Comfort is Close

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

When I’m writing or speaking about these opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount, it’s almost inevitable that I end up defining what the word blessed means, or explaining the Latin reason why this passage is known as The Beatitudes. There’s a time for those things, but this is not that time.

This is just a simple post, inspired by the undeniable fact that mourning is part of life, because death itself is part of life. The more we love, the more it hurts when we lose those we love.

Let’s just be completely honest; there is nothing blessed about mourning itself. There’s nothing happy about putting a towel over your pillow because you know you’re about to cry yourself to sleep. There’s nothing inherently joyous about hot tears streaming down your face. There’s nothing to be envied about a person who’s too grief-stricken to speak. Nobody looks at that person and wants to trade places with them.

That’s why this very simple statement has an explanation. Jesus knew that in the depths of our sorrows, we wouldn’t be able to see through the storm clouds to consider ourselves to be blessed, happy, joyous, enviable, or anything like it. And so Jesus explained it for us.

The reason why Jesus understands us is because Jesus Himself knew how it felt to lose a friend. Jesus knew what it was like to feel that burning mixture of anger and sorrow that expresses itself in tears better than words.

And so Jesus explained the blessedness of mourning. Those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. It’s just a simple future tense, the normal way of stating something that will happen. The comfort is coming, arriving at any moment. But it’s also a divine promise, because God Himself said it was going to happen.

Jesus can say with certainty that comfort is coming, because He is the one who will bring it. As the gospels unfolded, Jesus told the disciples that when He left, He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. That’s the same third of the Trinity that is also called the Spirit of Christ.

When you mourn, you don’t feel blessed. But you are. You are blessed in your mourning because you have a divine promise that you will be comforted. Jesus could promise that you’ll be comforted, because He will be the one to comfort you through His own Spirit. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

If you’re mourning, take heart. Comfort is close by.

If you’re reading this, you probably shouldn’t still be a basket baby.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Hebrews 11:23-24, ESV). [For the full background narrative, see Exodus 1:1-2:3.]

The author of Hebrews uses the passive voice in 11:23 (Moses was hidden by his parents). In the passive voice, the subject is being acted upon. In verse 24 the writer shifts to the active voice (Moses refused). In the active voice, the subject is doing the action. That’s an important linguistic shift. But more than that, it’s an important spiritual shift that each of us must undergo. If we refuse to make that shift, we’re going to stay basket babies for far too long.

There is a time when it’s appropriate to be the baby in the basket, and when you’re there, you need to be thankful that somebody had the faith to put you there. Moses was born into an oppressive slave culture that considered his life to be worthless. Moses was born into a culture of death, but his parents had the rebellious faith to shield him by putting him in a basket to save his life. Moses had no choice in that. He was totally at the mercy of his faithful parents who made the decision about where he would go.

Many of you were raised (passive voice) by believing parents who placed you in a basket of faith before you could know the difference. Your being placed in the basket is evidence of somebody else’s faith on your behalf. Somebody took you to church, or told you when you were making a mistake. Your being a basket baby is the blessing of growing up with a loving, supportive church family. Being a basket baby means that as you grow and mature, you’re surrounded by a biological or church family that loves you and wants you to grow into conformity with Christ. That’s a great thing.

But at some point, you must be identified by what you choose, not by what somebody else chooses for you.

Moses could have chosen to stay in Pharaoh’s house. He could have had the life of ease and royalty, or he could live as a persecuted Hebrew. Either way, he had to make that decision himself. Moses’ parents chose life for him, but Moses would have to choose how he lived that life. Moses could choose to be a prince or a slave. As the song says, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

Moses was 40 when he finally came to that crossroads and left the basket. If you realize that you were privileged enough to have been a baby in the basket, have you left it yet? Being in the basket isn’t really about your age, but your maturity. It’s how responsible you are for your own spiritual identity and development.

How can you tell if you’re still in the basket? There are a few ways:

If your faith is defined by what other people chose for you, then you are still a baby in the basket. Regardless of your age, if you believe what you believe simply because it’s what your parents believed, then you’ve not taken ownership of your faith. At the end of all things, you alone will answer for what you chose in this life, not what somebody else chose for you.

If you’ve never really struggled with what you believe and why, then you might still a baby in the basket. Kids raised in church should be thankful to God that their parents raised them in an environment of love and faith. But if you’re not a child, then you need to be making your own commitments. That process might be painful. You can imagine the personal crisis of Moses as he wrestled with his identity. It’s not comfortable, but it’s necessary.

If you attend church without a thought for what you can personally contribute, you’re behaving like a baby in a basket. If that seems harsh, just think about it: Moses was three months old when his parents put him in the basket. A three-month-old knows how to do about three things: eat, sleep and cry. There are more, but you get the idea. A three-month-old doesn’t care what else you have planned at 3 a.m. If the kid is hungry, you’re going to be awake. If the kid needs a diaper, it will not let you rest until it is warm and dry. We don’t expect babies to do anything more at that point because they are not capable of more. A baby in the basket expects everybody else to take care of its needs. Is that how you view your relationship with your church?

If you throw a fit when you don’t get your way, you’re behaving like a baby in a basket. If you whine when other people don’t meet your needs and expectations, you’re acting like a baby in a basket. Again, that doesn’t have anything to do with age. We’ve probably all known people who acted very much like babies when it came to church life. Everything revolved around them, and if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it, you could expect a fit.

If everybody in your church were as committed to it as you are, would your church be better off, or would it be in trouble?

Moses was blessed to have protective parents; they rebelled against a culture of death in order to protect a helpless child. The church needs more people to outgrow their baskets, take ownership of their faith, and take on the responsibility of looking out for others, even when it’s difficult.

Be a fully functioning disciple, not a baby in the basket.