The Beatitudes: Mourning Christians

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Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

We never know what God has planned for us. The conference that I attended in Puerto Rico in the Spring several years ago was good, but I begun to wonder if I should go. A hurricane that fall (nothing like what they had this year) had damaged the hotel we were to stay in and had to be moved to a different hotel. Then my airline schedule was changed without my approval. When the host professor from the seminary became ill and a different professor had to be sent, I really began to wonder.

But in due time we see God’s plan. A minister my age pasturing in another state, with a congregation much like Hillside attended the conference. The two of us had struck up a friendship about five years earlier at another conference we had attended in Atlanta. Neither of us had seen each other or talked with each other since that last conference.

I noticed a great change had taken place in his life. When I first met him he was overly self-confident, almost arrogant. This conference, he was noticeably quiet, introverted and very restless. He just learned at this conference about my wife’s death and he looked at me with a different look, it was obvious that something had been touched! Then he began to open up: His marriage of 18 years had ended. The reality was that the marriage was over long before the divorce. He took the responsibility of rearing their young daughter. In about a year he remarried, marring a lady that he had known since high school. The marriage ended in six months. The depression, the hurt, the isolation, they all came, but there was no one to help.

He retreated into himself to deal with the loss, the grief, the mourning and the pain. Now, two years later, he had worked through the depression. But he was different, he had changed considerably from the man I once knew. There was a restlessness about him, he was fidgety, and uncomfortable in couple oriented groups. All of us who have dealt with loss understand that feeling! He shared with me, “I don’t know what to do with myself.” And the words of Jesus came to mind, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

The word mourning is most frequently used in scripture for the dead, and for the sorrows and sins of others. There can be no comfort where there is no grief. The word used in Matthew 5:4 is the most intense pain for sorrow that can be found in the Greek language. Sorrow should make us look for the heart and hand of God and so find the comfort latent in the grief. The whole ministry of Jesus was geared to those who hurt and were sorrowful. Luke 4:18 “he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.

There are two meanings we can get out of this beatitude. “Blessed are they that mourn” means blessed are those who are afflicted with the loss of a friend or loved one. God has a special place in His heart for grief. The people mourned the death of Moses for 30 days. Jesus cried upon hearing about the death of Lazarus. God comforts those who will allow the comfort! Ida, the sister of Paula Pyles, shared that on the morning that Paula died there was such peace in the whole room. The grief was real, but the comfort of God was real in Ida’s soul. The Arabs have a saying, “All sunshine makes a desert.” In grief we learn something of ourselves, our fellow human beings and God. Matt 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

The second meaning I think is by far the most important meaning. It is of no little importance that this second beatitude follows the first beatitude of spiritual poverty. That is, those who, feeling their spiritual poverty, mourn after God, lamenting the iniquity that separated them from the fountain of blessedness. The one that knows his or her sin, mourns their sinfulness! As Christ came to preach repentance, to induce people to mourn over their sins and to forsake sin. 2 Cor 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Repentance, includes sorrow or mourning. We genuinely regret what we have done. A sense of anguish for sin characterizes the blessed man. But genuine repentance will bring comfort to the believer. Since Christ bore the sins of every man, the comfort of full forgiveness is readily available (). I Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

And the presence of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, brings comfort. While traveling on business, an executive had a very bad experience at one particular hotel. When he climbed into bed a bug started racing up his leg. He jumped from the bed, turned on the lights, and threw back the covers. The bug wasn’t alone…there were numerous other critters between the sheets. Although the man was granted another room, he was not satisfied with the situation. Upon returning home, he wrote a letter to the hotel’s corporate office. Within a few weeks he received a letter directly from the company’s president. With flattering remarks and penitent words the president made it quite clear the problem should have never occurred and that he would make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The businessman felt somewhat vindicated by the letter until a small post-it note fell from the envelope. The secretary had inadvertently left her boss’s directives on the reply. The little note simply said, “Send this man the bug letter.” It’s not repentance when we just try to cover our tracks after getting caught. Repentance involves a commitment to correct our ways. The man who knows his sins is greater than one who raises a dead man by his prayer.

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