“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
These Beatitudes, these “blessed are those who…” sayings are perhaps the harder part of the Sermon on the Mount to interpret. They seem almost cryptic, like proverbs or saying that take a bit of pondering. Of course, in one sense that is what they are to make us do. They are poetic, and similar to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We are to read each line one by one, and think about what Christ is saying here, and how this is applied to our lives. Sayings and proverbs, unlike direct instruction, stick with us, and say far more than their brevity seem to let on.
So what is Christ saying here: “blessed are those who mourn?” Well if you take a short perusal of the Beatitudes, we notice that many of those who are blessed are the exact opposite of what you would expect. As Pastor Carl brought up last week, the world thinks a man is blessed if he is rich, but Christ says it is he who is poor that is blessed. There we see why. If one is humble in his spirit and heart, what he will be rich with is the Kingdom of Heaven, which is for the lowly and contrite of heart. Yet here, what is Christ saying? The mourners? Those to whom suffering, and catastrophe has come? How are they blessed? In fact, they seem to be the opposite of blessed. They seem to be cursed.
“For they shall be comforted.” This Beatitude actually says little about the people being blessed, and more about God Himself. Christ isn’t saying, “so you too should be a mourner and seek bad things in your life and suffering, because those people are the truly blessed people.” If that were true, the Medieval Church was right. We ought to all seek the life of poverty and become monks and nuns. Then we’d be blessed in our vows of poverty and suffering. But the reason for the blessing is not one’s suffering. No, the blessing comes because of the comfort, and the comfort comes from God.
When we obey God, there will be suffering that causes us to mourn. There will be many times in our lives in which we are brought low. But Christ promises that comfort will indeed come to those who mourn. The suffering of this life indeed comes to all, and often times that suffering comes to us because we are Christians. Think of the Roman Christians under the pagan empire. Think of families torn apart, of those who knew many who were shuffled off because of their faith, not knowing what fate awaited in them in the great arena of the Colosseum. Surely there was great mourning across the church in those first few centuries. And surely there is now.
Yet there is comfort, and it comes from our communion with the most high God. He will bring comfort to His people. He always has. He brought comfort to a mourning Hannah who could not have a son. He brought comfort to a bitter Naomi whose husband and sons had died. He even brought comfort to a faithful Jeremiah stuck at the bottom of a well. If He did that then, do we not expect that He will do so now? Indeed He will. Sometimes it is not the comfort we might want as the world defines it, though material giftings of this or that. Yet there is always comfort in God’s promises: His promise to be with us, the promise of His Spirit, and the promise of the kingdom of Heaven. Such wonderful hope we have in such promises.
So go and live your life, Christian. Know that God gives us laws and commands knowing full well what they might bring. Know that He does not leave us in the dust, however, and that He will comfort you. Turn to His Scripture often to see those promises again and again. Find the comfort in those pages. For indeed, what better comfort is there than to be found righteous on the day of judgement, for indeed, “blessed is the man whose sins are not counted against him” Paul in Romans 4 quoting David in Psalm 32.