Pain, loss, and trauma are our reality. As a therapist, I come in contact with this daily. Woundedness is in no short supply at least in my experience; and it is the common initiation we all endure as a broken creation. To develop connections in relationship ensures this baptism of pain. With this universal reality, one would assume a level of competence in comforting those who feel its sting; however, this could not be further from the truth. It is said that “sympathy kills,” and this is truth. Nothing re-traumatizes with such acuity as much as the flippant and disconnected comments during a time of loss or pain. “God must have needed him more” or “well, you got to move on” are the platitudes that exude not only our inaptitude for comforting those stricken but also our selfishness in maintaining our own level of comfort. Those whom we can, we avoid. Those whom we can not avoid, we write off with one of these callous comments to put the distance we need between us and their pain.
Yet there is something to be shared here not avoided. We are so agitated, confused, and at a loss with how to handle the pain of another, yet this should be our central purpose as a church body. Christ was known as being “acquainted with grief” which I believe is not limited to his individual trials, but rather it includes the pain of those around him and the entirety of humanity. Are we not supposed to take on this role as his body? Mourning is a sacrament. It is a sacred practice of believers. To avoid it pushes us away from our purpose and cheapens the reality of our experience. It also undermines the very nature of Christ’s ministry that included shedding tears over Lazarus’ death, weeping over Jerusalem’s state, and enduring the sorrow of Gethsemane. We are called to mourn.
Recently, it seems that pain has been introduced to my friends and family—losses that cut to the core of our family or community’s identity. It seems we are faced with the choices of avoidant comfort or mutual sorrow. For me, I embrace sharing this pain with them, because one cannot force hope or faith especially in light of acute pain. The others in our lives must stand beside us and take on that role. We can have hope in the light of our loved one’s hopelessness; we can have faith when our friends cannot believe that God is good; we can stand in the gap when the false foundations of religion crumble to the storm of honest despair.
As tragedy occurs, death creeps into our lives, and unforeseen losses overtake those we love let us not run and hide but rather let us tear our clothes, put dirt on our heads, and beat our chests with mutual sorrow and pain. Let’s suffer with them by mourning and crying out to God the injustices of our world.