Stoicism, a definition: indifference to the vicissitudes of pleasure and pain.
Stoicism, a practice: high held chin, dry eyes, a stiff upper lip that never quivers, an endurance without display of emotion.
There is perhaps no greater perversion of the Gospel than remaining stoic.
Matt. 5: 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Why would mourning be blessed by God?
Faith isn’t simply doxology and thanksgiving, but the full experience of beauty and brokenness.
Pain is often the quickest route to God.
God is most present in the midst of grief
When Adam and Eve became gluttons of the forbidden fruit, God was abandoned to lament a people who moved east of Eden. When Isaiah foretold of the anointed One to come, he called him the Messiah of sorrows. When Mary and Martha summoned him among the head stones, Jesus found his dear friend Lazarus dead and cried.
The shortest passage in all of scripture may be the most profound: Jesus wept.
After the casket is closed, the casseroles have been served, the sympathy cards stamped, it is time to claw at the earth and swing at the sky, to button up the suit of ash, to throw ourselves on the mourning bench.
If to be Christian is to imitate the Christ we believe in, then we need to follow a God who grieves. We all need a God who grieves. We all need a God who grieves so that we will too. The kingdom already has plenty of stoics.
Years ago, I sat on the back pew with Bill. Parkinson’s had slumped him in a wheelchair. Alcohol had blurred his vision with a wet haze. But his life running a brothel, pimping innocent girls at guilty men and his running the homeless streets, squatting above the stadium, lighting up the Hot Spot had come to an end.
With his entire body convulsing with wailing and weeping, I remember him saying, “I drank so that I wouldn’t have to look at myself, the bad decisions, the broken relationships. Now that I’m housed and sober, I’m so happy to finally feel the feelings that have gone unfelt for forty years. I’m so happy to just cry.” Weeks later he died, and I believe he went to the grave a whole man.
“Give sorrow words;” wrote Shakespeare, “the grief that does not speak knots up o’er the wrought heart and bids it break.”
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.