One day while we were moving into our new place in the UP, I found a box of books in the basement. I can never pass up a box of old books. Among the various books, was one titled, Live Like a King, by Warren Wiersbe. I was amazed to find such a book on the Beatitudes, just when we are studying and teaching the exact same topic this summer for camp. The book was a joy to read, and I appreciated Wiersbe’s pastoral approach to a tough group of verses. The chapter on Matthew 5:4 was one of my favorites. What does Jesus mean by saying that we’ll be blessed when we’re sad?
Wiersbe begins by talking about how what we laugh and cry about really shows our true character. I think of Gabe and what he laughs and cries about. Just the other day we were sitting at the table together when Emily’s chair fell apart and she dropped to the floor. Gabriel thought it was pretty hilarious. Also, when I pick Emily up and dance around with her, Gabriel will sometimes start crying and getting upset. I’m sure in the case of Gabe, it is a matter of maturity rather than a character flaw, but some people’s humor or sadness can be even more misplaced than a child’s.
One story we keep going back to as we study and prepare to teach the Beatitudes is the story of the prodigal son. There is a prime example of a youth who had to learn about mourning sin. In his book, Wiersbe writes about true repentance as a part of our mourning over the bad things we do. As a true pastor, he puts forth the three ‘R’s of godly mourning to show how mourning should affect our mind, heart, and will. If the prodigal son sat in the pig filth and only thought of how foolish he had been, that would be regret. If he thought of his sins and began to hate himself for the poor choices, that would only be remorse. The prodigal son was able to say, “I will arise and go!” – and he actually got up and went. That was when true repentance was evident in his life. He went home and found exactly what he was looking for.
I must leave you with two of my favorite examples of mourners in the Bible. It is funny, but in a way, it is sad that we really don’t show the same emotion over the horrid nature of sin. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were so upset about sin in the Israelite community that they became hair-pullers. Ezra pulled out his hair from all over his head, even his beard got involved. Nehemiah, on the other hand, got so upset about sin he beat people and pulled out their hair and not his own. I’m not saying we should become hair-pullers for Jesus, but maybe we should be more willing to show people that everything is really not okay. As we teach these Beatitudes to the youth, we like to share the opposite “Bad-attitude.” In this case it would go something like this: You’re sad when you act like everything is okay instead of admitting when you’re wrong or hurt; you’ll be depressed and discouraged. I like the way of the kingdom better: 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 (Matt. 5:4, Message).