“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
My last article looked at mourning in the context of Easter. While all experience grief and mourning at times, Christians are reminded that bodily death is not the final word. Jesus is the first fruits of those who have and will be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). We also will live again.
Nevertheless, the pain of bereavement is real. We mourn when our lives have been drastically changed. Despite our mourning, grief, pain, and sorrow, the Lord offers us a promise. We shall be comforted.
Grief takes many forms. The most obvious form is when a loved one dies. We shed tears at the wake, sob at the funeral, and perhaps even wail during the graveside service. When a family member or close friend dies, we can be overwhelmed by unexpected waves of sorrow, perhaps for no obvious reason, for months—maybe even years.
However, other life-changing events can bring on feelings of grief. One can lose their job and have no idea how they will pay their bills. Maybe their entire sense of self-identity was tied to that job, and now they not only need to learn how to do something else: they feel like they have to learn how to be somebody else. A person can suffer a debilitating illness and mourn the loss of mobility, strength, and the ability to do the things they loved. A couple may divorce; they may mourn “what could have been” in their relationship. Likewise, their children mourn the loss of a level of relationship with one or both parents.
Some other kinds of mourning are related to our relationship with God and His creation. Christians can and should grieve over the presence of evil. Over the last few months, the world has watched in shock and dismay as Russia invaded Ukraine. People have fled their home country to seek safety elsewhere. Civilians, including women and small children, have been killed. A nation is being destroyed. Its people are suffering. A tyrant seems hell-bent on killing people until he gets what he wants. I grieve for the Ukrainian people. Sorrow and anger fill our hearts when we see evil destroying people’s lives.
We may also grieve over our own sin. True confession and repentance have an element of grief to them. We mourn over how we have squandered our time and energy. We grieve over those whom we have harmed. We regret that we have not loved others according to God’s will. Even as we rejoice in the promise of God’s forgiveness, we mourn that we have sinned against Him.
We need to mourn over our sins if we want to experience deliverance and freedom from our sins. To truly overcome an addiction, bad habit, or other life-controlling sinful behavior, we need to reach a point where we hate it in our souls. Drug addicts and alcoholics may struggle their entire lives against the craving for their substance of choice: it made them feel good or brought some kind of pleasure. To live drug- or alcohol-free, they need to grieve the harm it caused them and others. When that grief outweighs the good feelings, repentance is possible. But, they have to come to that point of realizing the harm their choices have caused. They have to confess. They have to mourn. Only then can they be comforted with freedom and sobriety. The same is true for any addiction, habit, or pet sin.
A Christian lifestyle of mourning will clash with the values of the world. The world tells us to seek happiness at any cost. It encourages us to pursue pleasure. It says, “If it feels good, do it.” Basically, it tells us to ignore “bad” feelings.
Feelings are not necessarily good or bad. Sorrow, grief, and mourning are not wrong or evil. God has given us our emotional side to help us make sense of what is happening to and around us. Sorrow, grief, and mourning remind us that there is something painful that we have to confront. When mourning the loss of a loved one, it may hurt, but it is our opportunity to emotionally say goodbye to the one we loved and learn to live in a “new normal” where that person is no longer with us.
Likewise, Christians cannot ignore the existence of pain, sorrow, and evil in the world. When we weep over the world’s evil, it is as if God weeps through us. He hates to see people who He made in His image suffer. We should share that indignation.
We cannot ignore the twinges of sorrow when we acknowledge our sin. We should mourn it. It is okay to have sorrowful feelings over our sins. It is the first step toward deliverance.
In a few upcoming posts, we will look more at the second half of this beatitude: that they shall be comforted. The Greek word here is “paraklethesontai.” It is a verb form of the word “parakletos” (comforter, helper, counselor, advocate), which is one of the titles Jesus gave for the Holy Spirit. When we mourn, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. We do not have to wallow in pity. We admit the pain that we feel, and we can wait on God to heal us.
God may also use other people to comfort us. This is an important reason to faithfully fellowship with a church of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Eventually, after receiving God’s comfort and healing, we may be the people He uses to comfort others.
O merciful Father, who has taught us in Your holy Word that You do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of all who suffer and mourn. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of Your goodness, lift up Your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.)
What circumstances or experiences have led you into mourning and grief? Has God given you comfort? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.
Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.