Some people see, and have a need to experience the God of their understanding as a rule-giving God. I have always understood God as showing us the way things work: if you do this, then this will happen. You are human and these are the things that are going to work for you to be peaceful and supremely happy. So rather than rules, I have seen God as giving a prescription for a good life, for the best life, in which I fulfill who I am made to be.
So, the Beatitudes don’t grab me as rules. When I have thought of them as rules, I hear it like this: If you do this, then I will bless you. If you do this, then I will be good to you. The God of my understanding doesn’t work that way — he’s not a tit for tat or quid pro quo kind of guy, or gal. He’s neither guy nor gal, but that’s not a subject for now.
The second beatitude, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” can be bothersome. Why should I mourn just so I can be comforted! Let’s just get on with the good stuff, and cut out this pain part!
I take this in another way: Mourning here refers to the acknowledgement of sin and suffering. Acknowledgement, rather than denial, is the way of God, the way that will bring peace. As long as we do not acknowledge the realities of our lives, and the things that do cause us pain, we cannot live our lives with any depth. Further, the Lord tells us here that we are assured of His comfort if we venture forth to embrace all of reality. He will be with us when we deal with the truth, and sometimes the truth is painful and so we will mourn. Whenever we deal with truth we are close to God and can be comforted.
How does this relate to the 12 Steps? Anyone that has ever done a first step or a fourth step can tell you that mourning is involved! To admit powerlessness over a substance; this is a blow to ego, a blow to pride. There is a loss, a death, in admitting that I cannot do something on my own. When I work the steps in Al-Anon, this mourning is all too clear: I cannot control my loved ones and they may choose self-destructive paths. For this I will mourn, finally, when I give up trying to keep them from themselves. Control is my favorite coping mechanism. Why? Because I want to avoid pain. I would not turn to control if everything in my life were hunky-dory, if I lived in a paradise. Paradise by definition would be a place without sadness, without crying or tears. For Paradise, I don’t need mourning. But to live in the reality of my daily world, I will be deeply happy only if I can let go and let the world, and the people in it, be as they are, even though this may cause me sorrow. I can be blessed in this sorrow of really seeing things as they are, and not as I would have them, because I am therefore participating in the reality of God’s universe and I will be closer to Him when I deal with truth, even though sometimes, truth hurts. Truth can hurt; and I will comfort you says God. This is the path to peace.
This is not to say that deep happiness is quickly found or instantaneous when I begin to deal with reality as it stands. There is pain; that is the mourning part. The way to the comfort is through that pain, that mourning. There is no life without death; no resurrection without crucifixion. But there is no cruxifixion without resurrection!
This second beatitude seems to me to relate to the second of the twelve steps. That is, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. When I am trying to wrest some order out of reality, some order that I want it to have that it does not, I am wrestling with truth, trying to change things so that I do not have to feel pain. This is insanity. I can’t change anything about reality. It is when I can look at this fight and begin to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to a right order vis a vis some hard reality, that I can begin to find comfort. The comfort begins in knowing that there is a Power greater than myself whose job it is to handle these things. When I let go and mourn the loss of the illusion of control and the mess that I have made of things, I can be assured that a Higher Power than I can take care of things. Blessed are we when we mourn in this way: mourn that things are not as I would have them, give up fighting with them in whatever ways we fight, and begin to believe that there is a saner way to live.
The comfort does not end there. The third step tells us that the way forward in a spiritual experience is to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God. If we have the belief, the faith that God can restore us to sanity, and we can surrender to His grace, His providence, doesn’t that sound comforting? We can be as children in this regard, going to a loving parent who can take care of things that we are not capable of, and we can have the certainty that all will be well. We don’t have to manage well, be better than we are, or strive. We can turn everything over to a Higher Power and rest.
Jesus says in another place: “Come to me all who are heavily burdened…. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me… and you shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11: 28-30)
And what are we surrendering, what are we mourning? What are our burdens? These are our sins, those ways in which we fall short of the mark that we are made for, those ways in which we hurt others, and hurt ourselves. It is those ways in which we are less than our best selves, less than the potential we come equipped with. We know when we fall short of the mark and it pains us. It is when we acknowledge this shortfall that we can be comforted.
With God there is no giving up, no surrendering, even the surrender of the uglier realities of ourselves and our lives without reward, without comfort. Supremely happy, deeply fulfilled will be those who mourn their participation in the evil of the world, for they shall be closer to God and comforted by that God.