One of the great problems with our fallen human nature, however, is that we will do almost anything to avoid facing the reality of our situation so that we can mourn over it and move forward. In our contemporary culture we have grown to hate the thought of taking any kind of responsibility for the circumstances of our lives. We have cultivated a culture of blame-shifting, and would rather find fault with something outside ourselves than to reckon ourselves responsible. We would rather blame the food industry for filling their products with fat and chemicals than face the fact that we are gluttons, unwilling to discipline our appetites. As this is being written in the fall of 2005, the courts have just ruled that people who are obese can no longer bring lawsuits against fast-food restaurants! We would rather blame the government for taking prayer out of schools than acknowledge the fact that we are prayerless people. We want to put an interpretive “spin” on our situations so that we appear in the best possible light. Therefore we construct elaborate and devious schemes so that someone else – anyone else – will be forced to take the blame for our condition instead of us.
Another way that we avoid true mourning is by keeping our grief at a superficial level, feeling sorry for ourselves in the face of troublesome circumstances rather than allowing the situation to expose our deeper issues. An example of this is seen in a Biblical story found in Genesis 19 that speaks to this avoidance tendency in a powerful way. A man name Lot was the nephew of Abraham, and had taken up residence in the wicked city of Sodom. Over time, God became fed up with the evil practices of the citizens there, and He determined to bring judgment to the city by raining down fire from heaven to destroy it. Three angels came to Lot to warn him of the impending disaster, and urge him to take his family and leave town immediately. They were specifically warned not to look back upon the destruction of the city lest they be caught themselves in that judgment. Lot’s wife ignored the advice, looked back as they were leaving, and was turned into a pillar of salt!
You might say that the reason she looked back was that she was mourning the loss of her home and friends, but the mourning called for in the Beatitudes requires a deeper process. Lot’s wife had a more basic issue. Deep in her heart this woman had a love for the ethos of the city, an attraction to the lusty lifestyle that surrounded her. She had allowed her heart to become attached to a situation that was totally compromised. Instead of truly mourning the duplicity in her own heart and rejoicing in the true comfort of God’s deliverance, she felt sorry for herself, and gave herself to yearning after the lost pleasures of Sodom. She thus received judgment instead of real comfort and freedom.
What God desires is that when we are confronted with the reality of our own condition, we allow the Holy Spirit to impact our hearts with what our compromise costs us in our relationship with Jesus. To the degree that we see this and truly grieve over the cost of compromise, Jesus declares that we will be comforted by His presence as a result.