When you hurt, what does it mean for your faith? Too often church culture and religious individuals suggest that emotional pain belies lack of faith or sin against a punitive God. Even the well-meaning advice to turn back to Jesus implies that you must have strayed. Little wonder that when people face divorce, mental illness, discrimination, and other sources of stigmatized suffering, they retreat from the church when they most need loving community.
How ironic. For the Savior suffered loneliness and misunderstanding even among his friends. Along with his people, he suffered the oppression of an occupying power and the poverty that comes with that. But as Paul wrote, Christ waived ultimate power and descended to the lowest point of persecution, humiliation, stigmatization, and unjust execution. He meets us at the lowest places we can go and lifts us to hope and life with his resurrection (Philippians 2:3-11). If you are depressed or anxious, if you feel unworthy or ashamed, he meets you there not as a condescending do-gooder but as a fellow struggler who offers life and hope, who embodies life and hope.
If those words express your hope or if you want them to, this web site is addressed to you. I offer it for you to include among your companions, for you to find company here for the lonely road. To understand what I hope to give you through your visits here, let me tell you something more I believe Jesus does for us in our emotional pain. According to Matthew 5:3-12, he opened his great Sermon on the Mount with a series of blessings since christened, “Beatitudes”:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Like a diamond that fires from every angle, the Beatitudes have many rich and valid interpretations. This perspective helps me in the passage through darkness: We already possess every virtue blessed – poverty of spirit, a healing power to grieve, gentle strength, and so forth – and God promises every blessing unconditionally. We only consciously know these virtues within when we free ourselves to accept the blessing, and nothing prepares us to accept it like the journey through suffering. From a place of pain, God sends us on a life of love and joy, a life of purpose.
In my blog, I offer brief reflections from looking at life with Beatitudinal eyes. Studying the Beatitudes in their everyday manifestations helped me see them within myself and in the hidden and open places all about me. Such vision heals, and I hope to share the balm with you in the blog. Please check the Beatitudes Blog page for links to recent posts, and for links to top posts, see the bottom of the About Me page.
I publish blog posts every Monday and Thursday morning, so check in on those days. Better yet, subscribe to receive posts via email when published using the easy widget on the upper right side of the page. As a bonus, you will receive a free electronic copy of my first book, The Ancient Laugh of God: Divine Encounters in Unlikely Places (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994).
This is a hospitable place. Someone prepared a table for you and me here. Enjoy the food, the rest, and the company.
Unless indicated otherwise, all scripture quotations on this web site are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.