“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
The second beatitude spoken by Jesus to his disciples makes no sense at first glance. We have already seen that all of these beatitudes lead to blessing, to happiness. How is it possible that a sadness stemming from loss could make a person happy? What is the principle Jesus is teaching us? I am not sure that quoting this beatitude at the next funeral you attend would be helpful or encouraging, so what it Jesus saying to his followers?
The rest of the story
Radio Personality Paul Harvey used to host a program call “The Rest of the Story.” The broadcast would present little known or forgotten facts, and then fill in gaps of information not known. For our short time here on this planet, only God knows the “rest of the story.” I know of a man who was mourning the loss of his job after being let go. Three months after his departure, the team he was a part of all died in a plane crash. Had the man not lost his job, he would have been on the plane that took the lives of his colleagues. That incident took place many years ago and the man who was pushed out of his job is still living a full life. So, we can never fully see the whole picture, but we can have the confidence that God does see and that there are reasons even when we do not know them.
“For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief leads to death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 One application or Matthew 5:4 is that of feeling Godly sorrow for our own sin. When we come face to face with our own sinfulness, with the ways in which we often ignore or rebel against God, we cannot help but feel a deep sadness. This sadness is either the gateway to forgiveness and freedom, or despair and hopelessness. Think of the reactions of Peter and Judas at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Judas betrays and Peter denies. Peter’s sorrow drives him back into the arms of the loving savior while Judas’ grief leads him to hang himself. All of us sin because we are sinners. We cannot change that fact, but we can allow the reality of our own sin to cause us to fall on our knees at the feet of Jesus.
The promise of the beatitude is that we will be comforted. Comfort here carries with it the idea of coming along side someone. In other words, when we are mourning over the reality of our own condition or the sad condition of this world we live in, it is God who comes alongside us to offer comfort and support. After Peter denied Jesus, it was Jesus who called him back. I am convinced that if Judas had repented and sought forgiveness, it would have been granted to him. All of us will mourn in this life. The question is not how can we escape from mourning, the question is what our response will be in the midst of our mourning.