“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Two launchpads for meditation. The first explores one way in which mourners may be comforted. Suffering and loss naturally produce sorrow and mourning. However, a common theme throughout the New Testament is the experience of comfort in our sufferings.
Consider 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 where it says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
So, when we are in mourning from sharing in the sufferings of Christ, we also receive the comfort of Christ. This is why later on in 2 Corinthians in chapter 6, Paul is able to proclaim that in the midst of hardships, he is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
God’s Spirit is our comforter, and through the presence and comfort of the Spirit in our sufferings, we are blessed in our mourning. Or as 1 Peter 4:13-14 says, “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.”
In the cultural context of the time, to suffer persecution for Christ includes being shamed by the community. It means the loss of value. But the beauty of this beatitude is that God gives honor to those sorrowful in the midst of suffering. God restores value to the mourner by being their comfort. Thus, those who mourn are paradoxically blessed.
The second launchpad for meditation considers another way mourners may be comforted and blessed. A common theme throughout the Bible is mourning over sin and disloyalty before God.
Consider, for example, Ezra 9:3-7: “When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.”
Grief or mourning is an appropriate response to disobeying God. Tears of sorrow soften the soil of our hard, rebellious hearts- producing soft, repentant hearts in which salvation springs up. Or as 2 Corinthians 7:10 says: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret”.
The pattern of sin leading to sorrow, leading to repentance, leading to comfort, leading to blessings can be seen in Isaiah 61:1-3 where it says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
And then continuing in verse 7 it says: “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.” This text in Isaiah 61 comes shortly after Israel’s repentance from their sins.
So, we see the pattern of sin to sorrow to repentance to comfort to blessings. God sees our sorrow when we mourn over our sin and shame. When we humbly turn to him, he comforts us by replacing our sin with innocence and shame with honor. Thus, those who mourn are paradoxically blessed.