For Those Who Mourn
Blessed are They that Mourn
for They shall be Comforted
A Message to the Bereaved and to all who would face the fact of death.
The Forward Movement
Cincinnati 2, Ohio
A Personal Testimony
Some twenty-five years ago, the author of this booklet had occasion to write these words: “Death is the transition from one phase of life to another. Far from marking the end of life, it marks the birth into a fuller and more wonderful life than can ever be known upon this earth.” He believed that firmly, but never had there been the chance to try it out. It was a conviction born of faith, but a faith that had never been tested. As far as his own experience went, his family circle had never been broken. He had never even “lost” a friend. If, when trying to comfort another in the face of bereavement, he had been told, “You cannot understand; you have never known death,” he would have been forced to admit that he was speaking from theory and not from experience.
Now, all that is changed. He himself has passed through the valley of the shadow of death into which he had seen so many others descent, but himself had only viewed from above. It was given to him to sound deep human suffering. He drank the cup of sorrow that was placed to his lips, but he found there no bitter dregs. He knows the worst that death can do, and has learned that it cannot stand in the face of the best that God can do. And now he can write, not only in faith, but out of the depths of his own experience: “Death marks, not the end of life, but the birth into a life more beautiful and abundant than man can ever know upon this earth.”
He has not the feeling that he has discovered something new. He knows that his grief is no greater than that of countless others of God’s children. Many have gone this way before him and have seen even greater things than he has seen. But many others there are who walk this way with hearts sore and afraid. It is to these that he would bring some comforting assurance. To inspire them, not with hope, we all can have that—but with the serene confidence that can see through the darkness to the light beyond—enabling them to view death, not as a tragedy, but as a step upward in the God-ward progress of the soul. For that is what it is.
The only time that death appears to take on the nature of tragedy is when it is permitted to mar our perfect trust in God and weaken our realization of His love. The real tragedy of life is not the fact of death; it lies in the loss of this trust and realization of His love. What appears as death from this earthly side is seen, from the other side, to be a birth into that richer life which from the very beginning has always been the soul’s true destiny. So…
…we must not say that those are dead who pass away from this world of flesh set free: we know them living unto Thee.
That we may all have the joy that comes from this knowledge is the prayer that goes forth with this little book.
The Universality of Death
Your life running year after year along its accustomed course, smoothly and serenely, tends to develop in you a sense of immunity to tragedy and death. Thousands starve from the famine in India and thousands drown in the flood in China—but these places are far off. Your neighbor down the street dies and you send flowers. You feel sorry for his family, but you continue with your work and play. These things do not happen to you.
Suddenly the bottom drops out of your world. It is sudden and unexpected as if a ship struck a rock in the calm of mid-ocean. A crash and sudden death. A deadly germ gets into the blood stream, and all the skill of modern science is helpless to avert the end. The stricken father loses his faith. The heart-broken mother cries out, “Why did this have to happen to me?”
It is hard to answer such a question to the satisfaction and comfort of those who ask it, for the simple reason that at such a time those who ask it are not normal. It is difficult for the mind that is shocked beyond comprehension to be reasonable. The breaking heart wants none of your logic. It wants to turn back the page, to recall the life that has sped—and this cannot be.
Probably the real difficulty lies in the fact that we have never realized how true are the familiar words, “In the midst of life we are in death.” Those words were written, not to comfort us, but to prepare us for just this very situation. We have always accepted their truth as regards others, but have never quite faced them as true for ourselves. Yet in all gentleness, in all sympathy and love, there can be but one answer to such a question: “Why shouldn’t it happen to you as well as to your neighbor down the street? Or the little mother over in China?”
