- Daniel Klassen
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
As Jesus begins his famous Sermon on the Mount, He does so in a way to grab hold of the attention of His Jewish listeners. He begins with blessings. To the Jews, this meant only good tidings since, in the Old Testament, God spoke to His covenant people in terms of blessings and curses. Each time, the goodness of the blessings stood in stark contrast to the bitterness of curses. Immediately, however, the blessings take an unexpected turn.
First, Jesus proclaims the blessed (or happy) person is one who is poor in spirit. This went directly against everything the Jews knew of God’s blessing; God’s blessings for the Israelites meant wealth, prosperity, peace, and land, not poverty.
The second was like the first: the blessed person is the mourner. Not only was poverty inconsistent with blessing, but now also mourning. The point of Jesus’s strange list of blessings was not merely for the listener to take them at face value, but to search for the spiritual meaning of the blessing. All face value could give was paradox and confusion.
The second beatitude is simply a continuation of the first since the poor usually live mournful lives—it confirmed the oddity of the blessed poor. Poor people are not thought of as happy people in the world’s eyes. They do not have the means to afford ease and luxury. Rather, they must skimp and scrounge simply to stay alive. Their attention is so focused on survival that their days cannot afford happy moments. This second beatitude is odd unto itself. Mourners are not commonly thought of as blessed. Usually, those who mourn have lost something valuable, or are currently bereft of the thing which previously brought them joy. Yet, Christ doubles down on this point (as He does on each beatitude), showing us that mourning not only coincides with blessing but causes a blessed life.
In the world, the meaning of Jesus’s words is untenable. Mourning in the eyes of the world leads away from blessing and happiness—it is a downward spiral into a state where positive actions conducive to happiness seem too tedious to attempt. In the world, mourning begets mourning. However, in the realm of faith, an entirely different reality embraces the meaning of Jesus’s words.
Godliness requires both the forsaking of sin and the mourning of sin. Indeed, you cannot have one without the other. Godly sorrow, says Paul, leads to repentance which leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). In other words, godly sorrow leads to the forsaking of sin. This beatitude follows the theme set by the first in that the blessing of the beatitude is Christ Himself. Unlike worldly sorrow, godly sorrow does not turn inward to make its complaint, but turns outward towards heaven, preparing the mourner to receive eternal joy in Christ alone.
This is the comfort Christ brings to the impoverished mourner: He brings eternal joy in an eternal inheritance. To the one who has forsaken any semblance of goodness within himself, who laments his sinful nature, Christ brings life, hope, peace, and joy. Why? Because those are found in Christ alone. Poverty and mourning drive the sinner to find life and comfort in God alone.
In doing so, those who find themselves in the category of the spiritually impoverished mourner are also well-equipped for sanctification. They will not drudge their way through pains of spiritual maturity but find joy and comfort—even in the darkest of days. Paul expresses this reality to the Romans,
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
The great paradox of the second beatitude is that while we mourn our sin, we rejoice in God. Instead of causing spiritual schizophrenia, we have about ourselves a solemn and sincere disposition. We do not reach great heights only to be brought down to the deepest depths, but rather walk in confidence with both eyes open. We see reality in its true form, all the while having our hearts filled with confidence and hope in Christ.
While living in this world, the godly mourner is endowed with a character of patience and hope in Christ, which carries them steadfast through the storms of life to that eternal inheritance. Dear Christian, may you not shy from godly sorrow so that you may live a truly blessed life.