God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. — Matthew 5:4, NLT (Jesus speaking)
She awoke around midnight and went into her 5-week-old son’s bedroom to nurse him. The moment she touched his head, she knew something was wrong. His skin was cold. He wasn’t breathing.
She screamed, but her son didn’t awaken.
Just a few hours earlier I had seen him in his father’s arms, eyes wide, smiling and gazing in fascination at his proud papa.
By sunrise, he was gone.
How many nights did I go into my own son’s bedroom to watch him sleep, only to be terror-struck. Is he breathing? Is he alive? I’d watch his chest for some movement, and there it would be, a small intake of breath, and I’d breathe again, too.
I think it’s every parent’s nightmare. For my friends, the monsters of dreams have come to life.
The Greek word for comforted is parakaleo, a compound word that means “to call alongside.” In John 16:7 it is the same name Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit: the One who comes beside you; the One who intercedes for you.
Jesus doesn’t excuse pain and suffering. Nowhere does he attempt a theological justification for death. Death and suffering exist; God is good. The paradox that confounds us is left unexplained.
What Jesus does say is that when we mourn, when we suffer, God will stand beside us. In our pain, God will embrace us.
We wept as we prayed for God to comfort our friends. The young father came into the room while we were praying, his face red from hours of crying. He said something remarkable: “I feel overwhelmed by grief, and at the same time, overwhelmed by the love that all of you have shown us.”
In the moment of their deepest grief, the God of sorrows had come alongside my friends.
Illustration credit: Cosimo Rosselli’s Sermon on the Mount