Passage: Matthew 5:1-2 & 5:4 (New English Translation)
5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Soul Search Essay
In a prior essay it was explained how the Greek term translated “Blessed” in the NET Bible can also be translated “fortunate” as in “[You are fortunate if you] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Additionally, to mourn here refers to experiencing an objective emotion caused by being in a wretched, horrible situation. The emotion is a response to an accurate assessment of reality. The Greek word translated “comfort” has the sense of friendly and kind words.
So, in Jesus’ time (and for current day disciples), those experiencing wretched and horrible situations are promised in this Beatitude comforting and kind words. For some situations, these comforting and kind words may be seen as an inadequate response. Words…words…for where I am at?? I would argue that this Beatitude is for just these people in precisely these situations. Why?
Christ in this passage is beginning his teaching of his handpicked disciples. He begins by clearly stating that what awaits the disciples is the full, unfiltered reversal of worldly success. Where people (including Jews then and Christians now) pursued success, wealth and status, the disciples unwittingly would be pursuing loss; even though realistically they are largely passengers on Christ’s mission. These men rarely accurately grasped the reversal’s reality as shown by their behavior in various episodes of Christ’s ministry. Some things seemingly never change. We grasp so little.
With the losses the disciples would gain, if Christ promised worldly elements, such as alleviation of the wretched state, the beatitude would be inaccurate. Sure, the disciple’s lot in Christ’s ministry is not unrelenting misery, but it is in fact progressively more demanding, more difficult and more painful as Christ’s ministry progresses. In fact a significant element of Christ’s ministry was preparing these men for the horrors ahead.
Sermons talk about discipleship techniques. This kind of painful reality flies in the face of many Evangelical churches’ thought and member behavior. Lip service is given to the difficulties of being a Christian perhaps as possible persecution. Sermons talk about discipleship techniques and the value of spiritual growth to the individual. Evangelical leadership, however, standing up and actually consistently, repeatedly echoing Christ by stating the profound personal cost of discipleship that extends far beyond individual considerations? That is very, very rare. Too rare.
Christ’s statements in the Bible are extremely hard things, especially in the later stages of his ministry. Many current day parishioners are largely unaware of this. My concern is that many of these parishoners may be the same as the crowds following Jesus. Most of these crowds for a time “tried on” being disciples. They tried it on and did not buy. They lasted while favorable things happened, but fell away once the costs mounted. Many left stating that what Christ expected was too hard; too much to expect of them. What Christ expects is too much…unless you buy.
While grace is freely given by God, actually implementing grace is exceptionally expensive. Implementation is done by disciples serving a purpose with far more scope than individual development. It is serving this purpose in imitation of Christ and at Christ’s intimate direction via the Holy Spirit. Impressions and leanings of the Holy Spirit occur in the mind and emotions; the most intimate place you have. To truly, consistently and intentionally be led by the Holy Spirit as a disciple each day costs you everything you have – career, life agendas, elements of personality, opinions owned, opinions of others that you crave, relationships, money, status and the list can go on and on. Christ makes this clear. I have experienced these costs. I write this essay having mourned the loss of a life dream. The loss of that dream was worse than a death.
My life agenda, as created by the American Trinity (Me, Myself and I), was to complete my masters in seminary in Denver, then obtain my doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver. After that, I would get hired by either a teaching clinic (such as Minirith & Meyer) or a university. Either way, I would become a professor or a respected teacher plus an insightful researcher. Surely a lofty place from which to lead God’s people was God’s plan? No. I was not. It never happened. God had other plans. In the last year of my masters program, illness in my wife’s family of origin torpedoed my American Trinty agenda.
When this happened, I had a choice. Submit this decision to Christ or ignore him and keep the agenda. I went before God and asked, “What do I do?” My wife wanted to move to another state to support her family. I knew doing that meant almost no likelihood of returning to school. To say yes to wife was to submit my dream to likely death. I asked God. God said, “Support your in-laws.” This was an intimate impression, not audible words. I could have ignored it easiIy; written it off as my own ideas. I didn’t. I accepted the subtle, intimate direction. We moved. That was 26 years ago. I have never gotten the PhD. An intimate, deeply important part of me died with that dream. I lost a long planned for identity. The fame I wanted began dying that day. It was a slow death of a thousand cuts. Periodically, I still grieve this. I see someone make an impact in the psychology world and think, “I am capable of that,…but that is not my path.” This really hurts, because I am that capable.
What comforting words have come to me? Where is my solace and comforting? Some were from Scripture.I certainly searched Scripture through the decades for solace and direction. Many, however, were words of truth about me shared by friends; reminders of who God was making me to be. Reminders of his agenda. A new identity had to replace the dying one. Others were statements about possibilities in my life that came true as God changed me. This gave me a path over the years; one I did not want, but one I would take through repeated decisions. Often the words were love expressed to me by other believers. These kind words came from a variety of individuals yet, they were specific and timely to various situations in my life. They were critical in sustaining me and these folks spoke in uncanny themes across many different individuals; across individuals who never knew each other. Yet the theme was there for each situation. Where did they get this ability to speak in these themes from?
I see the words from these scattered people as the music of an orchestra of individuals conducted by a loving Creator that does not need to take me from wretched situations. He takes me through wretched things…with the aid and intent of his orchestral church. The path is not out. The path is through. I need to stay near this orchestra…both to perform as part of it and to receive from it. I eventually came to dedicate my life to continuing this music.
Why is it good to mourn while in wretched situations that we must exit by passing through them? There is music there. There is an orchestra in the wretchedness. The music in the sewage of pain matters. It matters because you matter…even if life’s purpose is not about you. Life is absolutely not about you..AND…you deeply matter; matter enough for a God to die for you.