Throughout the course of my life I have sat through more church sermons than most would deem healthy. My father is a minister, both grandfathers were ministers, my uncle is a minister, my brother is a minister and at the same time I lived in a parsonage for 19 years influenced by a multitude of evangelists and missionaries. The fact that I don’t walk around expounding the three-point sermon should be amazing to most.
Funny thing is, I don’t remember many of the sermons I heard growing up---granted I might have been passing notes to my best friend or the cute boy behind me in the pew during that portion of the service, but it doesn't change the fact that I don't remember many sermons. One thing I do remember is eating Sunday dinner at my best friend’s house and sitting through some wonderful discussions following the morning message. My best friend’s father was a man of few words. I don’t remember hearing him talk all that much, but he always had great dialogue about the sermon. I am NOT talking about “pastor stew” where you pick apart a sermon or what the pastor was wearing. I am talking about truly intellectual discussions of Biblical truths and their application, or discourse extending the main points of the message. These were times I loved to simply sit and listen.
We do have a tendency to hear what we want to hear while sitting in a church pew and often skew scripture to fit our circumstances. To quote my brother, Evan, “I think we have to always be careful not to apply Scripture to our lives, but to apply our lives to Scripture.” I hope that is what I am doing with this post. I wish to clarify the way my life applies to a particular passage of scripture.
I was sitting in my home church this past Sunday listening to another great sermon. My pastor’s text was from the Beatitudes, particularly Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. The sermon pointed to the fact that most likely this passage was referring to the repentant or those who grieve for other sin’s, but not necessarily for those of us who mourn the loss of a loved one—because what is there to be blessed about? There was even a video of a couple who lost a child to SIDS. The video ended with the couple explaining how they blamed God for their loss. That was it—video over.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I don’t agree with my pastor’s interpretation of this scripture because I most certainly do, but with strong conviction I additionally believe this scripture DOES speak volumes to those of us who have lost a loved one. The Beatitudes speak to injustice---loss is unjust plain and simple. It is a scripture of hope for those who grieve.
I am sure it is difficult to look at those of us who have lost a great deal in earthly terms and consider us to be “blessed”. If we are to discount this fact then how is God honored through our suffering? Where is the evidence of His work if we, in fact, continue to play the “blame game” with God and not embrace the fact that we live in a world where death is inevitable and loss is equally unavoidable? How much more then should we embrace the blessedness of our plight and be willing to find our solace within the circumstance? What about Isaiah 61:1-3 especially verse 3 where we are assured “beauty..for ashes..gladness instead of mourning”, or my very favorite Psalm 30:11 “You turned my mourning into dancing”? Instead of allowing these times to break our spirit and steal our faith these times of great loss become one of life’s defining moments. It is one of the only times we can completely know that God is, beyond doubt, all we need.
I have not come to this realization overnight. It has, and will continue to be, a process. Strength is found in the realization that God is greater than our circumstances—he does transcend our condition to create within us a “blessed” state. So, do I believe “blessed are those who mourn”? You bet I do.
This I know for sure.