Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

When bad things happen to good people, as they say, too often the good people begin to doubt God's love. Sometimes even our "comforting friends" begin to doubt God's love for us, begin to suspect God's opposition (or just as bad, God's indifference) behind a dark streak of misfortune running through our lives. In our minds, we have an assumption that my sociology professor used to call the "just world hypothesis": we suppose the world is fair, that actions and results tie together, that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It works often enough for us to use it as a working premise. When things are going well this is a comfort to us because it strengthens our assumptions that we're good people and that the world makes sense. But when things are going badly this distresses us because we search for the cause of it in our lives. Seeing no plausible reason brings out the cry of "Why?"

When we suffer, it is too easy to doubt God's love. We wonder if we have been abandoned. We wonder if God cares about our troubles. We wonder if God has set himself against us. In our short-sightedness, we are tempted to think that those who suffer are cursed.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) Jesus sets this against all of our empty and fearful thoughts. Suffering and sadness are not a curse. In fact, God promises to bless those who mourn. We will be comforted. He does not promise that we will be wiser, though possibly we may. He does not promise that we will not have trouble or sorrows; in fact he reminds us that in this world we will have troubles. But he urges us to take heart; he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered." (James 5:10-11) We look at those who have suffered in the faith. We know that those who had little to endure are not considered as blessed, because the power of God was not shown as much in their lives. Those we see as the greatest examples of the past are not those who had the easiest lives, but those who had the hardest.

Some of God's most beloved servants suffered terribly. The darker the sorrow that we endure, the more those around us will be startled by the light. Christ lives in us powerfully when we suffer, especially when we suffer in fellowship with him. His grace is plainest in our weakness. If the light inside us is nothing but a smoldering wick, he will not snuff it out.


Anonymous said...

We must see God in times of joy, and seek God in times of sorrow.

Oreja said...

Hi, I've tried to find a post I think you wrote on hell and what the bible teaches about that fiery place. If I'm not mistaken it dealt with the words used and how we had misunderstood a few things. Am I right? I just can't seem to find it, altough I've found a few that mentions "hell".


Weekend Fisher said...

Oreja, is this one, or some of the comments under it, what you're remembering? And some of the posts just before that in the archive are kind of on the same subject.

Let me know if that wasn't it, that was the one that came to my mind when you mentioned people misunderstanding some things about hell.

Take care & God bless

Oreja said...

No it wasn't that one, although that was very interesting too. I might have read what I'm looking for somewhere else, I just had a mental picture that it was on your blog and that it was something about hell and going there that I wanted to come back and read again.

Could it have been on the subject that what happens to a person who goes to hell. Maybe it'll come back to me later.

While on the subject, what do you think:
When people go to hell, do they stop existing, sort of fade out when contact with God is lost? Or do they just suffer? Or will God come back for them later? What do the greek words used in the NT about perishing and such mean? Is it the same word always?

Oreja said...

There’s this among other theories. I don’t think I agree with it, but I don’t really know. I would appreciate some input!

Thanks for a very useful blog.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Oreja

Thanks for the kind words.

On different views of hell. At the last day, when God ultimately rejects those who have been merciless and who have despised his Word, the most common view (this won't be news to you) is that God assigns them eternal punishment. That's the plainest reading of some parts of Scripture. There are other parts that read as if the people being punished are eventually destroyed by it (references to dead bodies in the fire, or second death), and eventual destruction after punishment is the plainest reading of some other passages. Other parts read as if the main punishment is just being excluded from the presence of God and loved ones. And it's easy enough to imagine ways those things could happen together. Many of the teachings about what happens to the lost are in visions or in symbolic language, so I tend to go easy on people who have different views than I do as long as it's a plainly supportable view, since it reads to me like there's room for legitimate differences of opinion there. Whatever happens to those God ultimately rejects, it's plain that it's not good.

So when it comes to views of hell, the only thing I generally argue against are things that just don't have any grounding in Scripture at all, or signs of contempt for what the Bible says because we get squirmy at the idea of punishment. Too many passages mention punishment, and basing our opinions on whether we're comfortable with an idea isn't the best way to understand the Bible.

As far as a view which says nobody is ever lost and all will be blessed in heaven / the world to come, the reason I can't go for that is that I can't see that any of the Scriptures teach that anywhere.

Oreja said...

Yes, I do believe you are right. Thanks for taking time to answer!