An oxymoron is defined as a self-contradictory statement or saying. Many of the greatest truths that Jesus taught seem to be self-contradictory, like the beatitude that says, “Happy are those that mourn.” In other words, happy are the sad.
The second beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). It sounds just as strange and paradoxical as does the first beatitude. It is seemingly contrary to the accepted views of all mankind in every age of human history. It is not our custom to envy those who weep or to congratulate the broken-hearted. We usually pity them and offer them our sympathy. We write them letters of condolence and we are thankful that we have escaped that terrible situation. But Jesus pronounces a blessing on the mourners. He declares them to be happy and sets them apart as a special, privileged class. Now, before we look at that, we need to understand one thing. This beatitude does not have universal application and is not all inclusive. It does not embrace every person in the world who mourns, regardless of the cause, because there is a mourning that will know no comfort. There are burning tears that will never be wiped away and a bitter anguish that will never be appeased.
Jesus was very clear about this when He said, “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). That there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is also mentioned in Matthew 13:42 and again in verse 50. Over and over again Jesus warned that there was coming a time when many would experience a sorrow for which there would be no healing and no consolation. Jesus warned, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50, 51).
Again, in Matthew 25, the same warning is repeated when He said, “Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 30). There is coming a time at the end of the world when, sadly, some people are going to say, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20)! Those who are finally lost will have a sorrow that has no comfort. There will be no alleviating their bitter anguish. There can be no real, lasting comfort for the person who refuses to separate from sin, who refuses all the overtures of the God of heaven for mercy if you will repent. If you grieve away the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, then there’s no way for you to be comforted.
The apostle Paul talks about a sorrow for which there is no comfort. He says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
This sort of sorrow does not bring comfort; it brings death. Today, there are millions of people whose sorrow is borne of remorse, not because of their conduct, not because of their sins, but because of the personal loss that has resulted from their conduct. They do not hate the sin; they love the sin. What they hate is the result. Jails, prisons and penitentiaries are filled with mourners of this sort, but their mourning does not lead to any blessed results.
Then there is a large class of pessimistic people who mourn. One Christian writer described them as people who glory in gloom and misery. There are those who are veritable gluttons for wretchedness searching for despair as bees search for honey. They are never so happy as when they feel that they have a perfect right to be miserable and they are never so miserable as when they feel duty-bound to be happy.
We cannot study the beatitudes and understand them until we recognize that they are inseparably connected. Each one is an advanced step on the path that leads to the kingdom of heaven, forming links in a chain of spiritual growth. They constitute the steps of a ladder that lead to the kingdom of blessedness. Blessed mourning is that which comes as a result of a person’s recognition of his spiritual poverty. Remember, the first beatitude is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Those people who recognize their spiritual poverty and see their sinful condition say like the apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24)?
Realizing their condition and mourning with true heart sorrow that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, and in need of divine help will open the way for them to be comforted. The apostle Paul describes this sorrow that brings comfort and happiness. He says, “Even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing” (2 Corinthians 7:8, 9). “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (verse 11).
Godly sorrow is sorrow for the sins that have destroyed our peace and which have caused the indescribable sufferings of the One who paid the redemption price. Comfort is needed only where there has been grief. There can be no comfort if there has not first been discomfort. There can be no healing until a person recognizes that they have been wounded. Heart sorrow is the essential spiritual preparation for pardon. And pardon is the prerequisite for comfort and happiness. Whom Christ pardons, He first makes penitent. And penitence is a heart sorrow for sin, a brokenness of spirit because of conscious failure.
The Bible gives many examples of godly and ungodly sorrow. For instance, the patriarch Job, when he ceased trying to justify himself and began to recognize his sins and to mourn over them, his captivity was turned around and he was blessed above anything he had before experienced.
The same is true in regard to Isaiah the prophet. In his agony of soul over the sins of his life, he speaks of himself as being a man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of a people of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5).
Recognizing this condition, it brought him to the dawn of a new day, the doorway to happiness. He was anointed as a messenger of the Lord.
There also is the example of King Saul who did not repent of his sin of rebellion, but mourned because the sin cost him his throne. He only made a forced confession when there was no other course open to him. But a forced confession does not bring forgiveness. His mourning over his rejection as king brought him no comfort. His was not a sorrow for sin, but like many who have broken the law, he was only sorry for the consequences of his sin.
