There is a list of eight character attributes listed at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. As I related in my earlier piece on Poor in Spirit, these attributes are known as the “Beatitudes.” To many people, these statements are a mysterious list of negative sounding actions that seem to produce positive but unexpected results. They are a mystery to man because they are based upon the laws and wisdom of God. Man’s wisdom is but folly when measured against God’s. (1 Cor 3:19) The Beatitudes are typical of the teachings of Christ – extremely simple at first glance, but extremely profound on many levels. They are a tool, a roadmap, a simplification, a motivation, a synopsis of what God (and Jesus) truly cares about, and also a sequence attitudes and values to seek. They reflect the nature and will of God.
The beatitudes are actually very logical, intellectual, and complex. They are steeped in the wisdom that comes from the only reliable source of truth and wisdom.
The order of the beatitudes is a sequence that has a purpose and demonstrates a process for mankind to be reconciled to the fellowship with God that he was designed for and needs for the complete fulfillment of a truly “happy” life.
In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” the son when finding himself in a horrible place of his own making finally comes to his senses. This realization can be likened to the conclusion that we must accept to be poor in spirit. First we have to believe that God’s truth, way, and life are the real truth, way, and life. Any alternative that we come up with is rubbish compared to God’s. Realization and complete acceptance is the first step. The second step is also the second beatitude:
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt: 5:4)
We need to come to a second realization – that we are responsible for an enormous amount of damage, hurt, and sorrow to God and other people. This realization, if truly heartfelt, would manifest itself in anguish and mourning. We should feel sorrow over the results of our previous sinful actions and selfish choices.
This should not be remorse only over our state of being. We should not be sad that we got caught, nor should we be sad because our prospects all seem completely lost. The sorrow that we experience should be over the pain (or separation) that we caused to the relationships that we had or should have with God and with other people. We are at fault for what is wrong, and we should feel mournful about it. There should be some sadness because our state of being. Ever since man and woman were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they/we have been destined to experience the pain of loss, and even death. It is a normal reaction to experience sadness and sorrow over a loss. We have a natural desire for life to be full and to experience the positive side of emotions, just as God does. That is part of the image of God that we were designed with. When we are in a state of loss and sadness from being separated from God, we, like the Prodigal Son, should long to return to the state of a good relationship so that we can again (or even for the first time) experience the fruits of such a relationship.
But that is not enough. God has never wanted just enough or a little bit. He wants all of me. And He wants all of you. We should be in mourning over our Sin and the dishonor that we showed God by our rejection of Him. The Apostle Peter grieved when was not able to tell Jesus that he loved Him. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” This is a step that all men (and women) must go through. And it is not just a one-time step. Sin is our nature, and we should experience this anguish over the pain that it causes in much the same way that we should take up our cross (daily) or pray (without ceasing).
The idea is to gain complete reconciliation. God wants us to loathe anything that would again cause a separation or even bring sadness or dishonor. The prodigal son returned home, not expecting a return to the former relationship that he had discarded so easily. He had learned his lesson the hard way, but he had learned it. He had been confronted with the truth, and he had experienced the conviction of his sin. He intended to ask for forgiveness but was willing to take what ever his father wished to dole out to him. It could have been rejection or even a lesser relationship. He did not know, but he returned home to do what he knew was the right thing to do. He was returning to again submit himself to the authority of his father – apologizing for his own foolish actions and henceforth trusting in his father’s wisdom.
We must too acknowledge in our mourning that we do not deserve any comfort. The state of separation is what we deserve. It would be completely fair for us to have to spend eternity in hell. But God wants our relationships to be restored so deeply, that He provided a solution to our problem. He wants our motivation to be one of trust in Him. He wants us to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do (which it just happens is the way He intended) so that He could enjoy our relationship with Him and vice versa. Like the prodigal son on His return home, we should do the right thing.
We are not only required to have the attitude of humility (poor in spirit) but also the attitude of mourning that is brought on by the reality of our predicament. The two are not separate events but connected and sequential.
God wants us to know this… if we humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways, seek His face, and pray, He will comfort us by bring healing and forgiveness.
The comfort that comes to those who mourn is provided by God. It is by His design, and being on this path brings the happiness and fulfillment that He wants for us. This happiness and fulfillment is perfect, so contrary to our own desires and ideas there is none better. Comfort comes to those who mourn—they will be blessed and happy. The best result: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28.