In an article for Christianity Today, Michael Cosper writes on “the last gift my father gave me… the gift of grief… As I grieved my father, I learned to grieve other things I’d failed to grieve in the past – and somehow that grief made me feel whole.”  Translating Matt. 5:4 from the Greek as, “Flourishing are the mourners because they will be comforted,” Cosper found comfort -“and something in me began to crack open.” 

Without grief work, Richard Rohr maintains, “the soul remains self-enclosed, rattling around inside its own limited logic and disconnected from the world.”   Cosper recalls a friend asking him, “How’s your grief work going?”  When he could not answer the question, his friend asked, “Tell me about the last time you wept over any of this.” Grief can be unfinished hurt. “The grieving mode” observes Rohr, “is different from the fixing mode, the controlling mode or even the understanding mode of life.” 

Matthew 5:48 is frequently translated, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” However, biblical scholar Jonathan Pennington argues that “perfect” relates to “shalom” which bestows the peace of God. He points out, “Shalom…is active.  Shalom is a sense of wholehearted relationship with God and an awareness of the goodness in his care and rule of the world.” 

“Translating telios as ‘perfect’ makes Matt. 5:48 an ethical command, while rendering it as ‘shalom’ invites us into wholehearted relationship with God and rest in him. It’s a vision of grace.”  “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up.  You’re kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  Live out your God created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matt. 5:48  MSG). 

“Am I grown up?”  Do I face my inner wounds and pain as a mature man in Christ, or do I still want to cast blame and see myself as a victim?  I can get easily stuck in an inner cave of self-pity and anger. I can feel sorry for myself and blame God for not acting on my behalf.  It’s hard to admit; but I act like a “spoiled brat” at times.  I need to grow up as a man, even at my age.  

 I was helped years ago with this insight from Richard Rohr:  “Many men think they are angry, but most male anger is really hidden sadness.”   Tasting sadness is part of the grieving process.  We open our hearts to the sadness that has been buried for years.  We come to peace and rest in him.  

Here are some insights to consider as you do your own grief work:   

First, be convinced that the broken and marginalized will flourish in the kingdom of God.  You might be halfway through the tunnel.  In your pain and shame, you are tempted to turn back, denying the reality of wounded soul.  No!  Keep pressing on.  This implies vulnerability, humility, and surrender.  You can’t fix your soul sickness or sadness.  Allow Jesus to carry you to the Father.

Second, resist all efforts to put yourself in the “church” box of the strong, spiritual, self-made man.  Remember that Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).  Admit that you can’t fix yourself.  Surrender to your loving Father in childlike faith.

Third, remember that it is OK to grieve as you process your pain.  I have had to do it many times.  Get it out. You have carried it too long.   Don’t hold back; ask God to be merciful, as his wayward child returns home.