David, Saul’s successor, also committed sins. Comparing their lives, it appears that David committed sins just as great as did Saul. The difference was that David was truly sorry, not just for what he had done, but he realized that he was totally wretched and in need of a recreated heart. He knew that without it he could never be saved. David feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin. He pled, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness” (Psalm 51:14). “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (verses 10, 11). He recognized his condition. He was wretched, miserable and undone, and unless the Lord created within him a new heart, a new spirit, he was lost. His repentance was accepted. The consciousness of the enormity of his sin caused him to suffer very keenly and in brokenness of heart he cried out, “O Lord, give me a new heart.”
Jesus said to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (verse 5). In other words, unless you have a new heart, a new spirit, you cannot be saved.
Judas was another mourner. Judas mourned over the great sin of betraying his Lord and Master. His remorse was so terrible that it drove him to murder himself. However, it was not of the godly sort that brings comfort. He was sorry for the consequences of what he had done, but he never repented for the sin itself.
Peter sinned almost as grievously as did Judas. He betrayed Jesus Christ on the same night, but his remorse was great, and his grief led to genuine repentance, repentance not just for the consequences, but for the sin itself. The result was that he was comforted and blessed. Jesus is the only source of true comfort, and if you want to experience that comfort you must go to Him, asking for the gift of repentance and a desire to be born again. True repentance and sorrow for sin can only come as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of repentance (Acts 5).
It is sorrow for our sinful condition that will be comforted. Jesus is the only source of comfort, and therefore all mourning should lead us to Him. In fact, Jesus has given an invitation to people who are mourning because of a bereavement. Maybe you have lost your father or your mother or your wife or your husband or a child, and you are bereaved and mourning. Jesus invites us to come to Him and receive comfort.
In Isaiah 61 there is a prophecy of the work of the Messiah, the Christ. Messiah from the Hebrew, Christ from the Greek, both mean the Anointed One. Jesus applied this prophecy to Himself. It says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (verses 1–3).
Notice, the work of the Messiah was to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort all that mourn, to give them that mourn in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. He still wants to do this same work today, but this world has a problem. It seems we lack a consciousness of sin which can only be brought about by a vision of the character of Christ. Recognition of sin is a result of recognition of God and this must be followed by genuine heart sorrow and repentance. This present generation is but little disturbed or concerned over sin. Multitudes of people have so far lost their sense of right and wrong and are virtually amoral or non-moral. Moral and spiritual standards have been trampled underfoot until, to the majority of people, nothing is considered sinful or wrong anymore. Such an attitude always produces a spirit of pride and self-appreciation which makes its possessors feel that they are rich and in need of nothing.
Today’s world is actually similar to the world in which Jesus lived, in that there are few people who feel their poverty of spirit enough to mourn over it. There are many who feel that somehow, they lack something, but a mere recognition of that lack is not enough. The blessing is only promised for the convicted sinner who takes the matter seriously, grieving over the situation until the remedy is applied. His godly sorrow must turn his footsteps toward Him who is anxiously awaiting to supply all of his needs. The knowledge of our need is valueless unless it leads us to the One who can provide the solution. There is comfortless sorrow rampant in the world today, because godly sorrow over sin has almost disappeared from among men, yet comfort in sorrow of any kind and for any cause is awaiting those who renounce sin. The heavenly blessing embraces all the sorrows that afflict mankind as long as it comes as a result of mourning over sin, which must be experienced first.
The ultimate fulfillment of comfort will come in that blessed realm where sin and all of its results are no more. Jesus came to redeem His people and take them to a better land as described in Isaiah 35, verse 10. It says, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
We look forward to that time when there will be no more sorrow. Revelation 21:4 says, “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.” For sin, the cause of suffering, will at last be done away (Revelation 20).
The time is coming soon when sin and sinners will be no more and when that time comes, everything will be clean in God’s universe. If you want to see it, you must be cleansed from your sins, not only forgiven, but cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). For concerning it, “There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).
Then the saved will experience the ultimate fulfillment of the promise that the mourners will be comforted, for they will be in that better land where peace and joy will reign forever.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.