We have often described this one thing as affliction, anguish and agony. Some have considered it the successor of trouble while others consider it the predecessor of moral collapse, failure, disintegration and decay. To be sure, some have overcome insurmountable odds and have come out triumphant as a result of it while yet others have driven over a cliff because it took an emotional toll on their life. And while the world of psychology has given its analytical spin and perspective on how it works and what it is, those of us in the room often call it “sorrow”. Interestingly, Webster defines sorrow as ‘…distress that is caused by loss, affliction and disappointment.’ Moreover, it is grief and sadness that causes one to mourn through tears, pain, discouragement and despair. Whatever else it is, I believe that life has a way of giving us the blues. As a matter of fact, I would suggest to you that all of us (exempting none of us) are looking for something that would beat the blues and remedy the sorrow of this life. I go so far as to suggest that perhaps someone looking at me right now, you came in the room today looking for some kind of supernatural anecdote that would overpower and overwhelm the blues and sadness that this life has a tendency to manufacture and produce.
And at the onset, let us all admit and agree that we live in a world of sin and sadness and sickness and suffering and sorrow and sobbing. It appears as if every time you find a peaceful place in life, it seems as if the world says to you like my Daddy used to say when he’d come home and catch me in his favorite, he’d say, “Son, don’t get comfortable there.” He would say, “Don’t make your home in my seat.” And I don’t know how it seems to you but to me it seems like every time you find a comfortable place in life that sorrow of sort seems to say, “Don’t get comfortable there. You won’t be here very long, so don’t make your home here.” As a matter of fact, someone has realistically said, and I agree, that ‘if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”
This brings to mind Psalm 55 where David recites the depth of pain that the heart knows and experiences as a consequence of the sorrows and suffering of life as a result of sin and human depravity. And after David records what he was going through in Psalm 55:6-8, he responds to the sorrow of his life by saying “Oh, that I had wings like a dove. I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away and I would make my lodging in the wilderness and I would hasten to my place of refuge from the storm and tempest.” David, in essence, was experiencing sorrow in his life and he simply says, “I want out of here”. And that is a profound and significant statement for David to record, for he echoes and articulates the inner cry of every one of us at some place or another when we face discouragement, tragedy, happenstance, misfortune and disappointment. For, in a real sense, it is a cry for life on wings! It is an expression of desire to leave this place of disposition and sorrow. Today it’s as if we’ve made a backwards beatitude that says, ‘Blessed are they who avoid the reality of sin and sorrow, for they are the ones who find the true path of comfort.’ And therefore we think we can find comfort by ignoring our sin and our suffering. But that flies in the face of the kingdom principle and truth that Christ teaches here when He stands on the mountain and says, in essence, ‘Congratulations to the Mourner!’ Not to those who avoid sorrow and sin, but to those who acknowledge the reality of sorrow and sin, and they mourn.
Mark it down – avoiding the reality of sin, suffering and sorrow just doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, neither does ignoring it turn sorrow into comfort. Can I tell you what it will do? It will turn your life into a rat race. It will turn your job into a pain. It will turn your home into a hell house. It will turn your ‘Little House on the Prairie’ into ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ It will turn your days into torment. It will turn your relationships into a mess. It will turn your religion into a bore. And it will turn the church into a social club that simply entertains people who are on their way to hell. Evading and avoiding it just doesn’t work. And our Lord says that the blessing will not come by avoiding sorrow and sin, but it comes through the blessing of a Godly grief that beats the blues. He says, ‘Bravo’ to they that mourn.
Jesus explains this very clearly and succinctly in this 4th verse of the 5th chapter of Matthew. He says that those who are spiritually bankrupt and mourn over their spiritual destitution are the recipients of supernatural comfort and consolation.
I. THE POSITION OF THE MOURNER
Now in order to understand the position of the mourner, we must understand the rationale of the mourner. That is, why is the mourner mourning? There are several interpreters who interpret what Jesus meant when He says, ‘Blessed are they that mourn, grieve, wail, weep and lament.’ Can I share them with you?
