Happy News for Sad People
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3, NIV)
There's this guy in my friend's youth group. I'll call him Joe. His life is a mess. Some music on his iPod is morally sketchy. Joe sneaks into R-rated movies and pops onto porn sites now and then. That's just the tip of the iceberg, my friend says. Joe doesn't pray or read his Bible. Some weeks, he hardly thinks about God at all.
He loves God, and he wants to follow Jesus, but he's not exactly good at following through. On top of that, Joe looks at the world around him and all he sees are war, disease, death and destruction—and it just makes him feel worse about life. It all makes him feel really sad some days, even depressed. When he really gets into a funk, he honestly wonders if life is worth living.
And Jesus comes along and says: "Joe, you are poor in spirit, and you are blessed because of it. God's kingdom is yours, my friend." Joe's definitely poor in spirit. He knows he's a loser. And yet Jesus calls him blessed.
Doesn't make sense, does it? That's because in our culture, we're often told just the opposite. We're told we should have it together. We're told we should always feel good about ourselves. We should always be upbeat. We should always be happy. Happy, happy, happy! And we're told that people who are happy are healthy and normal, and people who are unhappy are unhealthy and not normal.
It's a lie. Don't believe it. If you do believe it, you're only going to spiral down into worse feelings, because you'll start thinking, I'm feeling sad, but I should be feeling happy, and it makes me even sadder that I can't be happy like everyone expects! Get sucked into that type of thinking, and you may never come out of it. It's a death spin.
But Jesus says that it's normal to feel really sad sometimes. It's normal to struggle with some messy problems. The world is a messed-up place—there's lots of death, destruction, selfishness and evil out there. And that doesn't even count what's going on in our personal worlds, which sometimes include awful stuff like divorced parents, loneliness, breakups, drug abuse and sexual abuse.
In fact, something is wrong with us if we don't feel really sad about life sometimes. It means we're not paying attention. That's why Jesus goes further and says it is blessed to feel deep sadness. When you do, it means you really understand that the world is all screwed up, and that your life is an utter mess, and that there really is no hope—outside of Christ.
And that's the key that prevents us from spiraling out of control into the death spin. We need Jesus Christ more than we need anything else. And it is only when we are poor in spirit—when we know we are spiritually poor, and when we feel the deep sadness of living in a tragic world—that we can begin to see Jesus clearly. That's the Jesus who died on a cross, who literally feels our pain, who experiences the sadness and destruction of a world gone mad.
When we see that Jesus, it doesn't take long for us to see the Jesus who rose from his own death spiral and now grabs our hand and says, "Come on, we're outta here." And then he leads us back into this tragic world, which suddenly doesn't seem merely tragic. In the midst of all the tragedy, we gain eyes to see the quiet, hidden ways in which Jesus is filling the world with his love and grace.
Like he does with people like Joe. He embraces people like that, people who are poor in spirit. He tells us it's OK to feel miserable, and that despite what we may be feeling at the moment, this is the beginning of hope.
Written by Mark Galli
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