This summer, my church is doing a sermon series on the beatitudes, the “blessed ares” that Jesus taught his disciples. He said things like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” “Blessed” means happy, and so to say happy are the poor, happy are the meek, happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness — well, it doesn’t make sense.
Or does it?
This past week’s beatitude was: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It was particularly timely because that same week, our church bid farewell to a young woman who died too soon after a five-year battle with cancer, a woman we as a church all loved. We mourned and God comforted us. While it’s true that when we are sad God comforts us, as the pastor said, that’s only a part of what Jesus was teaching in this beatitude.
The deeper meaning has to do with mourning our human condition, our wretchedness, which is not a popular topic in today’s culture. That’s too bad, because truly it’s in our honest assessment of ourselves that we find the greatest appreciation for God’s amazing grace. Here’s how I like to explain it: If you think of yourself as not so bad — and definitely better than that person over there — then you will never know the joy of being forgiven.
Real joy is knowing the depth of your depravity and at the same time knowing the craziness of a God who forgives, and not only forgives, but throws a party and dances like a dang fool over “wretched” sinners. And when I say “wretched sinners,” I’m not talking about axe murderers and bank robbers. It’s not difficult to understand how they would feel “blessed” at mourning their condition and receiving God’s grace. I’m talking about you and me, who sin mostly on the inside in respectable ways — our arrogance and critical spirits, our apathy and envy.
Of course, God forgives us. Ho hum. Pass the potato salad. We just don’t get it. We don’t get how much we’ve been forgiven. I keep going back to the time I stole one tiny, pink packet of Sweet ‘N Low and got called out on it in a public place by one of my kids. That was the day my eyes were opened to my wretchedness, the day I mourned my sin. I realized Jesus died a terrible death to pay the penalty of my stealing Sweet ‘N Low. Not murder, not armed robbery, but stealing Sweet ‘N Low.
How horrific is that?
On the other hand, that also brings me great joy — Jesus died for me because I stole Sweet ‘N Low! And he did it because he loves me! Jesus talked about the “joy in heaven over just one sinner who repents.” That’s me! God rejoices over ME. He sings over his people. He throws parties for sinners who repent.
So, blessed are those who mourn over their sin, for they will dance with joy with Almighty God.
— Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at email@example.com.