Why Are Those Who Mourn Blessed?
By Pastor Don Strand
Jesus continues, with the pronouncement of eight attributes that are seen in a disciple of Christ which will bring God’s blessing, with this second Beatitude. ““Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV).
How is it, that a condition of mourning can bring blessing? Isn’t someone who mourns miserable? Is it a blessing to be unhappy? Well, it depends on what a person mourns. In our ‘natural’ state, we do anything and everything to avoid being unhappy. The entire entertainment industry, TV, movies, music, video games, sports, even the news which is little more than entertainment, exists to distract us from the true condition that surrounds us in a fallen world. Henry David Thoreau, the American writer, and philosopher who lived from 1817-1862, said; “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Today we are encouraged to live lives of aimless distraction. Any distraction will do if it helps us to avoid thinking of our mortality and the prospect of eternity.
To understand what Jesus is saying in this verse, we need first to recognize that He is not speaking of people who mourn the loss of earthly things. Nor is He saying the everyone who ever mourned the death of a friend or loved one will be comforted. Instead, just as “the poor” in the first Beatitude did not mean everyone who lacks money, so to those who mourn does not mean everyone who happens to be lamenting. John Stott says “It is not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance.”
Those who mourn, over their sin, and sin in general, with its effects of heartbreak, disgrace, pain and loss are those who will be comforted. There is a progression that is seen in the Beatitudes. The Christian has a sense of self-awareness and is ‘poor in spirit’. Knowing that sin is the root of his or her inability and unworthiness in God’s sight results in mourning over sin wherever it is encountered. This means there is a fundamental seriousness about the Christian life. In the joy of hearing the gospel of Christ that the Christian is forgiven of all sin and unrighteousness, still, the follower of Jesus is marked by a sense of gravity and sobriety The world may be aimlessly distracted by the entertainment offered on every hand, but not the church and not God’s people. The stakes are too high; eternity is the final reality.
But this does not mean Christians are to be dour and miserable. What good is a person who has the joy of Christ to look like they just ate a lemon? While we mourn over sin and its consequences, there are two primary ways that we are blessed with comfort in our mourning.
First, our mourning leads to salvation. True repentance always contains grief for sin. True repentance involves the mind, the will, and the emotions. In our minds, we confess our sin and our sinfulness. This recognition and confession cause our will to turn from sin to the righteousness defined by God’s laws. The result is always grief, mourning, and a sense of emotional sadness. When we harm or offend another person, the hurt can only be resolved when there is true sorrow for the offense. It’s not enough to say “I’m sorry.” The offense is only resolved when the offender has as much grief as the person who has been offended. Only then does the person offended see that the offender understands the seriousness of what he has done. Then true forgiveness and reconciliation can occur.
In a similar way, when we humble ourselves and truly grieve over our sin, God restores us, and we are again in His good graces. This is the first reason we are ‘blessed’ and comforted when we truly mourn.
Second, mourning leads to hope. When Jesus says those who mourn “shall be comforted,” He is referring to the future. While we gain a bit of comfort when we are restored to a right relationship with God by repentance, the final and complete comfort will not be experienced until we are with God in eternity. For this reason, the writer to the Hebrews devotes an entire chapter, chapter eleven, to the hope that Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Samuel, many others had in knowing there awaits “something better” (vs. 40) that God promised those who trust in Him.
Therefore, we take comfort in knowing we will receive full comfort when we see Him face to face. The certainty of comfort in the Kingdom of God makes it worthwhile now to mourn over sin when it leads to true repentance and the hope of comfort that God has promised. Truly blessed of God are those who mourn.