Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable - Part 2
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
As with the first Beatitude, this statement seems to read as yet another contradiction. As Kyle points out, ‘the world would say that we are blessed when everything goes our way and yet in Matthew it tells us that if you are mourning, then you are blessed. It is when it feels as though we’ve come to the end of ourselves, God will turn the page and show us a new story of hope and redemption.’ So often we pray about change in our circumstances going on around us but God cares far more about the change on the inside. ‘Blessing isn’t dependent on what happens on the outside, it is about what happens on the inside.’ Kyle Idleman.
William Barclay wrote that the word ‘mourn’ used in this verse is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. This is a sorrow which goes beyond the superficial, to a true ache in our hearts. This can be as a result of our own circumstances, circumstances of those we love and care for, situations we see on the news, the sin, including ours that surrounds us. As Kyle points out, ‘It is our suffering and the challenges that we face that makes room for us to experience God’s peace and presence. Without suffering, we simply cannot know God’s comfort.’
If we want to look back to somebody in the bible who experienced suffering, then Job would be there right near the top of the list. He lost everything; his family, his home, his livelihood and his health to name just a few. He had every reason to turn his back on God and yet instead, Job experienced God in a way he never had before "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you" (Job 42.5). Job’s experiences took him to a place where he allowed God to fill the huge voids of loss that had appeared in his life with his comfort and compassion.
Kyle reminds us ‘We can be assured that God will not waste our pain.’ Nothing we go through is wasted in God. The extent to which we learn and understand what God is showing us, is down to us and will determine where we’re willing to be led. Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrases Matthew 5:4: "You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you."
When challenges or situations arise, it is hard to see beyond our circumstances and what we’ve lost. We can all too easily focus on the pain or fear of what is right there before us. But as Kyle points out ‘the truth is that God more than fills that space. He fills spaces that we didn’t even know we had.’
You only have to turn on the television and flick through the numerous channels to see the sin that is entrenched in our society, and this can naturally lead to a sense of sorrow or mourning that sits deeply within us. A few years ago, the Oxford Junior Dictionary tried to remove the word sin from the dictionary, deeming it an irrelevant word that that was no longer used by the younger generation. Once again, society encourages us to water down or disguise sin for what it is. It was ‘simply a mistake’ or ‘the need to learn about good choices.’ Either way, it still ultimately comes down to sin. As Kyle points out ‘without seeing the depths of sin, we’ll never understand the heights of God’s love and grace.’
The parable of the Prodigal Son gives us a good example of this. Despite the son’s behaviour and the obvious sins that he committed; the bible tells us that his Father was filled with compassion on his son’s return. Jesus treats us in the same way. When we turn to God in our sorrow, whatever the reason, we will know what it is to experience God’s comfort and compassion.
As mentioned in the first beatitude, society can make us feel as though we should present a certain image. An image that we’re perfectly ok, we’ve got it altogether, we’re full of the joys of life. However, we don’t need to ride over our feelings or present a together front. The blessing talked about in this beatitude comes when we fully embrace the need for God in the midst of our suffering. There is a joy that can be experienced with God even during our toughest situations. Not necessarily a happy, clappy joy that we might all perceive joy to always be, but a deep-rooted joy and peace in knowing and experiencing the comfort of our Heavenly Father.
One of my readings last week challenged me as to how much time I just sit with God and enjoy his company. Not reading, not singing, but just sitting and being still. So I sat and waited for the Lord to speak. This isn’t something I would naturally find easy as my mind quickly fills with all the things that need sorting or the worries of my current circumstances. However, as I sat, I soon found myself simply talking to the Lord, as I would a good friend, and telling him about how I was feeling and where things were at. I told him how I knew he has a job for me, just the right job, and yet humanly, I find it so hard not knowing what it is and so have to resist the urge to constantly search in order to try and make it happen. As I spoke, God gave me a clear picture. It was a picture of me stood surrounded by fog. I knew my destination was there in the fog, I just couldn’t see it, no matter how close it was. I then thought of how naturally in that situation I would look to turn on a light to help find my way through the fog but then how often, the light only makes it worse. I had a real sense of knowing that I don’t have to try and find a way out, no matter how thick the fog, or how deep the sense of despair, God is all I need to rely on and will make the way clear to me at just the right time.
I then picked up Kyle’s book to continue with the chapter around blessed are those who mourn and read ‘In order to receive the blessing, we have to be willing to climb to the bottom of the deepest pit, without a flashlight, venturing far into the darkness. But the blessing is there, and it’s worth everything for at the end of me will come singing and rejoicing.’
So, I finish with a simple question; are we still clinging onto the flashlight when facing challenges and sorrow or are we open to the blessings of letting God fill every space with his presence and comfort?