I was recently reminded of a phrase that was told to me by a mentor as I prepared for seminary and the path to ordination: “the Gospel brings comfort to the afflicted and affliction to the comfortable.” I realized that I’ve incorporated this into my priestly framework but for the most part dropping the word ‘afflicted’. Not because I don’t think people are or can be ‘afflicted’ just because I don’t like that word so I teach and preach that the Gospel message brings us great comfort but will never leave us comfortable.
In his teaching on what life in God’s Kingdom is, Jesus says we are blessed when we mourn because we will be comforted.
We’ve all had so much to mourn, to grieve over this past year plus. We’ve lost loved ones and friends to a terrible virus. We’ve lost jobs and income. We’ve lost relationships because somehow caring for each other became a political issue instead of a human one. Some have lost a sense of security and safety because others have stood up and said ‘we’ve never had that and we have a right to feel safe and secure just like you do.’
Do we feel blessed in all of this loss and trauma? I think all of us know there is no way to avoid grief and pain. I also think that many of us try to compensate for this by downplaying the pain and grief with trite phrases like: ‘this too shall pass’ or ‘you’ll get through it’ or worse yet ‘cheer up’ or even worse ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.’
Somewhere along the way we humans decided that the good life is completely pain free. And Jesus says we are blessed when we experience pain and loss because in our deepest grief, God is with us.
It’s easy to let go of our awareness of God when things are good, when we are comfortable. God’s people have been doing this throughout the course of history. We build a ‘good life’ based on the world’s standards, creating our own kingdoms from the very things we know won’t endure. And we either consciously or unconsciously decide we don’t need God.
Then, when this life we built for ourselves inevitably crumbles, we remember who and whose we are: God’s beloved children. We realize the true blessing is living into who God created us to be: citizens of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven participating with God to bring love and grace into this world. This is the good life that endures; what no one take from us because it comes from God.
The loss and trauma are not the blessing. The promise of comfort in the loss and trauma is the blessing. The wisdom that comes from sitting with our grief and loss instead of trying to gloss over it or ignore it is the blessing. Growing in our relationship with God and each other, growing our awareness of God through all of life’s experiences is the blessing.
In all that you have experienced in the past year and in all that you will experience today, feel God’s embrace. Know you are beloved. Share the blessing of this comforting love.