The Keys to Happiness
Matthew 5:1-2, 4
Ten rules for happier living:
1. Give something away (no strings attached)
2. Do a kindness (and forget it)
3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance)
4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel)
5. Laugh often (it’s life’s lubricant)
6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough)
7. Pray (or you will lose the way)
8. Work (with vim and vigor)
9. Plan as though you’ll live forever (because you will)
10.Live as though you’ll die tomorrow (because you will on some tomorrow)
The ten things listed make sense to us, but when we hear Jesus’ words in today’s passage of Scripture about what he says can make us happy, the words don’t quite make sense to us. But Jesus is teaching about his kingdom, and remember, his kingdom looks much different from the world his first century hearers lived in. It looks strangely different from the world we live in as well. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-2, and then in verse four, as we seek to discover the second key to happiness:
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:  And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Happy are the people who mourn for they shall be comforted. That makes no sense to us. What more particularly makes sense is this statement—Happy is the person who has never seen grief. Or this one—Happy is the person who has never known tears. Our philosophy of life is to avoid crying at all costs. We believe it is not good to know tears—tears of loss, tears of pain, tears of suffering. Let’s avoid them at all costs. But Jesus says that is not the case.
What does it mean to mourn? I had a secretary who was the only child left from her family. Her mother and father had passed away, and her only sister, who was an identical twin had also died. Ila would often joke that she was going to have to hire mourners for her funeral because there wasn’t going to be any family left to mourn. We laugh at that, but that is exactly what people used to do. They would hire professional mourners. Actually, they weren’t professionals, but were paid for their services. There were actually people who went from funeral to funeral making a living off the suffering of others. When a loved one died, these mourners were available, for a small fee of course, to come and make great lament for the dearly departed. Sounds fun, huh? Jesus was talking about something much more than the singular mourning for the dearly departed. These mourners were there only for window dressing.
The kind of mourning that Jesus is speaking of here comes from the strongest Greek word for sorrow. Jesus is speaking of that sorrow that pierces and breaks a person’s heart; the sorrow that is reflected in our faces and impacts our actions. The Old Testament saint, King David, mourned with this type of sorrow when his son, Absalom, revolted against him. We find the story in 2 Samuel 15. There David, and those who mourned with him, covered their heads, went barefoot, and wept. They went up into the mountain to worship and cry out to God. If being poor in spirit means the humility of recognizing and admitting our need, then mourning in the sense that Jesus speaks of here is the kind that moves us in the center of our being and changes our lives forever.
What do we mourn?
Personal- those sins which so easily beset us—anger, pride, prejudice, lying, cheating, gluttony, avarice, hatred. As a nation—what are our national sins? As a world—see injustice in the world. The AIDS epidemic, the images of starving children in the world, the persecution of Christians. What other areas do we see injustice and inequity.
When we mourn our sins it leads us to the source of our happiness—Jesus Christ. The essence of spiritual mourning is the realization of what we have done with life and of our desperate need for the forgiveness of the Lord. Mourning our sins in this deepest sense brings us to three life-giving words: “Lord, forgive me!” The happy life begins with these three words, and it grows as we live our lives constantly repeating those words.
Happiness is knowing Jesus Christ, but we cannot know him as Savior until we admit we are sinners. Saying, “Lord, forgive me,” is how new life begins. Mourning our sins moves us to Christ, and there we experience the comfort that this beatitude promises. When we come to Christ, we find forgiveness for our sins. We find compassion from one who has mourned and was moved to action. The heart of God broke over the separation that sin caused. The broken heart of God moved to action in Jesus Christ as he came into the world to save sinners like you and me. His mourning carried him all the way to the cross where he suffered and bled and died so that our sins might be forgiven. He mourned, and he was moved. That is the beginning of the happy life.
But that is only the beginning. The mourning that leads us to experience the compassion of Christ becomes the secret to the daily happiness of the abundant life. The closer we walk to Christ each day, the more we are able to experience his great forgiveness, and the more we are able to experience his forgiveness in our own lives, the more we are able to forgive others, and we are moved with compassion to extend that forgiveness to others, and see them reconciled to God, and see ourselves reconciled to them. We know the source of comfort for we know Jesus Christ. The comfort we have experienced in Jesus is the comfort we want to extend to those in need. We are moved to compassion.
Compassion. There is the second key to happiness. What is compassion? Compassion is mourning the brokenness of ourselves and others, and being moved to action to address the need. Compassion, according to Jess Moody, is “not a snob gone slumming.” Anybody can make themselves feel better by doing a good deed occasionally. Compassion is taking a trip down inside the broken heart of a friend, or feeling the sob of the soul. The beginning of compassion, Moody says, is having the red, raw meat of emotional agony of your neighbor become your own, and then sit down with him and silently weep.
I think of all these people who have lost their homes, their jobs, their cars, their loved ones, their very lives as they have known them as a result of Hurricane Katrina. They are truly in mourning. They are saddened by their great loss. And we are saddened by their great loss. But any sadness felt at their loss is actually lost sadness unless they and we are motivated to action. It is mourning with no meaning. It is, like the hired mourners at a funeral, window dressing.
There are so many ways we live out the window dressing of our mourning. Those ways are illustrated in the beliefs and traditions we hold even in our Christian organizations. There is humorous story that illustrates the point but it is humorous because there is more than a bit of truth revealed in each of the characters.
A man walking along a path one day stumbles and falls into a pit. A Christian Scientist along his journey walks by, sees the man in the pit and says, “You only think you’re in a pit,” and continues on his way. A Pharisee soon walks by, discovers the man the pit and says, “Only bad people fall into pits,” and without a thought continues on. A Fundamentalist Christian comes along, peers at the poor man in the pit and says, “You deserve your pit.” A Pentecostal comes by and says, “Just confess you’re not in the pit.” Then, of course, a Methodist comes by and says, “Here, we brought you some food and clothes while you’re in the pit. Now I must be on my way for there are other pits to find.” A Baptist happens by, looks at the man in the pit and says, “This is no accident, you know?” As always, an optimistic type, notices the guy in the pit, smiles and says, “Things could be worse, don’t you know?” The eternal pessimist comes along and says, “Things will get worse, you know?” Finally, Jesus comes along, sees the guy in the pit, and says, “Let’s get you out of that pit.” Then he reaches down, takes the man by the hand, and lifts him out of the pit.
That is compassion. That is what Jesus has called us to.
We were that man in the pit, placed there and trapped there by our own sinfulness. But Jesus came to us, and through the cross, pulled us out. That is his comfort for us. Then, in gratitude, we begin to look for other pits and other people. Our happiness is made complete when we move beyond ourselves through the Holy Spirit to offer the same comfort to others we discover in the pit, as we offer the hand of grace to pull them up and out.
Happiness is found in mourning. It doesn’t make sense. But, then again, it doesn’t make sense that Jesus would love us when we were so un-loveable. We might find some happiness by following those ten simple rules for happiness, but once again, I think that happiness will only be found when we are following those rules. We find real happiness, that happiness that is sufficient, and satisfying, and secure when we discover the compassion of Jesus Christ, and live out that compassion in our lives. That is what he told the crowd that day on the mountain. That is what he tells us in our hearts this morning.