Summary: Happy are those who mourn. Today’s text is one of the great contradictions of the Bible. Even if we don’t use happy for the word blessed, there still seems to be little correlation between being blessed and grieving.
Happy are those who mourn. Today’s text is one of the great contradictions of the Bible. Even if we don’t use happy for the word blessed, there still seems to be little correlation between being blessed and grieving.
When you lose a person you love, do you feel blessed? Does it comfort you when someone well meaning says it’s a blessing that their gone, the suffering is over, they’re in a better place? Hardly. Mourners are wet blankets, we want to be around happy people, and aren’t most Christians great at pretending to be happy.
But a real Christian should never be superficial. Look what Jesus says in Luke 6:25 the woes that come right after Luke’s beatitudes, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep”. Are we not meant to be happy until we die?
To make it worse, we can’t even soften the word mourn. It is the Greek word pentheo and is the strongest word they had for mourning, as in mourning the death of a loved one. So this is not just a little sadness, it is the deepest grief we can experience.
It may fit if we think of the glory we will experience in the future for the suffering we experience as Christians today. Great is our reward in heaven when we are persecuted here in this life.
But to think of mourning only in this way is to miss the meaning of this beatitude. If last week being “poor in spirit” was about our attitude toward ourselves, “mourning” is about our attitude toward sin.
There is natural mourning that we experience whenever we lose something important to us. A couple weeks ago Canadian hockey fans were filled with joy until the third period, and after the Russians scored five unanswered goals, they were mourning. There are many things that happen in life that cause us to mourn.
There is also sinful mourning where we feel bad about something we did that was sinful. Usually this is more about getting caught or the other consequences of our sin. Many of the sinners in the bible seemed to feel worldly sorrow after their sin, from Cain to Judas Iscariot. Usually this is more guilt than real grief though.
But there is a third kind of mourning that Jesus is referring to here, spiritual mourning. Paul says in 2 Cor. 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”.
Again, this godly sorrow is not a natural characteristic, not something man can produce because we are not God. It is something God works in the hearts of his people through the ministry of the Holy Spirit – and it always leads to positive, life giving results, again repentance.
We may think of it this way. To be poor in spirit is to be convicted of sin, to see our true nature before God. To mourn is to be contrite, sorrowful, broken inside about our sin, not just the consequences of it. The doctrine of sin in the Bible is of supreme importance, and we don’t like it so we’ve watered it down or avoid it.
Lots of people know their sin and nothing changes, they shrug it off, “I’m only human” they say, “God is a forgiving God”. But this knowledge of our sinful nature is meant to bring tears, and only those who have been humbled, wounded, and crushed under the burden of sin can ever really know the depth of God’s saving grace where the true joy lies. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Sin is devastating to God, it is the only thing that leads to death.
This mourning is “Grieving about our spiritual state” and the knowledge that we can never make up for it, never change it. In some ways it is a reckoning with the fact that we are helpless in our sin and have to surrender if we want to be saved. The more we grow spiritually the more we will grieve how far short we fall in the eyes of God. This is an ongoing process for the word here literally means those who are “continuing to mourn”.
In Romans, Paul is terribly grieved by his own state and he’s a saint. Any reflection at the end of our day will show us thoughts and actions that we wish we had not experienced. We must ask ourselves, “What is it in me that makes me feel and act that way? Why should I be irritable? What do I have to be depressed about? Why do I have such a temper? Why can’t I control myself? Why do I harbour resentments, and jealousy and envious or impure thoughts?”