Keith Wishum: Comfort for the uncomfortable
Nobody is comfortable. They will all be relieved when it’s over. It’s not just the stiff new shirts and shoes or the unfamiliar neckties. It’s this whole occasion that tightens the throats and ties the tongues. They stare silently ahead, waiting for it to begin – waiting for the funeral of a friend.
You’ve been there. It’s an occasion we have all experienced more times than we like. As it has been for all of history, this uncomfortable ritual is repeated every day in every nation of the world.
It was no less common for the residents of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago than for us – and no less uncomfortable for those who walked to the grave of their friend Jesus. As they neared his grave, I wonder if they recalled his words, “Blessed are those who mourn?” I wonder if they wondered as I do: “What could possibly be good about this awful feeling?”
How could Jesus claim that the good life is found at funerals? Perhaps we should remember that Jesus was talking about mourning over our own sin, not in grieving the death of someone we love. But those two, sin and death, are inseparably intertwined.
According to the Bible, death was born into the world as the child of sin. Every funeral we attend is a painful but important reminder that all is not well with this world – that evil infects us. So where is the blessedness in that?
If we understand that sin brought death, mourning may motivate us. It can move us to seek comfort. Jesus didn’t just say, “Blessed are those who mourn,” but also “for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). And whether we mourn our sin or the death of a friend, comfort can be found in only one place, the same place those friends of Jesus found it long ago – in his empty grave.
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Only through the resurrection of Jesus is there any comfort in death. Only through the resurrection of Jesus is there any hope for forgiveness from sin.
May grief and guilt make us uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to seek the risen Lord who alone can give us comfort. Only then we will be truly blessed.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.