Living in the Father’s Favor: Call Me in the Mourning
Intro: One could argue that nearly all adults and many children are in some stage of grief right now. I don’t know anyone who reaches adulthood without experiencing some level of loss or disappointment. Yes, we try to deal with it and move on, but grief recovery is a life long process. We learn to cope, but grief stays with us for the rest of our lives, and subsequent losses add sorrow upon sorrow. As those who have lost loved ones know, life will never be the same again. That doesn’t mean life cannot be good and enjoyable, but things will never be the way they were before our loved one left this world.
-So, we all live our lives in some stage of grief. Beyond the grief we experience when someone close to us dies, we also experience grief for other people and the disappointments they face. We experience grief over tragedies that occur in our communities and around the world. We grieve injustice and oppression. We are disappointed with ourselves because of our personal weaknesses and failures. We mourn for the human race around the world as we see how badly people can treat one another. Why is there such an inner ugliness that causes people to do some of the horrific things they do? Why do I see that same ugliness rise up within me sometimes when things do not go my way?
-A pastor wrote a poem in which people ask him for answers for the pain and despair they are feeling in the midst of their grief:
I’ve sat beside a tiny crib and watched a baby die
As parents slowly turned toward me to ask, oh Pastor, why?
I’ve held the youthful husband’s head and felt death’s sting and sigh
A widow looked with tears and said, dear Pastor, tell me why
I’ve seen a gold star mother weep and hold a picture nigh
Her lonely breast and softly ask, why, oh Pastor, why?
I’ve walked away from the cemetery where stillborn babies lie
A mother stretches empty arms and asks me, Pastor, why?
I watched my drunken father leave our home and say goodbye
While I looked into my mother’s face I asked, please tell me why
I’ve heard the white tip-tapping cane that leads a blinded eye
And then a darkened lonely voice cries, Preacher, show me why
I’ve caught a fiancée’s burning tears and heard her lonely cry
She held an unused wedding gown and shouted, Oh pastor, why?
I’ve heard a cancer patient say, it is gain for me to die
Then he looked into his daughter’s face and mutely whispered, why?
I’ve seen my mother stand beside two tiny graves and cry
And though she never let me know, I know she wondered why
I’ve heard an orphan faintly say, who gazed into the sky,
Though Mom and Dad have gone away, my Preacher will know why
I tiptoed to my Father’s throne so timid and so shy
To say, Dear God, some of Your own are wanting to know why
I heard Him say so tenderly, their eyes I’ll gladly dry
Though they must look through faith today, tomorrow they’ll know why
If now they find the reason that their hopes have gone awry
In Heaven they will miss the joy of hearing Me tell them why
And so I found it pleases Him when I can testify
I’ll trust my God to do what’s best and wait to find out why
By Jack Hyles
[Adapted from Joel A. Freeman, God Is Not Fair, New Leaf Press, April 1994, pp. 157-158.]
-This poem falls short of giving a good answer to the disappointments in life, but perhaps there is no single satisfactory answer. Many songs have been written to help us deal with these questions (We will understand it better by and by; Farther along we’ll know all about it). There are times when these songs and other answers help a little, but I also know that there are times when they seem like trite platitudes.
-In light of these difficult times we have and will face in life, there is one answer that we can hold onto until the very end.
Prop: God gives favor to those with heavy hearts by offering them His comfort.
Interrogative: How does this work? How do we know that comfort is available to us?
TS: I’d like to look at 3 kinds of sorrow that will result in comfort from God if we let Him do what He wants to do in our lives.
I. Those Who Mourn the Departed Can Find Comfort in Christ
-Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I recently heard that the Greek word for blessed (makarios) is where we get the word “macaroni.”
-However, beyond the taste of a delicious pasta, being blessed speaks of an inward contentedness unaffected by surrounding conditions whereby we’ll be approved by God and receive the applause of heaven. That sounds great but seems very different from the word mourn that goes with it.
-Throughout the Bible, mourning is usually linked with either repentance or bereavement. God promised to bring comfort to his mourning people during their captivity and times of oppression. However, He also extended comfort to those who were grieving for other reasons. Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
-The word for comforted is derived from the Greek word "para", meaning "near" and "kaleo" meaning "I call". When Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted," He was saying that He would call us near to Himself to give us comfort from sorrow. That sounds a little bit like something Jesus said once to people around Him who were having a tough time of it. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
-When we lose someone to death, we are promised that God will be close to us and give us His comfort. Two major scenarios can be seen when someone close to us dies, and God offers comfort for both.
A. Mourning Those Who Died in Faith- We have the assurance that we will be together again- God will raise us up together, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope… 16 the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thess. 4:13, 16-17
2 Samuel 12:22-23 22 “He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ’Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Since David seemed to have some idea of the resurrection of the dead, I believe he was talking about more than just joining his dead infant son in the place of the dead. In Psalm 17:15 David wrote, “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” David expected to see his dead infant son after his own death because he believed that they would both be resurrected into God’s presence.
-When we lose someone of innocence or of faith, we too can find comfort in the fact that we will one day be reunited with them in heaven.
-So what about losing someone whose eternal destiny was in question when they died?
B. Mourning Those with an Uncertain Future (We just don’t know…)
-I’d like to be able to give you 3 simple steps for grieving over someone who did not know the Lord when they died, but those steps do not exist. This hits kind of close to home for me. If you find yourself facing this kind of grief, you probably consider yourself anything but blessed. However, we can find comfort from God, no matter how distressed or heartbroken we are over what might turn out to be an eternal loss. Our ultimate comfort will come at the end of the age when we are with the Lord.
