“We were sitting by the rivers of Babylon. We wept when we remembered what had happened to Zion. On the nearby poplar trees we hung up our harps. Those who held us as prisoners asked us to sing. Those who enjoyed hurting us ordered us to sing joyful songs. They said, “Sing one of the songs of Zion to us!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while we are in another land?” Psalm 137:1-4 “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:3-4
It seems as if our modern western culture has lost the ability or need for such grief. We avoid any exposure to it’s impact on our lives. No one dies anymore, they pass. Death’s implications are too great to consider. Even in the funeral business the term that is becoming more popular is, “celebration of life.”
It’s not that all of this is a bad thing, but most people want to avoid sorrow at any cost. But as we all know, the mourning process is vital to healing and growth. It toughens, and mellows, and matures the human character. To mourn puts us in communion with the “Man of sorrows.” We learn that comfort is greater than sorrow, that hope is greater than despair, that trust is greater than fear.
Even the One who came to bring joy and freedom to the world through His salvation, was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He wept over Jerusalem and cried at the tomb of Lazarus, His friend who had died.
Now He is sitting before a great multitude saying to them, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Mourning indicates great distress of the spirit. It burdens the soul and grows out of
grief and sorrow. Our very countenance is changed by its heavy, relentless weight. In spite of this, Jesus says to all those who would follow Him, that to be blessed, you must first mourn.
In my last post, I talked about the “the poor in spirit.” That’s when one arrives at a place realizing that we are a sinner, and there is nothing that we can do for ourselves to lift that eternally heavy burden. It's when we understand that we have nothing to offer. But then the Holy Spirit moves into that vacuum of total dependence and brings a conviction to the heart. Such a weight of conviction to a contrite spirit, brings a mourning of the soul, a grief for that sinful condition.
But this is not a mourning for mourning’s sake. It is a sorrow that a sensitive soul allows because of their own sin, and that of the surrounding world. Apostle Paul, after confronting his own sinfulness in Romans chapter 7, mourned his condition,
“Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
The human condition is sinful. We are all sinful. However, we do not all approach our sin in the same manner. Some blame others, thinking that it will alleviate them of any responsibility. Others will ignore it and hope it goes away, or at least doesn’t show itself publicly. Some rail and moan against it, but never face it.There are those who will deny it, and consequently, live a life of hypocrisy.
But Jesus, in this Sermon on the Mount, was teaching us a different way. Instead of denying that sin exists, or ignoring its presence in our lives, or trying to cover it up so no one knows, Jesus says we should mourn the very existence of sin and it’s impact on ourselves and the world around us. But, coming to such a place requires a response of some kind. It’s at that moment when one realizes that sin is there, so they own it, call it what it is and repent.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10
There is a great and obvious difference between Godly sorrow than mourns sin, and a sorrow that mourns getting caught. One involves avoiding it’s impact and control of our lives, the other escaping the punishment for our wrongdoing.
True mourning moves us toward repentance, the other leads us into a life of guilt and shame.
As Jesus leads us through this process, we are being introduced to an ascending life, one that is constantly moving toward God. A mourning spirit is but a stop along the way. But, at this stop, there is an appropriate reward, you will be comforted. Where mourning leads us to repentance, repentance leads us to “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Enjoy the ride!