There are those who suggest that when Jesus said, ‘blessed are those that mourn’, they interpret the ‘mourners’ as those persons who are upset and bewildered by personal circumstances. Then, there are those who suggest that when He speaks of the ‘mourner’ He is talking about those who are upset and bewildered by the conditions of the world. And I must confess that when I first read them, they sounded really good. Because, first of all, I don’t care who you are, inevitably you are going to have some bad circumstances in your life. Family problems, money problems, health problems, relational problems—sometime or another, trouble of some sort is going to catch up with you. Why? Trouble has a tendency to rear its ugly head in the life of every person, namely those who call themselves Christians. The Arabs have a proverb which says, ‘All sunshine makes a desert.’ In other words, the land upon which the sun always shines will soon become arid and rugged, and a place where no fruit will grow. And, consequently, trouble can do one of two things: It will either show you GOD or it will show you YOU! But you can be sure that the sun will not shine every day. You are going to have some adverse circumstances in life. And it sounds good if the Lord is saying blessed are they who are mourning because things are not going well in life. After all, we need Mr. Trouble; he keeps us on our knees.
I walked a mile with Pleasure
She Chatted all the Way
But let me none the wiser
For all she had to Say
I walked a mile with Mr. Trouble
Never a word said He
But, oh, the things I learned
When Mr. Trouble walked with Me
And it would make sense if He’s saying blessed are those who are crying in the midnight hour because of circumstances and storms. It sounds real good. It also sounds good if He’s saying blessed are those who are upset and mournful about the conditions of our world. I don’t know if you’ve looked, but our world is in bad shape. We have computers that are able to read license plates in Russia and we can’t stop the drug trade down the street. We live in a world where many of our men are in one of 3 places: in jail, in the streets or in the grave. We are living in a day where the Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tupac have become the American dream for our kids (and Tupac is dead!). Our world is in bad shape And it sounds good if you say blessed are they that are concerned about the conditions of the world.
And while comfort for personal problems and the world’s conditions are in the scripture, that’s not what Jesus is addressing in this text. Remember, this is the Sermon on the Mount. And He is giving the constitution of the Kingdom. And Jesus starts by giving the growing patters of a maturing Christian and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Take note, that each of these beatitudes builds on the previous one: you start off poor, then you mourn, then you become meek; then you’re hungry…then you’re a peacemaker; then you’re pure in heart. They build upon one another. So if you’re going understand verse 4, don’t forget about verse 3. Verse 3 simply says blessed are they that need God because they know they are not. He says blessed are they that have checked their spiritual account and have discovered that they are divinely bankrupt.
In context, Jesus is saying we mourn simply because we are upset and sorrowful because of personal sin. That’s the only explanation that first the context.
I want you to see the connection between the first beatitude of those who are poor and those who recognize how poor they are to the point they are mourning how broke they really are. Picture, if you will, it’s payday. Your bills have been paid; and it’s Friday. You call up your friends and tell them to come and pick you up; you’re going out for a night on the town. You make a promise that everyone will have fun; and your promise that you’ll foot the bill. After your friends, who are excited about your promise, pick you up, you ask them to take you by the ATM so that you can get some cash. You walk around the ATM, put in your card, push for withdrawal, only to discover that you can get no cash. You immediately discover that your account has a zero balance. You call your bank, only to discover that the IRS has garnished your wages. You immediately contact the IRS and the agent informs you that for the next three months your entire check will go directly to them. You immediately ask, ‘Well, what about my mortgage?’ The agent in a roundabout way says,’Well, that’s not my problem’. You say, ‘What about my bills?’ In a practical sense, the first beatitude would say, in response, I’m broke. The 2nd beatitude goes back to the car after leaving the ATM and mourns to the point of admitting your despair.
Verse 3 says, ‘I acknowledge that I need God.’ Verse 4 says, ‘I mourn because I tried to live without Him.’
Verse 3 (you see that you are spiritual bankrupt). Verse 4 (you mourn over how you have wasted your life.)
Verse 3 is the intellectual verse (you KNOW you need God). Verse 4 is the emotional verse (you MOURN because you tried to make it without Him).
And that is when He says, ‘I’ll give you comfort’.
What I worry about is not people who don’t sin but people who’ve become comfortable with sin without conscience. They go through the day, curse somebody out, lie, cheat, steal, shoot the dog, kick the cat, go home, get in the bed and go to sleep and never talk to God about it whatsoever. And it is only when it affects us is there some sense of remorse and contrition. But God sys you ought not just be mournful over the result of sin, you ought to mourn over the nature of sin.
