Broken But Blessed: Examining the Beatitudes

August 5, 2016 by

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel by Rembrandt
"Jacob Wrestling With The Angel"
by Rembrandt

In her series “Broken But Blessed” Rebekah Domer has been blogging about the Beatitudes. In this post, she continues to examine Jesus’ words, “blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Read her previous posts here.

God’s Comfort

It was just days after my father’s death that an email changed my life. It was from a pastor I’ve known for years.

I was in a pit of despair – lower than I’d ever been. Frightening, really.

Since childhood, I’d always been caring for someone. To begin with it was my sister Louisa, who had Down Syndrome. When she died, it was my mom, who suffered from cancer and a debilitating auto-immune disease. Mom died suddenly, leaving my beloved father who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I jumped in for mom, becoming Dad’s “family,” and his primary caregiver.

The last five years of Dad’s life were tough. But they were also blessed beyond belief. Even with Alzheimer’s, he was my anchor. Secure in his faith and surrendered to God, he navigated dementia in peace, exhibiting a childlike trust that steadied the rest of us.

I knew he would die. I’d even prayed for his suffering to end. But now he was gone, and I was falling apart. In the blink of an eye, my life’s mission had ended, and I could see no future for myself.

Or so I thought.

In the email I received that bleak winter day, my pastor asked me to write my father’s story. He was compiling a new book that would explore the richness of old age. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this request was God’s way of comforting me. It was an entrance into a world heretofore unknown to me.

I wrote Dad’s story. It was published in the book Rich in Years. And then, my pastor asked me to promote the book. As I began to contact chaplains, pastors, and counsellors, new doors opened. First it was a pastor who, deeply touched by my father’s witness, invited me to speak to his congregation about accepting vulnerability as a gift from God. Next, a hospice chaplain invited me to join his chaplaincy team, which led to further opportunities for me to encourage and comfort others out of my own experience of grief.

It was at the hospice that I got to know Derek and his wife Ann. I was on duty, doing the chaplaincy visits for the day. I hit it off with Derek immediately. He was a character – full of life, and determined to give his pancreatic cancer a good hard kick as it took him down. He did this by living each day to the full, surrounded by family and friends. I visited Derek in the courtyard of the hospice, where he sat, doubled over in pain, but actively participating in the conversation nonetheless. Derek’s granddaughter Daisy played happily nearby, coming over occasionally to plant a wet kiss on “Grand-dad’s” cheek as she explained, “You are my best Grand-dad!”

Eleven months down the road from that first encounter, Derek’s wife Ann is now in the throes of grief; Derek died last September at the age of sixty-eight. “It’s really hard,” Ann tells me when we talk on the phone. “I have a desperate urge to see Derek and talk to him, as do my children. I hate the loneliness, and eating alone. Evenings are especially bad. . . ”

I’ve had countless conversations with Ann in recent months. At times, she has floundered and feared for her sanity. But slowly, with time, I’ve been able to help Ann navigate the bewildering jungle of grief. You see, grief is familiar territory to me.

In a recent email, Ann reflected, “I feel the Lord has plans for me. Even on my bad days he is with me in my grief. I don’t feel I will ever be happy again. But if I can work for the Lord in some way and find some peace in my heart, that is all I want.”

Ann is amazing. Although in deep darkness herself, she reaches out to others. Ann believes that God sends people to us – and uses us – as messengers of his comfort. “Yesterday I was very down,” Ann tells me. “It was my turn to serve communion at church, and it just so happened that the vicar’s wife was serving with me. I was fighting back tears. But after church I offered her a lift. She and her husband invited me in, and we spent two hours talking over coffee. He is trained in hospice work and knew just what to say. I felt such peace for the two hours they were with me. It was as if God knew just what I needed.”

A few months ago, Ann’s grief was so intense she didn’t want to leave the house. Today, she finds that “there’s a lot opening up for me. I met a lady who I truly believe God put into my life. I will be going with her to take communion to people in their homes. My heart goes out to other people who have lost a loved one – especially those who have no belief. I pray for these people. And I’m thinking about doing some kind of chaplaincy work. I’m not ready now. But maybe next year. . .”

Jesus was well-versed in the Hebrew scriptures. When he spoke the second Beatitude, blessing those who mourn and pledging his comfort, he drew on the age-old prophesy which recounts, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). How true these words have proved for me, for Ann, and countless others who have been the recipients of God’s comforting love disclosed by angels in human form.

How, exactly, does God grant us comfort? A passage from Nicholas Walterstorff’s Lament for a Son provides valuable insight.

How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song – all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God. Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.

Jesus knew the passion that awaited him. He foresaw his death, and his glorious resurrection. He stands at our side when we traverse the shadowed valleys of life. It is his voice that declares, through the Psalmist’s words of antiquity, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Yes, joy always comes in the morning.

Check back in two weeks for my next post in this series. See my previous posts here.


About the author

Rebekah Domer

Rebekah Domer

Since Rebekah’s upbringing at the Woodcrest Bruderhof in New York, life has taken her on many diverse assignments, from the...

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  • Rebekah, again I thank you for leading me to the depth of divinity and the breadth of humanity through the beatitudes. It is good to journey with you and your readers. jane

    Jane Morrissey, ssj
  • Dear Rebekah, Reading each of your blogs is always thought provoking but this one really resonated with me. It made me realise that people react to grief in so many varied ways. I recently met someone I have known for many years. She, like you and me, cared for her mother who had vascular dementia for many years. Christine is not a Christian. I gently asked her how she was doing (as her mother died about 4 months ago) and her reply surprised me. 'You just have to get on with it'. I sensed nothing of the deep grief you and I felt. Also, I have noticed within my church that several women who lose their husbands do so with calmness and dignity. I am not saying they do not mourn but maybe they hide their emotions? Only God knows their inner thoughts. I suppose what I am thinking is relief that you have put into print so tellingly the facts that losing a loved one is, for some of us so deep, and the mourning period seems so long. My turn over text for today is Psalm 30:5. 'Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.' No time scale given, but the promise that joy does come gives one hope. Always, yes, always there are the Everlasting Arms carrying us through. Always there is a future in heaven where all tears will be wiped away and we will see our Saviour face to face.

  • Thank you for shining a light into so many lives.

    Nora Coughlan
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

    Bethany Conroy
  • Rebekah, youre words are so courageous, inspiring and comforting. Thank you

    Deborah Wilde