Every year on July 25, my birthday, Oswald Chambers, in his devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest, hands out an annual dose of a foul-tasting medicine for the spirit. Am I so resistant to this painfully personal message that I need this annual reminder? Probably. Who isn’t?
Jesus says, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Jesus also affirms, even values and recommends to his followers, other experiences I would rather dodge, like being persecuted, poor and hungry. Chambers comments, “The teaching of Jesus…comes with astonishing discomfort…”
I must add that this astonishing discomfort turns quickly into unwanted suffering each and every time I am supposedly “blessed” in one of these ways. “Bummer, bummer, bad trip,” I protest again and again.
The Spirit hears my protest but continues to bless me anyway, as I pass through, and then pass beyond, discomfort and suffering—mourning this time—and once again experience the presence of God comforting, holding, loving me as I travel again through the Valley of the Shadow.
I do not expect to ever become happy when I notice astonishing discomfort descending upon me again. But the time gap between feeling the suffering and knowing the blessing is getting shorter and shorter. And, I am becoming much less resistant to enter the mourning, poverty, persecution or hunger that are for me the path towards abundant and eternal life and love.
Oswald Chambers concludes:
The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations: it is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting God’s way with us.