Death is no respecter of persons. It strikes here, it strikes there. It comes as the result of carelessness, unavoidable accidents, disease, or even over-carefulness. Sometimes, we cannot tell why it comes. It comes as last to us all, to the good and the bad, to the saint and the sinner. To ask, “What have I done to deserve this?” implies that no doubt your neighbor down the way did something to deserve his sorrow. Worse still, it is a reflection upon the goodness and fairness of God, a thing we would not suggest in our more normal moments. Death comes to you and yours as it has come to millions of others—it is inevitable. It may come upon you as a thief in the night, or it may approach slowly and after ample warning. It may come early in life, or after many years of happiness. But come it must. The only way to escape it is never to be born.
The truth is not stated with any belief that its acceptance will make of death a burden less grievous to be borne. It is given simply as one of the inescapable facts of life which we must learn to face. Let us be fair with God. We know He is fair with us. What right have we to hope to avoid that which we know to be His plan for all mankind? If we can make this adjustment now, it will help us when the real testing time comes.
The Naturalness of Death
Much of our horror of death comes from the feeling (even though it may never be expressed) that it is the enemy of life. We love life; therefore it is natural to dread death. But death is no more the enemy of life than sleep is the enemy of work and play. Sleep makes it possible for us to work and play the next day. Death makes it possible for us to live on. It has therefore a real contribution to make to life in the large, being the gate-way through which we slip from the lower life into the higher, from the briefer into that which is eternal.
If life on this earth were all that we were ever to know, then the death of our loved ones would be the end of everything for them, in which case we might well wish it could be so for us. But we know it is not that. Everything our Lord ever told us should lead us to believe that death is a thing of little consequence in view of the deeper and more wonderful realities of that greater Life of which it is the entrance.
It is conceivable that God could have planned things differently had He desired. He might have given us a life that need never know physical death. He might have made it possible for us to inherit the great things He has prepared for us in some other way than through the process we call death. He might have made a detour around the grave. But we should trust Him enough to believe that He has done what is best for us.
What if we do not now understand? Is it really necessary that we should? When we see that Jesus could find His risen life only through the grave, we can ask anything other for ourselves or for those we love? Death is but the God-planned end of this earthly life, and the God-planned beginning of that greater and eternal life which we crave for ourselves and our loved ones. It is the link between the two—and in the light of eternity, how can it matter greatly whether it comes a few years sooner or a few years later? To see the naturalness of death brings us another step nearer to the Christian understanding of it and attitude toward it.
The Acceptance of Death
We do not necessarily draw our Christian attitudes from the teaching of the Old Testament. But there is a sweet reasonableness in the words of Job: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” It matters not that Job was mistaken in his belief that evil came from the hand of God as well as good. The point is that having enjoyed the love of his children for many years, Job had no sense or rebellion, no word of complaint, nor did he charge God foolishly when misfortune came.
It is difficult for us to be thus patient and submissive, even to what we recognize as inevitable. Yet there is nothing to be gained by shrinking from the pain of it or by attempting to run away from it altogether—and there is much to be lost. To rebel against our ‘unhappy fate’ (as it is sometimes called) is really to rebel against God, for death is a part of God’s plan for life.
To rebel is to place ourselves in a position where we bear our grief alone and unaided; it creates a great gulf between God and ourselves, and God cannot help a rebellious heart. To run away from it and seek to lose ourselves in an orgy of senseless and nervous activity does not touch the problem at all. It is too much like taking an opiate to relieve pain. At the best, it is only a temporary relief. It does not reach the source of pain, and leaves one in a worse state than before. And certainly, the more we delude ourselves, the more unbearable the truth becomes.
Even ‘perfect submission,’ however patient, is not enough. I have seen all these ways tried, but I have never yet seen any of them bring real comfort, or answer a single question. The only way for a Christian to meet sorrow is as His Master met it—calmly and courageously, with head unbowed and heart unafraid—knowing, as He knew, that life’s deepest, truest meaning is found, not on this side, but on the other side of Calvary. And the glorious part of it all is that even the weakest and most ignorant among us can find this courage if we will keep open the way for Him Who would give it to us.
