illusions, delusions, ideas, and ideals. Salvation is an immersion into the real. The truth at the dirt-floor bottom of us is that we are weak, dependent, and small—but infinitely loved.
Trusting in Jesus doesn’t mean the absence of disappointment or pain, simply because we are called to live in the mess of human existence. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jesus’ overcoming means that even in my undoing I have a constant and concrete Anchor of hope and love.
Longing for Jesus in our mourning
The chaos has calmed, and there’s no more disorientation or despair. God’s Breath is beginning to sweep through the battleground; reviving and renewing what was lost, bringing hope and healing into the darkness—making all things new. There’s time to breathe, time to ponder the past, and most importantly, there’s time to create sacred space for mourning. And then the comfort begins to settle deep into our hearts like a warm fire in Siberian winter.
Instead of clutching on to Jesus for dear life as a way of life, we are drawn to God through our tears to a place where survival mode fades away and the way of hope lights the path of our heart—a life back on the God track. Turning to God, finding fulfillment in a cross-carrying repentance that’s empowered by the Savior’s cruciform love. His love suffered and triumphed the darkness of the abyss so we could live—and live well. A new world is on its way and has already come. A world where only cruciform love exists. The eternal and concrete reign of Jesus. A world free of hurt and the violence that screams out of a fallen race that can take no more. So Jesus takes it on and bears our desolation one dying breath after another.
We hear in his words both anguish and hope, desolation then consolation. From his pierced side, a supernatural river of eternal love flows–blood and water, ‘sorrow and love flow mingled down.'[…] In the face of the Cross, all of our explanations are flaccid, our rationalizations shallow and our theodicies pathetically empty. In the end, what we are given is a Cross of love that will make all things new.
– Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God
So we pray earnestly, desperately longing for Jesus, finding soothing comfort in the presence of the Comforter. Wanting no one but Him—yes, only Jesus will do—to lead us into this bright new eternal hope of the “here and not yet.” A time when, Wesley preaches, “All will be then light, fair, serene; a lively picture of the eternal day.”
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you
– Psalm 25: 4-5