Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mystery of mourning

I never thought this would happen, but it's actually getting harder for me to read the paper. I mean, the news is rarely uplifting, however, there appears to be an increase in disasters, violence and suffering that shows up daily in the headlines. Political violence and upheaval in Egypt; political protests in Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen; police officers shot; police officers shooting civilians; school shootings; the Arizona shooting; young female prison guard killed by an inmate in Monroe; Florida Mom shoots and kills her two teenagers; flooding in Australia the likes of Hurricane Katrina; continued poverty, disease, and devastation in Haiti; unprecedented winter storm in northeast US; suicide bomber in Moscow, Russia kills dozens. Our world appears to be falling to pieces, held together by a few threads. What kind of response do I have to such overwhelming, depressing news?

I've been working my way through a fat book, Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes. It's been a fascinating read so far. One of the chapters briefly takes apart Jesus' famous sermon, The Beatitudes, examining it through the culture of Jesus' day. The Beatitudes are beautiful, but I confess, mysterious, with all their "blessed"s that are followed by some kind of suffering or discomfort. One such "blessed" comes to mind in light of a response to the suffering and violence occuring daily in the world.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

The mourning Jesus refers to is multi-dimensional. One dimension of that is this: blessed are those who mourn and grieve the injustice and suffering of others. When I read or watch the news, I can only handle so much before I have to put the paper down or shut my laptop. Take the crisis in Egypt, for example. I feel so removed. Egypt has always sounded so foreign to me. It's the largest Arab nation, so different from the culture I'm accustomed to. They've had a president for 30 years (and we feel that four years with a president here can be unbearable). The battleground is the city streets; their weapons clubs,whips, truncheons, machetes, firebombs and bare hands. The fight is for basic freedoms, for justice, for relief from oppression. I don't know about you, but I can't fathom having to fight for those things in the way I see the battle unfolding in Egypt.

Instead of turning off, I turn to mourning. We can't be mourning all the time, but I try not to go numb, to allow myself to feel grief for the people affected by these various situations in the world. It's not a hopeless mourning. There's a promise of comfort for the grief of injustice. Just what the comfort will look like, I cannot say, but I have faith that God is true to His word. Thankfully the news does not have the final word on the state of our world.

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