HAPPY: Are They That Mourn
Matthew 5:4 KJV - "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
Like the first Beatitude this second also seems to be a contradiction. We don't relate Happiness with Mourning. Mourning is something we usually associate with death and loss. Mourning, done Jesus' way, is the first part of the journey that leads to victorious, joyful living.
Jewish Mourning Traditions
According to "Chabad.org" the period between a person's death and burial is called "Aninut". There is a biblical command that the dead must be buried the same day, unless time is required to secure a grave. After the burial every other custom seems to grind to a slow crawl.
ANINUT: Jewish tradition says that the soul of the deceased is in a state of turmoil until their body is properly buried, hence the hurry to bury the deceased. If a person dies early in the day biblical instruction is to bury them before sundown of the same day. There are permissible exceptions, not to extend beyond two to three days.
The Aninut period is described as the period of "Paralyzing Grief". During this period the grief is considered to be so great that words of comfort are NOT to be offered to the mourner.
SHIVA: (literally "Seven") - These are the seven days subsequent to the burial. During this time the mourners take an almost complete break from the routines and involvements of everyday life to focus exclusively on the memory of the departed. The "Kaddish", a prayer, is offered each day in honor of a mourners departed parent(s).
SHELOSHIM: (literally "Thirty") - These are the thirty days (including Aninut and Shiva) following burial. While the mourner returns to work they still are to abstain from joyous events, like, weddings, concerts, etc. They even refrain from buying new clothes and getting haircuts and enjoying music during this period.
If the dead are the parents of the mourner these practices are observed for a year. There are exceptions for cutting hair.
The Moral of The Story
Compared to western (American) customs of mourning, the Jewish customs are a great deal more protracted and involved. Compared to Jewish mourning traditions we hurry through, to the point of avoiding it altogether. Our mourning periods are a reflection of our harried, fast-paced lifestyles.
The Bible says that it is like a Mirror that shows us who we are, both with Christ and without.
James 1:22-25 NLT -
"22 But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
Most American Christians tend to "Glance" at God's Word rather than deliberately and methodically studying and Meditating on it.
SLOW DOWN & PAY ATTENTION
Many of us readily accept the fact that we are powerless to look, and act like Jesus on our own power. But if we do not Slow Down and purposefully and deliberately "Look carefully into..." God's Word that sets us free, we too will forget what God says about us and continue in our powerlessness and grief.
The Gospel's purpose is not only to point out our lack and powerlessness, but also let us know that there is power to perform Christ's commands, and to look and act like Jesus as well.
We Have the Power
This is a two-fold process. First confronting our lack and inability reminds of our neediness. Then we remember through Jesus His power is available to us. It's not just about learning how to overcome grieving as we remain powerless. Remember what Jesus said.
John 14:12 KJV -
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
It is important to allow grieving to remind us not only that we, apart from Christ, are powerless, but to Study, Meditate On, and Apply God's Word in our daily living so that Christ's power works through us, just as it did through Him.
Conclusion Jesus is teaching us to regularly confront the fact of our lack and powerlessness apart from a relationship with Him. Those who do will be comforted. Remember,, Jesus said that the good news of His going back to the Father is that He would send "another Comforter" (John 14:16). Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit will remind us that our lack and inability is swallowed up in His Abundance and Power as we say goodbye to living by our miniscule ability and trust in Jesus'.
Jewish mourning customs are not just about grieving our loss, but finding a way to turn mourning into the healthy practice of honoring and remembering that our lack is abundantly filled through our faith in Christ's work at the cross.
The point of mourning is to find a way to return to Joyful living, not remain in a state of mourning. To go through mourning to the place of joy that comes from knowing that He is all that we need. The Psalmist said it this way.
Psalm 30:11-12 NLT -
"11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, 12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!"
We are growing more and more in the likeness of Jesus from day to day.
Blessings on the Journey.