5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12 NIV
Meditating on these words I think of both the seeming unfairness and supernatural favor of our faith. We are invited into a relationship with a God who while all powerful neither promises nor guarantees that our lives will progress without trauma, turmoil, or tragedy. The fact that God neither extends cheap grace or easy answers to alleviate this tension for us says something powerful about our God. That God invites us into a real, authentic relationship with no shame, secrets, delusion, or favoritism. After all Gods sacrifice of Gods own Son for us anchors us in the turbulent tensions of life with our God who understands and abides with us here.
As a young believer, Gods unwillingness to alleviate our trials seemed almost unfair or even unjust, but that was before I began to understand that fairness is not justice. Fairness is cultural, justice is biblical. Fairness is a human construct. Justice is a Divine imperative. Fairness makes us feel good. Justice reconciles us back to God making us all good.
Theologian James Finley writes: “The lifelong process of ripening brings upon a corresponding ripening of our ability to understand the fundamentals in a wiser, peace-giving manner. As a person ripens in unsayable intimacies in God, they ripen in a paradoxical wisdom. They come to understand God as a presence that protects us from nothing, even as God unexplainably sustains us in all things. This is the Mystery of the Cross that reveals whatever it means – that God watches over us. it does not mean that God prevents the tragic thing, the cruel thing, the unfair thing, from happening. Rather, it means that God is intimately hidden as a kind of profound, tender sweetness that flows and carries us along in the intimate depths of the tragic thing itself—and will continue to do so in every moment of our lives up to and through death, and beyond.”
In other words, what God does not spare us from God strengthens us for and sustains us through. Recently I was blessed to worship on the Mount of Beatitudes and while James Finley beautifully describes the ripening of our faith and the hiddenness of Gods grace, I couldn’t help but reflect in that place of supreme blessedness, on the many ways God overtly and obviously meets and redeems us in every low moment and every high place with grace and mercy.
For those who live in despair or have depressive moments, God grants peace and reorders our emotions toward deep soul satisfaction.
For those who mourn and are experiencing unimaginable loss, God offers comfort through scripture, community, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.
For the meek – the disinherited who always seem to find themselves on the bottom or the underside of power, God promises the moral turning of the arc of the universe toward justice, mercy, and inclusion.
For those yearning for righteousness and the things of God in a secular world that mocks us and our beliefs, God promises us the Divine desires of our hearts.
When we are merciful, pure hearted, persecuted for righteousness or suffer for the sake of the cross – God’s supreme blessing assures us that Gods Divine power is operable and reorienting our lives in real time.
That God really is working all things for our GOOD!!!
That’s why our response to our circumstances isn’t just lament, grief, and mourning, but also one of gratitude and deep joy…the paradoxical transforming power of the Holy Spirit that not only gives us beauty for ashes but allows us to create glorious mosaics from our ashy brokenness. This is the prophetic power of ripening faith that our critical culture so desperately needs. In this season of grief and gratitude, I invite you to focus not on your trials but on your testimony. Not on your tribulation but on your triumph. Not on your aches and pains but on Gods anointing and power. Not on whatever is distracting you but on Gods Divine focus and deliverance. Not on your frailty and brokenness but on Gods freedom and blessings.
I encourage you to exercise your ripening faith knowing that whatever you’re going through, you can rejoice in the Lord knowing that:
- You are BLESSED!
- Blessed when your body betrays you and you can’t get around like you used to
- Blessed when your heart is broken, and it doesn’t seem like the tears will ever stop
- Blessed when your depressed and confused
- Blessed when you’ve done your best and it doesn’t seem good enough.
- Blessed when the members don’t show up and when they don’t contribute
- Blessed when all hell breaks loose and there are no words of comfort
- Blessed when unfairness and injustice refuse to take a break
- Blessed by Jesus’ stripes
- Blessed by His blood
- Blessed by His resurrection
- Blessed by the promised Comforter, and
- We will be blessed to see His coming again!
We are the ones for whom God’s blessings apply right now in real time, and for this we are grateful!