It has been observed that the Christian faith is characterized by paradoxes. For example, the cross was an ignominious instrument of tortuous death, yet it became God’s glorious instrument of salvation. The second Beatitude is no less a paradox. It calls for God’s covenant people to be happy for the occasion to mourn.
That sounds a lot like something I don’t want to do! Mourning is usually the result of misfortune, calamity, or tragedy. How is it possible for such to produce the opposite – happiness?
First we need to recognize the true origin of sorrow. Sin is the culprit; it’s the cause of all grief. Physically it destroys our health, maims and kills us. Mentally it warps our sense of values and perverts our thinking. Emotionally it alters and scars our personalities. All the evil and misfortune that befalls us in this life may be traced back to the single source of sin. A clear understanding of that will enable us to respond properly to the circumstances causing us to mourn.
Second, if mourning is to bless us it must be for the right reasons. Some mourn out of habitual pessimism, always expecting the worst and deriving some sort of morbid satisfaction when the dreaded thing occurs – all the more reason to mourn! Others suffer from frustration and self-pity. They aren’t treated right nor given enough attention. Chronic complaining is not what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Happy are they that mourn…”
Third, mourning is a mark of character. The ancient prophets lamented over the sins of Israel; Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus; Peter’s repentance was expressed by bitter weeping and godly sorrow following his denial of Jesus; Paul endured great heaviness of heart and continual sorrow for his countrymen, national Israel. Dry eyes and stone hearts are not characteristic of God’s people.
Fourth, adversity provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate our faith. Paul told the Roman brethren to glory in their tribulations, for such produces patience, thus enabling them to remain steadfast in hope (Romans 5.3-5). James exhorted his readers to “count it all joy” when encountering various trials (James 1.2-4). Throughout Scripture, God’s people are noted for their profound faith, often born from the depths of human despair: “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22.8); “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD…” (Job 1.21); “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child might live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me…” (2 Samuel 12.22-23). Mourning is not always a negative emotion. Though never pleasant, there is certainly a positive and constructive sense with which it can and must be viewed.
For those who so mourn, Jesus promises rest and comfort. He offers Himself as the only true source of comfort to those who grieve – “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11.28). All our blessings come from God and not from the “things” we have. Whatever it costs or takes to gain and retain God’s favor is a price we should eagerly and readily pay. There is nothing so precious here in this temporary place worth the sacrifice of our relationship with God through Christ Jesus. Willingness to pay the price, to stay the course, to remain resolutely steadfast is not easy, but Jesus promises rest, blissful rest for all who endure.
“Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”