Sin is not a blessing, it’s a burden.
Sin is not a cure, it’s a cancer.
Sin is not a pleasure, it’s a problem.
Sin is not your company, it’s the culprit.
He says it ought to bother you that sin is a problem in your life.
Charles Allen, in his book, ‘God’s Psychiatry’, tells about Father Damien who, for thirteen years, was a missionary to the lepers on Molokai. Finally the dread disease of leprosy laid hold of him. One morning he spilled some boiling water on his foot. But there was not the slightest pain. That is when he knew he was doomed. He said that he knew that death had come to his body and little by little, death would take possession. He said that it would have been a hundred times better for him would it have been if that boiling water had brought pain. In Ephesians 4:19, Paul tells us of certain people who were ‘past feeling’. And a sign that God will bring comfort to you, is if you feel the pain of the boiling nature of your own sin. It is a divine conscience and almost a misery that keeps you humbled and centered; it is what lets you know that you are not perfect, you have not arrived; that you aren’t there; and ultimately that you need God. Socrates described a man’s conscience as a wife that refuses to give you a divorce. There are some who couldn’t divorce our conscience, but we’ve just gave it a melody to where now your mischief sounds like music. Allen tells another story of a man whose feet were amputated, who later told of his experience. He was caught out in the bitter cold of the far north. So long as his feet pained him, he was happy. But after a while, the pain was gone, and he knew then that his feet were doomed. The pain diminished as they froze. And Jesus gives us this divine paradox that says, ‘As long as I’m in PAIN, I’m HAPPY!’
Here’s my question: what about you? Have you committed a certain wrong? Does it hurt? Jesus says, ‘be glad!’ God doesn’t expect us to be perfect; but what He is looking for is the one who knows that they haven’t arrived yet; but they need God. And before you can ever accept the good news of salvation, you must first accept the bad story of sin.
In the Greek New Testament there are 8 words used for mourning. Here Jesus uses the word kuntoothis, which is the strongest word for grieving and mourning in the Greek language. It is the word that is used for mourning over the loss of a loved one. It is actually used of Jacob’s grief in the Septuagint, when he thought his son Joseph was dead, in Genesis 37:34. And Jesus said when it comes to you, you have been born in son and shapen in iniquity. And when it comes to sin, you ought to mourn as if you are mourning over a dead loved one.
And that’s the problem I hate with people who look like they have it all together. That’s the problem I have with people who look down their pious nose, acting as if they are perfect, flawless and without sin. No, I am not asking you to confess your sins to me; but an awareness of your humanity ought to raise your level of consciousness to know that you are just as vulnerable to sin as the other. And in a real sense, Jesus is saying ‘I’m talking to you and you only – get off your high horse; and realize your own need to have God for yourself.’
As long as Jesus is one of many options, He’s no option.
As long as you keep thinking you are big and bad enough to carry your own burdens, you don’t need a burden-bearer.
As long as you are not burdened and heavy-laden, you don’t need Him to say ‘Come unto me’.
As long as you can take Him or leave Him, you might as well leave Him. Because He cannot be taken half-heartedly.
I confess—I’ve got some flaws that I know God doesn’t like. I have some things that I may have to wrestle with to my grave. But let me tell you what God appreciates. He appreciates the fact that I acknowledge my flaws; and that the only way I can make it is realizing that I can’t make it without Him.
We should mourn
Over our unconcern for lost souls
Over our powerless Christian life
Over the empty pews each week in our churches across the world
Over our compromise and complacency about sin
Over our lack of genuine Christian growth
Vittorio Alfieri is noted to have said that ‘to err is human; but contrition felt for the crime is what distinguishes the virtuous from the wicked’.
II. THE PROMISE OF THE MASTER TO THE MOURNER
There are two words that jump out to use in this one verse: Mourn and Comfort.
The promise of the mourner is that he will be comforted. The word for comfort comes from the word Jesus used in describing the Holy Spirit’s ministry in John 14-16: Paracletos. God promises that when we mourn, the Holy Spirit will come alongside of us and comfort us.
But this promise comes with a major disclaimer: it is to the one that displays they’re own human inadequacy and pseudo-sufficiency. There comes a point where you have to humble yourself.
Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, maintained a large household staff. She applied one rule to every servant without exception: They were not permitted to speak to her. The rule was broken only once, when word arrived at the family's country retreat that their young son had died of scarlet fever. The McCormicks were hosting a dinner party, but following a discussion in the servants' quarters it was decided that Mrs. McCormick needed to know right away. When the tragic news was whispered to her, she merely nodded her head and the party continued without interruption.
This kind of haughty spirit is not what carries the promise of God’s divine comfort and consolation. A life that looks at your condition and continues to go on with the party.
It is wrought out of a spirit who, like Paul, in Romans 7:18 says, ‘…in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.’ And he says in Romans 7:24, ‘…o wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’
Or the Psalmist who wrote in Psalm 38, ‘…mine iniquities are gone over my head…my wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long’.
Or the Priest, Ezra, who mourned the sins of Israel. Where it says in Ezra 10:6 that he couldn’t eat bread or drink any water; for he mourned because of the transgressions of them that had been carried away captive to their sins.
Or the Prince Jesus Christ, for He was no, according to Isaiah 53, as a ‘man of sorrows’ and ‘acquainted with grief’.
Now let me say in closing, that once we've sorrowed over our spiritual bankruptcy and spiritual poverty, and God brings consolation and comfort, let us remember that contrition and repentance are accompanied by the act of a once and for all break from our sinful way.
The story is told of a man who goes to another friend’s house for a Sunday morning visit. When the friend opens the door, he sees that there are fresh wounds on the visiting man’s face. When the friend inquires about the wounds, the man confesses that the he drank too much the night before. While intoxicated, the phone rang. He reached for what he thought was the phone to hold to his ear. But instead, he had picked up a hot iron and burned his ear with it. The friend said how sorry he was that it had happened; but then he inquired, “Well, that explains how one side was burned, but what happened to the other side?” “Well,” the man answered, “the fool called me back.
So many of us have been burned more than once by something we said we would not repeat. So often we remain defeated by the burn of sin because we keep on picking it up. And Jesus says that there is a blessing that beats your ever having to pick back up what you've been given the consolation to let go of.
William Ward has said that ‘we should be thankful for our tears; for they prepare us for a clearer vision of God.’ Kenji Miyazawa has said that, ‘…we should embrace our pain and burn it as fuel for the journey.’ Sophocles is noted to have said that, ‘…the keenest sorrow is in recognizing ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.’ And Jesus says it better to us than anyone else in the opening words of this Sermonic Discourse in this second beatitude for all to hear, ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted’.
And this is a paradox for this is opposite of the way the world thinks. The pleasure-madness, the thrill-seeking, the money, the time, the energy, the enthusiasm we spend on amusement and entertainment are all expressions of our desire to avoid the reality of mourning our sins and sorrows. Our culture has produced a society of people who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, even though they keep falling on their rear ends.
You see it in the alcoholic that won’t admit he has a problem.
You see it in the woman who’s afraid to discuss her fears with anybody else.
You see it in the person who rejects help even though their world and family is falling apart.
You see it in the verbally and physically abusive parent or spouse who won’t admit they need help.
You see it in churches and church people that are comfortable with the status quo.
You see it in the person who keeps placing their eyes on their circumstances and taking their eye off God.
You may even see it every time you look in the mirror.
A miserable looking woman recognized F.B. Meyer on the train and ventured to share her burden with him. For years she had cared for a crippled daughter who brought great joy to her life. She made tea for her each morning, then left for work, knowing that in the evening the daughter would be there when she arrived home. But the daughter had died, and the grieving mother was alone and miserable. Home was not "home" anymore. Meyer gave her wise counsel. "When you get home and put the key in the door," he said, "say aloud, 'Jesus, I know You are here!' and be ready to greet Him directly when you open the door. And as you light the fire tell Him what has happened during the day; if anybody has been kind, tell Him; if anybody has been unkind, tell Him, just as you would have told your daughter. At night stretch out your hand in the darkness and say, 'Jesus, I know You are here!'" Some months later, Meyer was back in that neighborhood and met the woman again, but he did not recognize her. Her face radiated joy instead of announcing misery. "I did as you told me," she said, "and it has made all the difference in my life, and now I feel I know Him."
Jesus says He gives the promise of comfort. This comfort will come in one of three ways.
The Spirit will come alongside and comfort you.
The Saints will be a comfort for you.
The Scripture will be a source of comfort.