Revelation 21:3-4: 3”And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
-These words give us comfort for several reasons: 1) God will be with us in person. 2) God will wipe every tear from our eyes. 3) All death, mourning, crying, and pain will be gone. These are encouraging words – truth that keeps us going.
-But what about now? How do we cope with the acute disappointment we feel, not knowing if our loved one made it or not?
-Again, I wish I knew, and I wish I could make all the pain and disappointment go away. The best that I can offer in this situation is trust and time. First, trust that God has not and never will abandon you. Hebrews 13:5 “God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Trust that Matthew 5:4 will happen for you: 4 ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Second, take the time you need to grieve. There will be days when you are certain you can’t go on. But as time passes, you will be able to laugh again. The pain and the grief may linger, but the bitter sting of disappointment will begin to lose its potency as you sense the faithful embrace of a God who weeps with you. I hope this doesn’t sound like 2 easy steps to deal with grief, but the power of trust in a faithful God and the process He takes us through to restore our soul will help see us through to the end.
-TS: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God comforts those whose spirits are being crushed with grief over loved ones who have died. Let’s move on to another kind of mourning that promises blessing and comfort.
II. Those Who Mourn their own Failure Can Find Comfort in Christ
-In the OT we find that Israel was repeatedly unfaithful to God. Eventually their involvement with false gods and their direct disobedience to God resulted in their captivity. In 722 BC Assyria conquered the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel. Many died and others were led away as captives to become slaves in a foreign land. In 586 BC the Babylonian Empire conquered Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah, leading them away into captivity. Most of the book of Isaiah was written before the fall of Judah, but parts of it appear to have come later, as they deal with Judah’s restoration. Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
-One thing we can be sure of: sin results in grief. In fact, here is how the apostle Paul said it in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death….” Sin brings death; therefore, it brings grief. It grieves God, and it grieves those affected by it.
-Israel did not at first grieve over their sins. True repentance did not characterize Israel as a nation. After losing their freedom and identity as God’s special people who were blessed by Him, they began to grieve. They mourned for the good old days when the nations feared Israel and their God. They longed to be able to worship their God again in His holy temple. They humbled themselves and came to a place where they repented for the evil things they and their fathers had done.
-I believe it was in response to the mourning over their sins & failures that God spoke comfort through His prophet. “Comfort my people, says your God.” There is something about being truly sorry for our sins & failures that invites the blessing & favor of God.
-Jumping to the NT, Paul writes, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10.
-I’d like to take the liberty to kind of merge this verse from Paul with the 2nd beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn with godly sorrow that produces repentance, for they will be comforted with forgiveness and live with no regrets.”
-That is what it takes to enter into the kingdom of heaven. That is what it takes to enter into a relationship of love with God. This is more than just regretting the past. It is bringing our past, present, and future before God and saying, “I’ve messed up big time! I am deeply sorry. Please forgive me and start leading my life. I can’t do this thing without You!”
-Just as the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, so the comfort that comes from God belongs to those who mourn their own sinfulness and invite God to help them.
-TS: Finally, it doesn’t end with us.
III. Those Who Mourn the Oppressed Can Bring Comfort Through Christ
-This of course begins with concern for those who are being oppressed by evil and have not yet received God’s forgiveness and love. How concerned are we for those who do not see their need for God? Maybe part of the reason they don’t think they need God’s help is because they don’t see much of a difference in you and me. (Ouch! As the pastor’s wife used to say.)
-Maybe they won’t care how much we know about God until they know how much we care about them as individuals. When is the last time you wept tears for an unreached person? When is the last time you let your burden for them overcome your fear of approaching them and loving them the way Jesus loves them? Or am I too busy minding my own “busyness” to stop and pray that my neighbor will find Jesus?
-I acknowledge that it is not always easy to reach out to people who have yet to find Jesus. Love takes time. Love requires energy and resources. Love requires commitment. It changes our priorities. Love is hard work sometimes. That is why Jesus compared His followers to laborers who were working in the harvest fields. But no matter how challenging it is, it is all worth it!
Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
-We have in our hands the antidote for a deadly disease. Sin is the killer, but the good news about Jesus is the cure! How will you get the antidote to those who are dying? What if it takes 100 injections to cure the disease? Will you keep going back – even if the patient gets angry at you and resists the prick of the spiritual needle? Do you care enough about them to help them? Are you willing to mourn for them so that they can find the comfort you have found?
-Family, we can make a difference in the lives of the people around us. Let’s not neglect the purpose for which God placed us here in Elgin.
Conclusion: In summary, when we mourn over departed loved ones we can find comfort in Christ because we know we will meet again. When we mourn over our own sinful condition we can find forgiveness and comfort in Christ because of what He did for us on the cross. When we mourn for others who are oppressed by sin and the enemy, we can expect God to favor us with His comfort, and to use us to share His comfort with them.
-I’m sure you realize that what we’re talking about here is more than just feeling sad. Mourning that is met by comfort is mourning that is accompanied by prayer. The Lord invites you to call Him in the mourning. Call upon Him and He will answer. He will help you when you are grieving. He’ll forgive you when you’ve been sinning. And He’ll empower you to be a blessing to others who cannot see a way out of the mess they are in.
-Today, if you are feeling a sense of sorrow for your own failures and sins, you can find the comfort you need by asking God for His help. Ask Him to forgive you, based on what Jesus did to pay the price for your sins. Jesus gave His life away on a cross and came back to life 3 days later. The sorrow of His friends and followers was turned to comfort and joy when they saw Him alive again. Your sorrow can be turned into comfort and joy as well if you will let Him give you His life. If you want this, all you have to do is ask. Ask God. Or, if you’re not sure where to begin, I’d love to help you and pray with you.
-Before we pray, I’d like to leave you with the words of Psalm 30.
Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12 4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.