“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (5:4)
Bonhoeffer and Wesley have both unique perspectives on this beatitude and insights that overlap, so in this post I will highlight their unique perspectives and in the next post* I will discuss their convergence.
Wesley begins by stating that those who mourn includes those who have “tasted and seen” that the Lord is good, but who are troubled by an experience of the absence of God. Perhaps this is something like a “dark night of the soul” of which St. John of the Cross speaks. But it may also be due to sins that cloud the disciple’s access to the God they have come to know through Christ. Though Wesley believes in the possibility of God’s grace as powerful enough to produce real holiness in Christian believers, he acknowledges here that seeing temptation and sin still present in one’s life can be disheartening. So, the disciple mourns. They mourn for the nearness to God and access to God that they experienced in their conversion and in powerful experiences of grace.
This mourning serves a purpose because it is accompanied by the promise, “for they will be comforted.” Experiencing the absence of God heightens the disciple’s joy when the Spirit comforts them.
They shall be comforted by the consolations of his Spirit; by a fresh manifestation of his love; by such a witness of his accepting them in the Beloved, as shall never more be taken away from them. …it suffices them to say, by the power now resting upon them, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Wesley sees this experience as having been foreshadowed in the relationship between Jesus and his disciples on the night of his passion. In John’s Gospel, the disciples are anxious when Jesus announces that he will be leaving them, so he assures them that though they will mourn him, he will return and they will be reunited.
Bonhoeffer sees something different in this beatitude. He finds meaning in Luther’s translation that translates the original Greek word with a German word that means “sorrow-bearing.” Rather than being disconnected by their calling to be set apart for Christ, “The disciple-community does not shake off sorrow as though it were no concern of its own, but willingly bears it. And in this way they show how close are the bonds which bind them to the rest of humanity.”
They do not look for suffering. But as it comes their way naturally, they bear it “as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake” (emphasis original). This becomes a way of growing closer in fellowship to their Savior and Lord, “for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross.”
*Due to a glitch in either saving, posting, or editing a couple weeks ago, this post did not publish at the expected or scheduled time and a draft was no longer available. For this reason, I have rewritten it, though it is now out of order. Hopefully no such glitches will occur in the future.