The Problem of Pain
I want to say a brief word about the so-called problem of pain. Much has been written about it. It has troubled many people greater and wiser than myself. There is an answer, to be found perhaps only by those who themselves have suffered. All others can only speculate upon the matter. The pain of Calvary can be known only by those who have endured it. But by the same token, it is these who can best learn the meaning of life through the things they have suffered. And it is not until we have known death that we can know the fullness of truth that is brought to us in the fact of the resurrected and glorified life.
There is no more a ‘problem’ of pain than there is a problem of faded flowers or of a clouded sky. God has made this so clear to us that there can be no ground to question it. It is only as we skim along the surface of life that we have the feeling that life should be all sunshine. But when we really begin to live it, we learn that suffering and love are twined so closely together that we cannot wrench the one from the other. The greatest happiness and the deepest sorrow are but a thread apart. We plunge from the heights of the one into the depths of the other in shorter time than it takes to tell it.
If love brings us the greatest happiness that life can know, then bereavement must bring its corresponding sorrow. But is there any who would lose the one in order to escape the other? The more we love, the more we are capable of suffering. Would any of us be willing never to suffer if it meant that we would never have known the meaning of love? How great is God’s gift to us, in the gift of children! They are true evidence of His love for us, in that He has shared with us His own creative power. Would any of us refuse that gift because of the knowledge that someday we shall have to surrender it? The capacity for grief is as much from God as the capacity for love—and we have not really lived until we have sounded them both.
And so the ‘problem’ is not in the fact of pain. It exists only in our own lives. In the weakness of our lives. In our inability (but perhaps more often, our refusal) to look the facts of life squarely in the face, and realize that it takes the shadows as well as the lights to make a beautiful picture. And so the great tragedy of life is not that we are called upon to suffer when those we love are taken away from us, but that we fail to look through the suffering to Him Who changeth not—who is closest to us, when we suffer. And we best learn that love in those dark helpless moments when we are most conscious of our own weakness.
Mystery Made Plain
Questions may be asked either in the spirit of rebellion or in the humble desire for understanding and knowledge. God does not mind our asking questions. He cannot help us much if we turn from Him in resentment or despair, but He does want us to understand, and He will gladly share His knowledge with us to the fullest extent which we ourselves make possible.
And so we come to the question which perhaps all of us have asked, but which all of us have not tried to think through: “I know that God is good. Why then does He permit things to happen which bring such sorrow to those whom He loves?
Never for one moment think that suffering is visited upon us as a sign of God’s displeasure. That explanation was shattered once and for all when our Lord revealed God to us as a Father of Love. To be sure, much suffering does come as the result of sin, and we feel that there is a natural relation between the two. But it is not always possible to trace any close connection. I have known people who tried to console themselves with the thought, “I loved him too much; perhaps that is why God took him away.” That is too horrible a thing to contemplate. But there is an answer which to me is perfectly clear, and I hope I can make it clear to you.
The purpose of life is to prepare us for the Life Eternal. Character can be developed only through the freedom of the will. We are born into this life with almost limitless possibilities. But these can be realized only as we exercise those powers which lead to their development. After showing us what is true and right and good, god throws us on our own, as it were, that of our own choice we will come to love truth, do right, and live nobly. He will help us, but He knows that we learn best by doing. He rejoices when we succeed; He suffers when we fail. But when we make mistakes we must face the consequences, and it is hard for Jim to help us at all in those times when we misuse (or fail to use) the powers He has given us.
(continue with pages 12-13, etc.)
Blessed are They that Morn for They shall be Comforted
NOTE: This little booklet is also available in pdf form.
If you would like the pdf please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - Put "pdf of For Those Who Mourn" in the subject line so I'll know it's not spam. Blessings to you, Vicki
For Those Who Morn
For Those Who Morn
I found this little pocket size book at a thrift store in Georgia near where my brother lives.
I do not see a copyright on it any where so I felt it would be alright to post the pages of this little book here in hopes that it may be a comfort to someone in time of need.