Everyone experiences times of disappointment. Parents comfort children by putting a nightlight in a dark room. Ministers comfort church members who have lost loved ones or a job. Fellow citizens hurry to aid those who have experienced loss due to some tragedy or natural disaster.
In this one verse, Jesus tells us how we can be comforted and attain true happiness. Again his words are a paradox, for he says those who mourn will find comfort and happiness.
All of us have needed comfort at some point in life. Perhaps there have been times when we would have liked to call a time-out, but we can’t. Life continues in the midst of disappointments, trials, and failures. Since we cannot call time out, we must discover a way to find happiness in the midst of our circumstances.
No greater comfort exists than that given by God. Jesus says comfort will come when we mourn.
Mourn for Others
The unusual thing about Christ’s statement is that God’s comfort is linked to mourning. Jesus says if we want to be happy we must be sad. When we are sad, then God will comfort us.
Everything we have ever been taught or heard contradicts this. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will warn against worrying. Paul also says not to be anxious (Philippians 4:6).
The parallel passage in Luke states, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21). Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “This saying condemns the apparent laughter, joviality, and happiness of the world by pronouncing woe upon it. But it promises blessing and happiness, joy and peace to those who mourn.”
Just as when Jesus said the poor were happy he was not speaking of a destitute person, so here also he gives a spiritual concept. We can begin to define Jesus’ conception of mourning by defining what it’s not. He does not refer to improper mourning. This is feeling sorry or sad for those whose evil plans have gone astray.
Many times when an individual loses a loved one, they can give birth to improper mourning. Mourning over losing a loved one is a natural and necessary process, but when taken to an extreme, it can be devastating. A person can mourn to the extent they become useless. Instead of mourning and getting over it or learning to adapt to the situation, they mourn for long periods of time. They come to the place where they can no longer function in society. It then becomes a selfish endeavor.
To mourn when we face death or disappointment can be proper or improper, and we determine the outcome. An old Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” A life wherein happiness was a constant would really be unhappy, for disappointments are the spices of life. Pain prods us on and leads us to investigate. When we experience sorrow, we learn to appreciate the good things in life. When we experience disappointments, it increases our sensitivity to the disappointments of others. Disappointments can even drive us to Christ.
But all of the above definitions probably fall short of what Jesus has in mind. A part of our mourning must be for others. We must have a social conscience. We must mourn over the evil in the world. To be a Christian means to be Christ-like, and to be Christ-like involves caring for other people. Christ cared for others, and if we belong to him we must also.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
We should never stand aloof or be critical of those social movements that honestly endeavor to meet the needs of those who have needs they cannot meet. If we have a love for humanity, we will have a love for those movements that try to meet their needs. While the need of salvation is primary and the most important need people have, many secondary needs must be met before those individuals can properly hear or will listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To mourn for others is not just to mourn for their salvation. It is to mourn over the inequality we see, whether it is race or social standing or some other inequality. It is to mourn for those who destroy the natural resources of our world. It is to mourn over the ethical problems prevalent in politics, medicine, business, and religion. To mourn over others means to be involved in our world and the things taking place in it.
Mourn over Sin
Mourning over sin is probably the primary meaning of what Jesus says. We need godly sorrow.
The Greek language uses nine terms for the word “mourn.” The one used here is reserved for the most severe and strongest kind of mourning. It is usually reserved for the kind of mourning that takes place when a person loses a loved one.
This kind of mourning is characteristic of believers and unbelievers. It speaks of the unbeliever who has recognized their sin and need of repentance and in sorrow wishes to turn to God. It also speaks of the mourning of a believer who has sinned against God and is truly sorry for that sin. It is mourning that helps us see our unworthiness before God. This naturally flows from the first Beatitude, which says we must be poor in spirit.
The gospels record Jesus crying over sin at least twice: first at the grave of Lazarus because of the unbelief of the Jews and then over the sin and hardness of heart of those in Jerusalem.
Just as Jesus mourned over sin, so we must also to find comfort and happiness.
Mourn to Receive Comfort
When we mourn as Jesus instructs—over sin in the world, sin in the lives of others, and sin in our own lives—we will receive comfort and find happiness. For the unbeliever who mourns over their sin, repents of it, and trusts Christ as their Savior, there is the comfort of knowing Christ accepts them and grants them salvation. Jesus came to appease the wrath of God against sin, and all who accept his forgiveness find comfort from him.
For the Christian, there is comfort in being delivered from present and future sins and their power, for Christ dealt with those sins on the cross. We can and should triumph over sin as we live the abundant life Jesus promises to us.
The final comfort for the Christian is knowing one day all sin and its effects will be removed from our lives and from the world. Pride, suffering, hate, sickness, and death will end. We will leave the world as we know it and enter the presence of Christ.