Which of the Beatitudes do you struggle with the most and why?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Jesus says. It’s the one I struggle with the most, not because I assume I will not be comforted, but because I’m not sure that I actually mourn. Some may call it optimism; other (perhaps wiser) souls may call it avoidance. I rarely feel deep grief about my own life despite having my average share of pain and loss and loneliness.
I have been more purposeful in the last five years to enter into lament for injustice, but expressing grief is still out of my comfort zone, even when I profoundly care. I wonder what blessing of comfort I am missing. I wonder what those who mourn well have to teach me. I believe that the promise of comfort is not just encouragement for those who mourn but the promise of a blessing for those who will enter into the grief of the world. This practice of seeking to lament leads me deeper into seeking the heart of God, where I am learning to listen to the voices of those who mourn—and mourning with them.
—J. Nicole Morgan, Author of Fat and Faithful: Learning to Love Our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves
The Bible is filled with seemingly impossible commands. “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45). “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). So when the Beatitudes say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” I wonder if I will ever see God. At no time am I more aware of the fallenness of this world than when I look at my own thoughts and actions. Daily failures to be patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and steadfast sometimes move me to despair that my vision of God will forever be obscured by my own obstinance. I struggle with this beatitude because I struggle with rebellion against God. My only hope is in Jesus, who gives me a new heart through faith in Him. A new heart gives me new eyes that I might see the Lord and be blessed.
—Jemar Tisby, Author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
I saw them crossstitched on Grandma’s throw pillow or cloaked in anecdotes—like a child’s fable, a morality lesson of “do this/receive that”—so growing up, I paid little mind to the Beatitudes. Their intrusive implications became clear only after I struggled with suicidal thoughts during episodes in which I was certain of nothing but my desperation. My deep and abiding dependence on God became a necessary constant. Stripped of my autonomy, of an able body and a sound mind—bootstraps I might’ve grasped to hoist myself up to some semblance of respectability—I was instead poor in spirit. It was a poverty out of my control, unfixed by better life choices, piety, or pretense. I reckoned with my beggarliness. I desired God’s strength, never realizing it would require me to be at my weakest for His glory to be put on full display. The scriptures I’d skimmed over make known a God most clearly revealed to those who know what it means to need.
—Alia Joy, Author of Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack
I think my chief struggle with most of the Beatitudes is my tendency to turn these statements of blessing into commands. For instance, my reaction to “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is to try and make myself hungry. But how do you make yourself hungry? I know how to do it with food; just skip a meal. But how does one cultivate a hunger and thirst for righteousness, especially in the face of distraction and my own tendency to apathy? For me, the first difficulty is in recognizing that the Beatitudes are not commands but statements of blessing that meet us at various points in our life. In other words, the whole of each beatitude, not just the second half, flows from God’s grace. It’s mercy all the way down.
—Joe Rigney, Assistant Professor of Theology and Literature at Bethlehem College & Seminary and author of Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God
Illustration by Lachlan Philp