There are three ways this verse can be taken, and they are all true. This verse can be taken literally. It speaks to those who have endured the bitterest sorrow that life can bring. Such suffering and loss can lead us to the comfort that only a perfect God can offer in circumstances that hurt too deeply to even be explained. Those who mourn in this way will be comforted. God is close to the brokenhearted. The verse also speaks to those who deeply grieve the social injustices and evils of the world. There is much scripture about fighting for justice and extending mercy. James Boice challenges believers, “[Christianity] should produce a sound social conscience. In fact, if it does not, we have some reason to doubt our Christianity.” This beatitude is a cry to live our faith like we mean it - with hands and feet and words … and even tears. Jesus is with you in this grief, and you will be comforted by His presence.
But the essence of this verse requires an honest look at the state of our hearts. This is where we must stop, focus, listen. Jesus is telling you and me, blessed are you when you mourn - as if life’s biggest loss had befallen you – over your sin. When I realized this truth, my heart and mind froze. It is far easier ONE DAY (long ago at camp, maybe) to admit that you are a sinner in theory, ask God to live in your heart, and then get up and go on your merry way. It seems a paradox to think of being happy by seeing, admitting and actually grieving your sin all the time.
I can’t say that I have my head around this fully, but this is what I my heart is whispering: this is your love story. God sees you exactly as you are, and He adores you. You are His princess for all time. He desires you to know Him, so that you can understand how much you are fully and truly loved. This requires closeness, a relationship. But there is a problem, you see. We don’t believe His love is enough. And so, in a desperate attempt to feel loved and accepted, we fill our lives with all sorts of striving and doing – getting prettier, richer, more accomplished, making life look all shiny and together. Or, conversely, we don’t see how our little life even matters, so we coast along detached. In either case, the result is distance from God. God hates this distance from us.
This brings us to the sin part. Sin, simply put, is anything that separates us from God. I love that the first sin was eating fruit, not committing murder. It boiled down to Eve listening to the voice of the glamorous, skinny, decorated serpent instead of the voice of God. I wonder what would have happened if Eve had said, Hold on, Sexy Serpent Creature, this sounds awesome and it is so pretty, but I just want to check in with God about this. He was there in Eden. It wasn’t like He had slipped away on vacation. He was within reach, but Eve looked elsewhere and she separated herself from God. She went for what was pretty and polished and promised to make her savvy in the ways of the world. Don’t we do that all the time? With God just a word away, we look elsewhere, create the distance, forget how much we are loved. Sin is murder and stealing, yes. But it is far more pervasive than that. Sin is when we cut God out of the very picture He made – your life, my life.
In this love story, now enters our Savior King. Before we even realized the distance, before we even wanted to talk to Jesus, He made a way for you and me to be near Him always. This Lover of our souls said, ‘Yes, that one with the Instagram addiction, who screams at her kids while she covets her neighbor’s life, who gossips about her in-laws, who worries about how her outfit makes her bottom look while standing in the communion line at church. Yes, that one. I love her. I will die for that one.’ While we were still ignoring Him, putting everything else as more important than Him, He was willingly mocked, whipped, flogged, spat upon, nailed to a cross, and, then, He died for us.
Anything you have ever done or ever will do that could separate you from this King who sees you fully and loves you completely, He conquered on that day. Three days later, Jesus returned to us alive, eradicating that separation for all time. That cross is now your bridge to Jesus. It is how you go from being lost to being found, from wandering around without purpose or identity to living loved, living seen and living up close and in a personal relationship with the Lover of your soul.
The paradox is now clearer. We are blessed when we mourn, because if we are truly grieving His absence, then we are seeing Jesus as the only One who can make us whole. And when we truly see Jesus, we have come to the cross. It is there at that Holy bridge that we are comforted because the distance is gone and we are with our King. We are blessed because it is here we see “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39