“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
It’s interesting that the Scriptures have so much to say about crying, and yet it’s not something we address very often. We usually try to stop people from crying by offering them cheesy one-liners. But how often do we encourage crying and help people to be blessed by their tears? Jesus seems interested in doing that.
The above passage is one most of us normally pass over in our Bible reading. We read through the beatitudes without taking much time to meditate on them. I’d like to at least stop my busy mind to think about this one. In the ever-popular “Sermon on the Mount” of Matthew 5-7, Jesus is describing the kind of community that He is creating. One of the marks of this community is a people who benefit from their tears knowing that one day each one will be redeemed.
Allow me to turn to a bit of study, since this beatitude contains some curious things that don’t appear on the surface. The word “blessed” here means to be happy due to favorable circumstances. Contrast this with the word “mourn” which means “to experience sadness or grief as the result of depressing circumstances.”* Jesus is saying that it’s favorable to have circumstances which create unfavorable feelings. In essence: it’s happy to be sad.
Before we write this off as merely confusing, let’s dig a little bit deeper. Jesus is not just speaking here about general sadness. In the verse immediately preceding this one Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” We can understand from context that when Jesus says mourners are blessed, He’s referring to people who are mourning due to their poorness of spirit. People who see the true richness of Christ are always overwhelmed by their own spiritual and moral poverty as well as that of the entire world. Do you ever look at your own life or the condition of the world and feel depressed? The Lord is saying that’s a good thing.
So why is it happy to be sad about the misery and brokenness of our world? Three things:
1. It’s the truth about our situation. I love Louis Armstrong’s song What a Wonderful World, but unfortunately it does not give us an accurate representation of the world we live in. Sure there may be “skies of blue” in some places, but there are also skies of smog. And yes, sometimes people do shake hands sayin’ “How do you do?” But people also may shake hands with their “friend” while stabbing them in the back. When we look into ourselves, we must see our filth: hatred, superiority, jealousy, and greed. Jesus is teaching us that when we see ourselves and the world this way, we see it rightly. When we see the world this way we flee to the only One who can fix it: its Maker. And when we flee to Him we are truly blessed indeed, and can be used as a tool in His hand to redeem it.
2. When we are weak, Christ can be strong for us. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reads, “But [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God loves the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. Those are the ones He chooses for Himself. “He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength” (Isa. 40:29). Why does He so favor the weak? He is compassionate and when He rescues the weak, He alone receives the glory. So glory in your weakness and your tears, for in those moments God will show Himself strong on your behalf.
3. Christ promises to comfort the weary, broken, and dismayed. Look back up to Matthew 5:4. Up until now, I haven’t mentioned the second part of the verse: “for they shall be comforted.” O brothers and sisters, savor that sweet promise! If you cry out to Him in weakness and in brokenness, He will comfort you by His Spirit. If you try to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” then He will continue to let you fall down. The adage “God helps those who help themselves” just isn’t true. It should say “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” Become deeply acquainted with your inadequacy, and Christ promises to show you how adequate He can be for you.
Dearest readers, may you look to yourselves and to our world with dismay. May you feel the depth of your weakness and in that place find the strength of Christ. When your heart aches and your tears flow, know that He is “near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18). He offers His comfort on the condition that you flee to Him. So flee.
*Definitions for “blessed” and “mourn” come from Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (301 & 304). New York: United Bible societies.