“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
~Matthew 5:4 (NRSV).
The Beatitudes really turn our concept of the true spiritual life upside down. Jesus perhaps meant it this way so the New Agers and other religions—those getting part of the spiritual message—can’t get the whole deal, i.e. the blessings of God for part-obedience.
Want to know God and the blessings of God? Invest in gaining knowledge of, and living, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12, is Jesus’ answer. Is there any coincidence that the Sermon on the Mount begins with such paradoxical observations?
Mourning Our Own Sinfulness
Without recourse to masochism, the entire gospel message is set in the correct understanding of the relationship between our own sinfulness and God’s ever-abiding grace.
Jesus died in order to save us from the guilt of our sins, and until we acknowledge that, living the reality of that on a beginning daily basis, we’ll never be closer to God.
The secret balance to the Christian perspective then is the acknowledgement of our sinful natures, together with the attending grace of God via the Holy Spirit to redeem us—both eternally and, as importantly, for our living moments now. Mourning our sinfulness is not so much being saddened by it as it’s living out of this truth as a continual surrender of a life before God. It’s the correct starting-off point.
Mourning the World’s Sinfulness
Just as equally we’re called to inwardly deplore the sinful nature of the world, but in a way that works with such a reality. It would be no good for us to just deplore our world for its sinfulness; there’s no light of the gospel in that.
But where it is significant is how we interact with the world and the people of the world—even to Christians behaving in worldly ways, which we’re all apt to do.
We’re not to be conformed to the ways or thinking of this world (Romans 12:2) but we’re to respond in ways that brings goodness and love out of it. We can readily accept a person whilst not approving of the sin. We just don’t draw attention to it. It soon goes away, or at least we’re not party to it, and our inaction speaks in its own powerfully respectful way. This is being appropriately and responsibly mournful.
The Skill of Mourning
Perhaps the skill of mourning is not so much a competency to be learned as it is a heart-fall to be allowed. As the truth beckons over us—and any numbers of truths attend as mournful truths—we simply allow a mood of solemnity to fill our hearts.
This is not a morbid thing.
As agreeing with God about sinfulness is moving to the side of truth, so too is agreeing with God to mourn at the appropriate moments. But, mourning takes courage in that we voluntarily feel sadness, as many people have a tremendous difficultly allowing themselves to feel properly sad; instead they get angry, confused or overwhelmed in other ways. Having said this, many times abject sorrow is inevitable.
Through mourning appropriately and adequately we’re eventually comforted. There is reward for it.
Mourning, then, is about setting the full force or weight of feeling over us and not getting angry about it. But we will get angry, for anger is normal in grief. But eventually the anger should subside for better states of mind as we adjust.
Mourning our own and the world’s sinfulness—and keeping it front of mind and deep at heart—is important, for it compels us onward on the Christian growth journey. A big part of the skill, however, is getting that superb balance between mourning the reality as impetus for victory—that we’re saved from our sinfulness.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.