The positive and encouraging message isn’t always the message we need

It’s interesting to me to consider the popular Christian music. It’s almost always easy listening.

I was looking at some of the slogans for popular Christian radio stations.

Perhaps the biggest in America, K-Love, which plays on 440 stations “positive – encouraging.”

The River, which was the Christian radio station in Columbus, “uplifting and encouraging.”

Smile FM, which is a popular station in Michigan says “positive hits.”

Air1 which plays on 123 stations in 43 states: “positive hits.”

Joy FM which is in Florida “helping you find joy.”

Way FM “uplifting, upbeat, real.”
There’s no Christian radio stations that advertise as being “convicting and sanctifying.” None advertise as being “sackcloth and ashes.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with being positive, there’s nothing wrong with being encouraged.

But is that the way Christians are always supposed to feel? Our society likes the easy listening message. The American church likes the positive and encouraging message.
But we come to the second of the Beatitudes, in the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s: “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Life verses

I think of popular life verses people pick. Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Or Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Positive, encouraging verses.

There are churches where there’s almost this pressure on people to always be smiling, happy, positive.

Because we like a positive, encouraging culture. But what about when you’re not doing well?

Is a church to be another place where a person has to put up a front? Or is it a place where people can be honest?

Now I’m not saying we should be unkind or rude to one another. But sometimes people are hurting. And there’s no virtue in white-knuckling it when you’re struggling.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Church is not a place that’s primary mission is positivity and encouragement.
It’s preaching Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And in studying God’s word, the primary goal should not always be the easy listening, K-love, positive and encouraging message.

Because blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The first of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And that is for the person who realizes that they are nothing and have nothing to offer God, to warrant favor, to merit grace, to earn heaven. And the blessedness is realizing that the grace of God is your only hope.

The second of the beatitudes flows from the idea of the first. For a person who realizes how small they are before God and their utter need and dependence on God, that in seeing sin, there is blessedness in that.

In the first case, you realize that God is your only hope.

In the second, it’s having a greater sense of the state from which God redeemed you.

Blessed are those who mourn.

That word. “Blessed.” It’s one of those theologized and churchy words. Another way to translate it would be fortunate are those who mourn” or “happy are those who mourn.”

And abundant, supernatural heavenly blessing for those who mourn.

Part of what the beatitudes are doing is showing us that the values of heaven are not the same as the values of this world. In fact, it’s a set of values that are utterly incoherent to our world.

Perhaps none of them more starkly displays the difference in the values of heaven and earth than the second of the beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

That’s not the K-love message. That’s not the positive and encouraging message.

And that’s ok.

In fact, I hope you don’t always leave encouraged.

That’s not saying I want you to be discouraged. That’s not to say I want you feeling hopeless. That even when a text hits us hard, that we might rejoice all the more because of the hope that we do have in Christ.

But in studying the Bible, I hope there are times when the weight of God’s word eviscerates you.

There should be times where you’re convicted because of it. Times where you reexamine your life, your heart, your decisions, your motivations because of it.

There should be messages that ring in your heart long after the benediction.

But again, not to be left in total despair, but to be worshipful and rejoicing in the tremendous grace that Jesus gives.

And that might not always be cheery and positive. Because we’re sinful people. And for a thoughtful Christian, sometimes we get hit by stark realities about ourselves and our hearts as we study his word.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe! 

Josh Benner  has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.

Let’s connect!