Thursday Thematics: To Comfort All Who Mourn

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...to comfort all who mourn, 
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair...

I've only truly mourned twice in my life.

The first was when my grandfather--my dad's dad--passed away. Although he'd been sick for more than half a year, he was getting better and his dying caught me off guard. It caught me off guard in far away Portland where I had just moved. It caught me off guard in a place that although I thought I knew it for the summers I had spent interning at our small urban church, ended up being strange and all together unfamiliar and very different from the safe confines of my native small town Texas.

I cried in ways I've never cried--deep, heaving, pop blood vessels in your eyes sobs.

I cried for my loneliness. I cried for my determination to be so perfect and do so well and for my overwhelming feelings of imperfection. I cried for the dark hidden feelings inside of me--feelings of being unloved and unwanted and alone. I cried for the suicidal thoughts dormant for years, starting to make themselves known again. I cried for how I hated my body and how I hid the eating-disorder that had kept me company for so many years. I cried for my grandfather, deeply cried, not knowing I was also crying for all these other things.

The second time I really mourned--deeply and uncontrollably--was when I broke up with a long-term boyfriend--him a man who I'd loved deeply, loved like none I had ever loved, loved like myself. Him who I believed I would marry and who I was waiting for the proposal from. Him who walked away and left me a shattered portion of myself--unable to function and remember the Amanda I was without him.

I have grieved many other losses--I've grieved the passing of my maternal grandmother. I've grieved the loss of friendships. I've grieved over sickness and death, and pain and hate, and misunderstanding and jealousy, and losses of many kinds. But these are the two times in my life I can point to and know how my grief turned into a mourning, a deep loss of far more than I was able to name at the time.

It's the nature of life that we all grieve and mourn. None of us will come through without grief. None of us will come through without knowing what it is like to have your heart ripped out of your chest and the subsequent numbness take control of all we were. None of us will escape loss.

But Jesus came to change the way we mourn. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and joy to the joyless. He's come to not only offer comfort to all those who mourn, but for those of us in Zion--those of us who've entered into his church and his kingdom--for us He's come to provide for us in our grief.

He's come to offer us the Spirit of comfort and of consolation. He's come to invite us to share our grief with him. To come as Hannah came to the temple in her distress and to poor all our heart-sobs out before him. He's come to adorn us with joy--with crowns of beauty and oils of joy and garments of praise--an outward sign of what he's doing in our hearts to bring true healing and true comfort.

We are never promised that when we befriend Christ we will not have troubles. In fact, Jesus says just the opposite, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." But thankfully Jesus doesn't leave off there. He continues, "But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NLT).

Take heart--be certain of this and completely undaunted by the trials and sorrows and troubles.

If given the opportunity, would I undo those things? Would I give us more years with my grandfather? Would I mend the broken relationship? Absolutely. The answer is always absolutely. We would all undo the things which brought us the most brokenness. But at the same time, I don't regret the brokenness.

It's the brokenness I wouldn't undo because that brokenness shaped me. It made me a deeper, richer person more capable of empathy, more capable of love.

Befriending Jesus does not and never did mean eschewing all worldly trouble, but it does mean a Jesus and a Spirit who will mourn with you and provide for you in your grief. It does mean a Jesus who will not abandon you in your troubles and trials and sorrows. It does mean on the other side of brokenness, deeper, richer people.

And that. That is a comfort to me in my distress.
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Like today's post? Read other posts in this series:
Proclaiming Good News to the Poor
Binding Up the Brokenhearted
Proclaiming Freedom for the Captives