Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Jesus also said, “Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). To those who mourn, God offers comfort. To others who apparently are experiencing joy, God says they will mourn and apparently without comfort. Is mourning a good thing or a bad thing? What does it mean to mourn? What kind of comfort does God give to those who mourn?
The word mourn used in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 means to wail, grieve or lament. Most of us would probably associate the word with grieving the loss of a loved one. All mourning is ultimately brought about by some kind of separation. There is mourning which comes because of death, mourning due to being separated from one that you love and mourning because of sin.
Not all who mourn are comforted. Only those who mourn in Christ truly experience the comfort that God offers.
A Great Reunion
If you’ve lost a loved one, a child, a parent, a good friend, or experienced a miscarriage, you know what it means to shed tears of grief. When my mom suffered a debilitating stroke, I cried a lot. Even though she is still with us, she is not fully with us because she can no longer talk. She is not the person she once was and we feel a sense of loss. It took me some years to process my grief and I still feel the loss although the sting has faded. In my mind’s eye, I can picture her fully restored in heaven to the person she once was – full of God’s glory. That thought gives me great comfort.
We live in a world full of sorrow. Everyday news headlines remind us of the frailty of life. We may feel a sense of sadness when we hear of people dying in some other part of the world, but it is the mourning which hits closest to home that hurts the most.
The Bible says that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3-4). Since Jesus bore the full weight of our grief on the cross, he is able to pour out comfort and compassion on those who feel sorrow on this earth (see II Corinthians 1:3-7). This world may lack empathy, but Jesus does not.
In Christ, grief is always with hope. We know that someday we will see those that have gone before us in heaven. There will be a great reunion. What a great day that will be! In that day, there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. Although it hurts now, and the pain is deep, we are comforted in knowing that the pain of loss is temporary and the joy of reunion will be never-ending.
Godly Sorrow for Sin
There is also mourning because of sin, a godly sorrow which leads to repentance. II Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
This kind of mourning is pictured well by Jesus’ story of the man who beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (see Luke 18:9-14). The repentant sinner is comforted when he returns to God through faith in Christ. In the Father’s house, he is forgiven, reconciled, restored, healed, loved, and blessed. That’s real comfort. However, those who are not rich towards Christ will mourn and weep in the next life because they did not seek true riches. Their mourning will never be comforted.
Longing for Jesus’ Return
Finally, mourning is also caused by some kind of separation. Death is the ultimate separation, but death is not the only kind of separation we feel. Jesus said that when the bridegroom [Jesus] is taken away, the disciples would mourn (Matthew 9:15). Although Jesus is very much alive today, there is a sense of distance we feel until we are fully united with Him in heaven.
If I am away from my wife, Leslie, and our boys for too long, I experience a temporary sadness because I miss them. When I am restored to them, my sadness disappears. Even if I am physically present with Leslie, but feel a relational distance, there is a kind of mourning caused by the sense of disconnection. We all experience longing for connection and sadness when that connection is broken.
Loneliness is a kind of mourning. Before I got married, I longed for a companion. There’s a movie where a woman is longing to give birth to a child but cannot get pregnant. She says, “How can I miss someone I’ve never met.” That’s how I felt. Now that I’m married, I don’t feel the loneliness I once felt because I’ve been united with Leslie. She brings me comfort.
Although we have been restored to God through Jesus, we have not yet experienced the fullness of our salvation. The Bible says that we have been given only a down payment, a deposit or guarantee on the fullness which is to come (see 2 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14). That fullness will only happen when Jesus comes back for his bride and whisks us away from this world into heaven. In the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we will be completely and fully united with Him.
Until then, we feel a sense of disconnection. In order to maintain our connection with God, we have to invest time in praying and seeking Him. Our longing for His return is expressed through our prayers. Although He is with us, we are not as fully with Him as one day we will be. One day we will see Him face to face. In that day, we will be fully known.
A Glorious Hope
Regardless of the type of mourning we experience, we either mourn in Christ or without Christ. In Christ, sorrow is never without hope (see I Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-11). The heart of the matter is whether we sorrow with hope or without hope.
Hope is not an ethereal feeling. It is not merely wishing well or sending “good thoughts.” Real hope has a foundation in reality which is based on God’s word. Our hope is based in the reality that Jesus will one day return, those who have trusted in Him will be resurrected from the dead and we will be with Him forever in heaven, a real place. Do you have this hope?
When Jesus approached the tomb of Lazarus, his friend who had passed away, he felt the sorrow and the sting of death. Even Jesus wept. But in the face of death he declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Jesus is not the God of the dead but the God of the living (see Matthew 22:32). In Christ, no one ever really dies, we simply pass from this temporary life to eternal life.
There is a sorrow which will always end in laughter, a mourning which always leads to joy, and a laughter that will not be taken away. There is no sorrow in heaven, only joy. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30:5). If life is an ocean, death is but a grain of sand in light of eternity. It stings now, but it will not sting forever.
This is our glorious hope: We will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise first and we will meet him in the air. What a glorious day! We will exchange this earthly body for a heavenly home, the corruptible for the incorruptible. A body prone to sickness and weakness will be raised up in power. Death will be swallowed up in victory (See I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Mourning will be no more. We will experience a great reunion with those who have gone before us. We will see Jesus face to face. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). For now, “comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18). Blessed are those who mourn.