In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Longtime friend of Tearfund and prominent Christian leader in Australia, Pastor Ray Minniecon speaks from the heart as we dig into our second week in the Beatitudes.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Please note that this week's podcast and reflection reference suicide and loss. Please take care and reach out if you need support. Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
Lament – the ability to feel the loss of something – is very much a part of the power of the whole scriptures. If we don't experience loss, how do we experience what Christ has to offer? One of the most powerful moments of mourning in the gospels is Jesus at Lazarus’ funeral service. Jesus wept at a funeral for his friend, his brother, his loved one. And yet that funeral service is also the thing that sparked one of the most powerful things that came out of the Lord's mouth: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
You have this juxtaposition: here's Jesus weeping for the dead, for his mate. But he is also declaring that he is the resurrection and the life. And in order to demonstrate that he calls Lazarus forth out of his tomb. There you have some very powerful thoughts around lamentation, for what it means to God himself – that he comes to all of our sorry business, he's there in the midst of it, he's not away from it, he’s there weeping with us.
When you're standing in the midst of all of that suffering, and that crying and that weeping and that loss, you have to look and say, well, here’s Jesus weeping with us. But he’s also saying to us, I am the resurrection and the life, too, in the midst of all this sorry business.
We focus on the ‘blessed’ rather than the mourning. We focus on the comfort: I want to be comforted, I don't want to be in this state. But if we look around us we observe so much pain, suffering; so many people who are in mourning. I say I've had to move my pulpit down to the graveside, because that's where our people are at. I have an Aboriginal pastor friend in another community, who in the last two to three months, has done over 20 funerals. And four of those have been suicides. And I know what that's like, you know, my year started with a young bloke who suicided, and then it went on to another suicide, and another. And when you're standing in the midst of all of that suffering, and that crying and that weeping and that loss, you have to look and say, well, here’s Jesus weeping with us. But he’s also saying to us, I am the resurrection and the life, too, in the midst of all this sorry business.
There’s an Australian researcher, named Glenn A. Albrech who came up with this incredible term solastalgia. It’s terminology that talks about the homesickness you have when you are still at home. His research highlights the mental and spiritual trauma of being disconnected or estranged from country. For indigenous people, we feel that all the time: being estranged from country, being estranged from community, being estranged from culture, being estranged from all the things that make us who we are – we suffer that every day.
Blessed are those who suffer solastalgia – who are mourning because of their estrangement – if you put that into the bigger picture, the bigger theological picture, I think we all suffer from that because that is what happened in the garden. We've been estranged from our relationship with our Creator, we’ve estranged our relationship with our creation and our responsibilities towards creation. And therefore, we are trying to get back to that place of perfection or completeness again. If we go to the Scriptures, at the end in the book of Revelation, we see God in amongst us, and there's no more weeping, no more crying, no more sorrow. No more solastalgia. No more mourning.
Without mourning, you always seek that comfort in some other way. One of the things that I see amongst non-Indigenous peoples here in my country is that they've lost connection to their spirituality, their dreaming, or whatever it is, because they've been brought over here. And so here they are going out searching for it again, through other spiritualities. They don't know where to look for their comfort anymore. Or they will try to find it in capitalism or materialism, and build little fences around it: this is my comfort zone here and this is where I will stay. And I don't want any discomfort to come in.
As we come into Lent, these things need to be highlighted because they will not bring you the comfort that you require. What the cross and the resurrection mean to us is the restoration, the reconciliation of all those things back to their original intent. We're still resisting that original intent, through our own fears, through opposition to anything that is under God or what we think is his control over us. But it's not about control, it’s about relationship: it always goes back to relationship with our Creator, relationship with each other, relationship with his creation. Comfort looks like the restoration of all those relationships that we have destroyed, and encouraging or persuading people along those lines. The closest I can ever get to that experience is just knowing when I'm doing a funeral service, that Jesus weeps, he’s weeping with me and he's weeping with the people. I can tell our community that Jesus is weeping with us. And he's also saying to us that he has an answer to our sorrows and our loss and our traumas, and that's through his resurrection.
Written by Rachel Ross for Scarred Tree Message Stick Mob, St John’s Glebe.
I don’t have words.
I’ve prayed this prayer before - I’m too tired to pray it again. ...I’m scared to pray it again.
I have so many questions.
The more I surrender, the more I realise there’s more to surrender.
Are You listening?
It feels quiet.
My chest is tight,
My knuckles white,
It feels fight after fight, In both body & mind.
I know You see a way,
A way that’s so different,
Can I perhaps catch a glimpse?
I don’t want to be weary, There’s too much to do, And I want to be used.
But if words are required, Now’s not really the time.
I think I can only muster one.
For now I’ll just say - “Help,”
And You’ll know what I mean. ...And then You say - “Come,”
Maybe that’s all we need.
Rachel (pictured, name changed) was a successful farmer, able to earn an income and support her family with nutritious food. All of her children were in school. But that was before they were forced to flee their home in war-ravaged South Sudan, where ongoing conflict has shattered lives and people’s ability to live and work together with peace and security.
Rachel and her children – six of her own and three from family members who had been killed – walked for three days to the Ugandan border. Even in the relative safety of a refugee settlement in northern Uganda, the trauma and isolation of their situation remained. Yet Rachel and her children are incredibly resilient.
When Rachel first arrived in the settlement, Tearfund’s partner at the time, Tutapona, ran a trauma rehabilitation program, delivering transformative care to distressed, grieving and burdened families. Through this program, Rachel encountered hope, grew in courage, and took steps of forgiveness, building a strong foundation from which she has been able to confidently support her family, and others in the community.