What? Happy are the sad? Blessed are the hurting? Isn’t that a contradiction?
It’s not a paradox when we realize that times of sadness are inevitable; they come to all people in time. None are exempt from sorrow, mourning and loss—Not the good or bad. Not the rich or poor. Not the pastor in the pulpit or the parishioner in the pew. Times of difficulty, pain and grief will come to us all.
In the Greatest Sermon Ever Preached, Jesus assured His followers that sadness could be followed by joy; weakness could be overcome by strength. He said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In this section of the sermon called the “Beatitudes,” Jesus reveals how to deal with things like poverty, sorrow and persecution, as a Christian.
How do you respond to deep troubles? David revealed his attitude, and reflected mine, when he wrote, “O that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge, from the stormy wind and tempest” (Psalm 55:6-8). As much as we may desire to flee sorrow and disappointments, they are usually waiting for us when we return.
When someone says, as Jesus did, “Happy are the sad,” that goes contrary to everything we know in life. The whole structure of our lives is about seeking pleasure, amusement, entertainment, fulfillment, fun and happiness. And, in seeking these things we avoid pain, sorrow and mourning as much as possible. So, what did Jesus mean when he said, “Happy or blessed are they that mourn”? Why did He connect two diverse concepts?
Whether things bring us joy or sorrow is often based on our maturity. A baby will laugh when you play “peek-a-boo” and cry when you take his toy. He may be playing with something deadly, yet scream when you take it away. Why? Because he is immature, doesn’t understand danger, and only wants what he wants. Too many times, we are exactly like that.
This beatitude—creates two questions that must be answered:
ONE: What Causes Us to Mourn? “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4a).
People are caused to mourn because of a natural sorrow—the kind that comes to every person in every place. Since Adam sinned, sickness, disease, disasters, crime, murder and death have become part of the human equation. Probably the saddest funeral on record was the one attended by Adam and Eve after their son Cain slew his own brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-10). Adam and Eve knew this sorrow was the result of their own sinfulness.
Sorrow, loss, disappointment, disillusionment, sickness, and pain are natural causes of mourning, but there is also a supernatural sorrow, for the cause behind the pain: sin itself. Paul wrote the Corinthians, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance…for the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10). Paul corrected the church for error, which made them sorrowful, but led to their repentance and restoration. That is sweet sorrow with good results.
TWO: How Does God Bring Comfort? “For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4b)
Jesus told His followers that the mourners would be blessed because of God’s comfort. Our English word “comfort” finds its origin in two Latin words, meaning, “with strength.” When mourners are comforted, they are strengthened. So, what is the source of this comfort?
First, the God of the Bible is “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). His attitude toward us is not of hostility but of love and encouragement. God is “for us” not against us (Romans 8:31); His Holy Spirit intercedes for us (verse 26); He gave up His Son for us (verse 32); and He promises that nothing can separate us from His love (verse 39).
Second, God comforts us through His Word, the Bible: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Bible verses throughout the Old and New Testament infuse strength to believers.
Third, God comforts us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is called “the Comforter” – “He will give you another Comforter that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16, 17). Then Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you” (verse 18).
If your doctor comes to you and says, “I have some bad news—you have cancer.” It would be crushing. But when he says, “The good news is that I can remove the cancer,” that would be delightful. However, what if he followed up by saying, “The bad news is that I must cut you with my scalpel.” About this time you would be shell shocked, so then he says, “But the good news is that once it is removed it will probably not return.” See the correlation? You would not mind being cut, prodded and poked by a doctor, if it was for your benefit.
It is exactly the same scenario for the Christian. The pain of surgery can be tolerated if you know it will benefit you. And, for every believer in Christ, the suffering, sorrow and loss experienced here, the distress of “various trials” “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). This result is sure because “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We do not understand how God can work it out for our good and His glory, but we are promised that He will!
YES! “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)