11 May Christians Should Just Be Happy, Right?
It’s the desire of all mankind: real, enduring happiness.
Most of us have undertaken that impossible project of self-improvement and of becoming more pleased with ourselves, only to discover the superficiality of throwing a smile on every situation. Artificial happiness points us toward a more profound, comprehensive sort of joy. In fact, maybe that kind of happiness should not be the objective at all.
Jesus describes the emotional condition of his disciples in Matthew 5:4, saying, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Fortunate are the grievers; happy are the lamenters–a paradox beyond comprehension for those outside of the kingdom of God.
Wait, mourn and be happy?
Susan Kennedy explained the possibility of this paradox in Those Who Mourn. No doubt there is a biblical precedence for mourning the reality of sin; people like King David and Isaiah the Prophet speak of “mourning” the brokenness of themselves and the world around them (Psalm 119:136, Isaiah 6:5). The Apostle Paul even praised such mourning when writing to the church in Corinth, saying “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Speaking practically though, how does that affect our way of life?
The point is not that we walk around in a state of moping. Quite the opposite. Paul encourages us to maintain a rejoicing spirit before the Lord (Philippians 4:4), and Jesus taught that spirituality should not be some sort of show (Matthew 6:5-7, 16-18). So don’t confuse mourning with moping!
Paul encourages us to maintain a rejoicing spirit before the Lord (Philippians 4:4), and Jesus taught that spirituality should not be some sort of show (Matthew 6:5-7, 16-18). So don’t confuse mourning with moping!
Is just mourning our sin enough?
This state of mourning – and the comfort that God promise in those moments – also doesn’t replace repentance. Why? Because even though sin’s power has been overcome, it still lingers around us. Until the new creation (Revelation 21-22), which will be free of death and grief and pain, we won’t be able to help our sorrow. The world is broken, Christ came to restore it—but not everyone has acknowledged it!
So, yes, rejoice in his grace and your redemption! Sing praises of thanksgiving, and testify to the peace that you have found in Christ. But at the same time, don’t forget to ponder the justice of God. Recognize and fully experience conviction. Mourn the lostness of your community.
When the Lord addresses your sin, allow yourself to feel the shame and regret that may arise. We’re quick to confess without having a broken spirit, which is ultimately what God desires from us (Psalm 51:17, Matthew 5:3-5).
Put it to action
1) Read the so-called “Psalms of Lament,” some of which express that very attitude of “a broken spirit” (Psalm 38 or Psalm 130, for example), others mourn the sinfulness of a whole community or generation (Psalm 79 and 90)
2) Empathize with the grief of the writer, and use those same words to express your own “mourning” for your sin and the lost ones that you love dearly.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re in need of more Godly sorrow.