Devotions: Beatitudes (2) — Joyful Mourning

You’re blessed that when truly broken, God gives you what you need the most.Matthew 5:4


This is the second of a series of nine Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has been laying down the ethics of an “upside down” kingdom in these short, pithy but profound declarations. Rather than focusing on how we feel or the way we operate our lives, or on our distinctive personalities or preferences, Jesus forces us to go much deeper and much broader at the same time. These are characteristics of the NORMAL Christian, not the special Christian, or the trained Christian, or the mature Christian, or the Christian professional. They are qualities for all who have been made, in the words of the Bible, a “new creation” in Christ Jesus, and in whom God the Holy Spirit, is producing his fruit of grace, love, joy and peace. As John Piper has well said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Joyful mourning. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it, like the “living dead,” or “bitter sweet” or “accidentally on purpose” or “pretty ugly.” Shakespeare strings them together in the play, Romeo and Juliet – “O heavy lightness! Serious vanity! Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!” Who are those who mourn? They are people who have a gut-level sense of anguish and sorrow. It may be over personal or corporate tragedy or disaster. It may be deep grief over both sins we commit and those sins committed outside of us that deeply touch us. “Contrition” would be the old word here. But this is sorrow without gloominess or moodiness, and seriousness without sullenness.

Joyful mourning is a relational, dynamic quality of living before God that is sensitive to God’s holy character, sensitive to one’s standing or state before this God and sensitive to the heart of Jesus, who, after all, wept both over the graveside of Lazarus and the judgment about to fall on Jerusalem. It is the eyelash of God brushing against the sensitive folds of the heart. Jesus is blessing the sensitive believer here. It is these, Jesus says, that “will be comforted.” They will experience the overwhelming presence of God’s comfort in a way that goes beyond feelings. Different kinds of grief for different kinds of reasons need different kinds of solutions. Contrary to what most think, some are comforted through exhortation or even rebuke (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Some will be comforted through instruction (Titus 1:9). The Message rendering of this verse has it right: “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.”

The upside-down kingdom of Jesus is filled with those who consistently experience joyful mourning. Are you one of them?

Sunrise at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus. Photo taken by Thomas B. Grosh IV while on a reflective walk during the 2014 Midwest Faculty Conference.

Note: For the Beautitude series follow this link.

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Carl Shank

A Christ-follower and mentor of leaders and churches whose life plan is to make an eternal difference in lives for Jesus Christ. Carl currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Cross Roads Brethren in Christ Church (Mount Joy, PA), President of Carl Shank Consulting, and as a Board Member of the Mount Joy Chamber of Commerce. B. S. in Mathematics from Dickinson College. M. Div. and Th. M. from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia Campus). Carl's insights have been a great encouragement to Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network. To God be the glory!

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