The Groan of the Godly

The Groan of the Godly

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

“There is a time… to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Jesus’ ancestors and contemporaries knew how to face their sufferings in such a way as to give themselves the best chance of receiving divine comfort. They dumped ashes on their heads, ripped a hole in their shirt, sat on the ground, and wept.

Lament is an indispensable periodic posture for the person who loves Jesus and loves the same people he loves. Those who do it are “comforted” by the fact that they are loving people in a way similar to the way Jesus loves them and are therefore those whom God deems “blessed.”

I love to worship God joyfully both in private and in public. Aligning myself with heaven in worship does me good, transforms the spiritual atmosphere around me, and readies me to hear God’s whisper and do what he says. I also believe that if praise brings heaven’s power to earth, heartfelt lament brings earth’s pain before heaven. The Lord’s ear is tuned to the collective “ouch!” of his people. He hears our “groans.” (Exodus 6:5)

Mourning is not exactly a hot topic in the Church universe today. I don’t expect to see book titles such as Weeping Worshippers or Learning the Art of Lament topping the charts on Amazon. If you want a crowd, publicize a seminar on “Seven Steps to Success” or “Ten Keys to Joy.” But “How to Mourn” or “Grieving God’s Way” wouldn’t garner enough signups to pay for the hall!

But Jesus makes no effort to fit himself inside cultural norms. He starts out by calling us to concede our poverty and then to grieve it, neither of which would we naturally think of as beelines to blessedness. Even so it’s the “broken spirit and contrite heart” that he values above all.[i] 

True mourners, the ones who choose to care until it hurts, are described by blessedness and are candidates for comfort. On the contrary the most miserable people tend to be those who shun the cares of others in the interest of their own happiness. In their efforts to save their lives they “lose” them.[ii]

Not all tears are created equal. They come in an assortment of patterns and in response to a variety of circumstances. There are attention-getting tears and tears of self-pity. I’ve cried enough of both of those myself to know that they don’t yield their desired results. Then there are tears of repentance and others of joy. I recommend both of those at their appropriate times. Other good tears are shed in grief, uncertainty, confusion, fear, and empathy. In the biblical narrative, poets, prophets, and apostles all shed and recommend these kinds of tears as both personally therapeutic and socially potent. “Our tears are sacred. They water the ground around our feet so new things can grow.”[iii]

Given the chaos and suffering in the world it is disrespectful to our fellow sufferers and to the God who suffers with us to plaster permanent Pollyanna grins on our faces. While it’s true that “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” we don’t know when morning will come. We simply can’t afford to hasten past grief while waiting for the sun to make its appearance.

“The groan is the vernacular of pain;” saysMax Lucado, “the chosen tongue of despair. When there are no words, these are the words. When prayer won’t come, these will have to do. Sunnier times hear nicer, more poetic petitions, but stormy times generate mournful sounds of sadness

[An excerpt from my book: WHAT ON EARTH? Considering the Social Implications of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – If you’ve read it, please share it with your friends (or foes, for that matter) and write a review on Amazon]

[i] Psalm 51:17

[ii] Matthew 10:39

[iii] Bell and Golden, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, 44.


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