Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
In my last post, I shared how radical gratitude freed me for joy even in my most difficult times. Meditation on the first Beatitude, Jesus’ blessing of the poor in spirit, helped me get there.
The second Beatitude, Jesus’ blessing of those who mourn, complements the first. If the first Beatitude frees me for joy, the second frees me from the imperative for joy. It gives me permission to suffer without shame.
The Happiness Mentality
My recently released book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Purpose with the Beatitudes, takes aim at our culture of shame over suffering. Psychiatrist and spiritual director, Gerald May, called this, “the happiness mentality”:
The basic assumption of the happiness mentality – in spite of considerable hard evidence to the contrary – is that if one lives one’s life correctly one will be happy. The corollary of this assumption is that if one is not happy, one is doing something wrong. These two beliefs form the foundation of a system that has become so rampant in recent years that many people now feel any sign of unhappiness in their lives is a symptom of psychological or spiritual disorder…The happiness mentality causes people to repress or deny many of their own negative feelings. It prohibits the rich experience of living through painful situations, of fully feeling and being in the sadness, grief, and fear that are natural parts of human existence. It fosters a pastel quality of life, with limited ranges of emotion.
Because of the happiness mentality, excessive Facebook viewing can cause depression. Well-selected photographs and updates create the illusion that happy people surround us. Our normal suffering looks pathological in comparison.
Because of the happiness mentality, normal anxiety becomes panic as we get stressed over stress. Normal sadness becomes depression as we get sad over sadness. Normal guilt drives us to despair over ourselves as we feel guilty for feeling guilty.
Worse yet for our spirits, normal anguish leads us to flight from God’s love as we punish ourselves for feeling punished.
Comfort for a Suffering Comforter
Who knows how many countless hours I spent gently, patiently helping psychotherapy patients drop their distress over distress? Or how many sermons I preached in the shower and sometimes in the pulpit against Job’s friends who insisted that his suffering could only mean he wronged a punitive God?
But when I walked through the darkest valley of my own life, this doctor needed another to administer the treatment. I could not do it for myself.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” the Healer whispered over and over until my sobbing quieted enough for me to hear. He whispered from the cross, his place of suffering.
So I heard and dared to hear with resurrection ears. The greatest comfort came in assurance that my love would not be in vain. My suffering would not be wasted. God would do something good through it all.
So I got to work on the book, a book that battles that happiness mentality. I dared to love again. And I entered “the rich experience of living through painful situations, of fully feeling and being in the sadness, grief, and fear that are natural parts of human existence.”
 Gerald G. May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology. (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), p. 14.