(…continued) I’m not saying God causes every trouble. It’s not that simple. But when trouble comes, from whatever source, we do think about God. Our thoughts do then return to God.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now.” He doesn’t say, “Throw away all your food.” Food is one of God’s blessings. Eat it when you have it and be happy with it. But Jesus is saying even hunger can be a blessing if it brings you back to God. That is what is most important. Riches, good times, laughter, and comfort can all be blessings of God. But all of those things can become for us curses, and not blessings, if they make us forget God. Then, we would have been better off with poverty, hunger, persecution, and weeping. In the Beatitudes, Jesus is speaking from that eternal perspective.
Things look different after even a few years, as you well know. When I was fourteen I would have thought it real nice and good and proper if my dad and mother would have just given me money whenever I wanted it. But they didn’t. If I was low on money, Dad would say, “Go on out to Uncle Ed’s and bale hay, hoe thistles, and clean calf pens; and if you work hard and do a good job, he’ll give you a dollar an hour. Then you will have your money.” I always hated to hear him say, “Clean calf pens.” If I had been Aladdin, I would have used up one of my wishes just wishing that I wouldn’t have to ever clean any more calf pens. I hated it then, but I have a larger perspective now. I see that such work was good. From the larger perspective of eternity, everything will look different.
That’s what Jesus is saying here in the Beatitudes. What we think of now as blessings and good times, we might see then as real detriments to our well-being. And what we think of now as hardships and handicaps may, in the long run, be our greatest blessings.
C.S. Lewis wrote something similar to this in one of his books. He tells about what money can do to us if we trust only in that:
Christ said ‘Blessed are the poor’ and ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom.’ . . . One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God . . . which is presumably what led Jesus to remark one day that for a rich man to get to Heaven is about as easy as for a camel to get through the eye of a needle.
If blessings and good times lead us away from God, they are, in the long run, bad and not good. If troubles and hardships bring us closer to God, they are, in the long run, good and not bad.
The eighth chapter of Job (v. 13-15) contains these verses which comment on the foolishness of trusting in the wrong things:
This is the destiny of the one who forgets God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
What he trusts in is fragile;
what he relies on is a spider’s web.
He leans on his web, but it gives way;
he clings to it, but it does not hold.
God is the only solid foundation worthy of our whole-hearted trust. If any lesser, earthly blessing keeps us from that eternal foundation, it is no longer a blessing. But if we remember God, and if we keep God foremast in our hearts, then the blessings can be enjoyed as the gifts of God that they are. Then we are also free to live with or without money, health, or even food. Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes can serve as warnings against trusting in the wrong things, but they also serve as a word of comfort for us when those blessings that we want or even need most are absent. Just hold on, Jesus says, believe in me. Then, in time your weeping will turn to joy, and your hunger will be satisfied, and those who seem to have nothing left now will inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Don’t let the rough limes do you in, says Jesus. Present blessings and woes will all someday look entirely different. When I was a kid, I could not see how any benefit could come from cleaning calf pens. Now, from a more mature perspective, I know that in forcing me to work, my parents were not being mean, but being wise. Who knows, but that in the same way our worst troubles now will look entirely different from God’s wiser perspective? We are, after all, still little children in God’s sight. And our view of the larger picture is, like children’s, limited and inadequate.
II Corinthians 4:16-18: — Therefore, we do not lose heart for our light and momentary troubles here are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
II Kings 6:17a — Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”
Ephesians 1:18 — I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.
OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART LORD
By Paul Baloche
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You…
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy…
There’s nothing like You, holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy, I want to see You, I got to see you