Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

This week a friend posted a blog link on her Facebook page from a man questioning how Christians in the U.S. use the term “blessed.” He was disturbed that we often use it to give thanks to God for material things—i.e. “I’m so blessed to have this new van.” or “I hadn’t anticipated this raise--what a blessing.” In this blog he states this is a sign of American Christian materialism that is an insult to our Third World church family and we need to knock it off.

I see the point he was trying to make however I disagree with him. The American Christian church often has on blinders to what actual “want” is, yes. However the Bible also tells us “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” James 1:17. Yes, I’m sure he’d make the argument that this means spiritual gifts but I think there is benefit too in giving God praise for all we are thankful for.

The part of his article that has me thinking today, however, is when he points to what Jesus calls blessings in the famous sermon we call The Beatitudes. One in particular has meaning for me right now—“blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessed? That’s what I am? Really God? I’ll be honest, when I read that I got a little angry. But a friend assured me long ago, it’s OK to be angry with God—He can take it. He’s the one who created me and He knows how I’m wired. His love is not dented when I kick it in frustration. Going through this daily struggle to function while dealing with grief has left me exhausted, confused, weepy, humbled, feeling often abandoned and small and desperate, but blessed?

So today I’ve been wrestling a bit with this particular verse.

The blessings I’ve been pointing out to people when I talk about God’s presence in the midst of my tragedy would certainly irk the writer of that blog. I have watched as God has provided in amazing ways for my children and me financially. When Kraig died we had $30 in our checking account, but we’ve not gone hungry or been homeless thanks to financial provision that can only be described as miraculous. I’ve watched as God’s people have reached out to me with a new roof, new appliances, and other gifts both small and large. I am not ashamed to call these material items blessings from God.

While I will not change my gratitude for the material blessings I’ve received, I am looking closely today at the second part of that verse--Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I have been comforted. I’ve been comforted from the terrible moment when my nightmare began that night and God sent a friend to be there with me and later pastors who came as well. I’ve been comforted by prayers of more people than I can count from that terrible night up to today. I’ve been comforted by friends and family who refuse to leave me alone here. They may not have walked what I’m walking but they are here to listen, to give me permission to feel whatever comes, and to help in any way possible.

On that tragic night when the doctor came in for the last time to tell me my husband was gone, I felt the presence of Jesus almost physically, as though he stood behind me. He was there comforting me. I know that without a shadow of doubt.

Watching supernaturally-inspired comfort come from a variety of places in a variety of ways is amazing. Watching my children survive this and continue to live and laugh and even cry, has been comforting. I’m walking a journey that is bringing my kids closer to me than ever before as we live this out together.

Perhaps Jesus meant all this in that simple sentence: 
Blessed are those who mourn because my Father will not leave them in grief but will help them rise from ashes to stand again; they will be able to tell the stories of how He never left them alone. Blessed are those who mourn because it will cause others to put feet to their faith in ways they may never have had the opportunity before; they will grow closer to God because of it. Blessed are those who mourn because they are going to get a front row seat through their tears to watch my Father’s love in action here on earth. Blessed are those who mourn because I, Myself, will help them recover when they trust Me. Blessed are those who mourn for they will get to see God work in such amazing ways it doesn’t fit into a sentence.

Maybe that’s what it means to be blessed as I mourn.

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