Jesus is very clear about grief in the second Beatitude: those who mourn will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4] Unexpressed grief, sorrow, pain and suffering keeps us tied to the past and unable to be present in our lives or present to God. Mostly what happens is that anger at the injustice, the pain we have to bear, takes over. Also, there is fear that it might happen again. And that pain is often projected as judgment onto the perpetrator or onto people like him or her. Then we cannot see the other clearly, and certainly not, with compassion or love.
Nor can we see ourselves with compassion or love. We are hurting, even if that hurt is unconscious, so we cannot do the healing work that is needed. As with everything else, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Until we confess the truth about our suffering to ourselves and then to the Lord in prayer, we are a captive of the suffering. Only God can heal the suffering in us, but first we have to admit to it and offer it up to Him.
Until we can confess the truth about our past, our lives, we will be like the lamp that is hidden, the salt that loses its saltiness. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). It is not easy to face our pain and suffering, but the freedom that comes with admitting to the grief is amazing! It’s a matter of admitting to it, expressing it and then feeling God’s presence in the pain with us, that will allow the healing to come.
“They shall be comforted…” Once we have mourned our pain and suffering, then the anger and the fear dissipate. We no longer have to worry about our lives or protect ourselves from others. We can live in God’s presence to the extent that we have expressed our sorrow, and there we find love and compassion and trust and faith in unlimited quantities. And we are able to follow the Lord wherever He would lead us.
Where would He lead us? To our truer, deeper selves which we can now come to know because the layer of pain and suffering no longer exists in us, so that the truer self can emerge. And that truer self is the one that is led by the Holy Spirit in all that it does. So then, we are tied to God in ways that we could only imagined before the grief was expressed. And then He will reveal our purpose to us. Our purpose might be tied to helping people with the same suffering that we went through, like the ex-alcoholic who sponsors people in AA. Or like the woman who supports parents with disabled children, since her disabled daughter finally graduated from college in her 30’s. Or people who grew up in poverty working with the poor and needy.
Our suffering will be transformed by God into a wholly new direction for our lives, one that is fulfilling and purposeful, one that brings us great joy as we give back to the world what we have learned through our own suffering. Once we have turned our suffering over to God for healing, we are leading a very different life, a life lived from the inside out, not one lived on the surface of our lives where we seek to cover up our pain.
Once our suffering has been healed (like my childhood church which stained me with a hell-fire-and-damnation view of a God who was capricious and vengeful), we can be grateful for that experience, because, once healed, it provides the impetus for the rest of our lives. In my case, I was so tied to a negative and punitive God that I had to find a God I could love. And that search became the trajectory of the rest of my life as I sought different interpretations of the Bible and read through the lives of the saints and others of faith who could point me in a different direction. Eventually, I entered the training to become a spiritual director so that I could help others in their spiritual journeys and then a writer about that journey whose only interest is in how do I, how do we live this life in Christ?
When I look back on that early church, I am grateful now for God putting me there and I can see His footprints in the long journey to loving Him. If that early teaching had not so disturbed me as a young adult, I would never be where I am today, doing what I love which brings me so much joy.
Hear what Fr. Richard Rohr says”
“The soul must walk through such suffering to go higher, further, deeper, or longer. The saints variously called such suffering deaths, nights, darkness, unknowing, spiritual trials, or just doubt itself.”
What we’re most apt to resist and deny and stuff down deep in our unconscious is actually the pathway to really following Jesus in all that we do.
Questions to ponder over the week: Is there pain in suffering that I have endured that I have not mourned? Or the deaths of people I have loved that I did not fully mourn? Am I willing to go through the grief in order to get to the comfort and the freedom on the other side of the grief?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who have thoroughly mourned their losses and live now in the present moment with our God. May we be free of the past that binds us and turn our hearts and minds and spirits to God. May we live in the present moment.
For the month of March I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments which is designed to deepen your faith in God and in these Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email you a pdf file of the guide.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. E.15.21s is entitled “Leaving Your Negative Self-Image.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.
 Richard Rohr, Just This: Prompts and Practices for Contemplation, (Albuquerque NM: CAC Publishing, 2017), p. 83