A groan, the wrenching sound of a heart torn out, shredded… arms lifted skyward in the still of night, begging... tears pumped profusely from the soul, sodden... The future disintegrates. My crumpled dreams are thrown away. I’m a discarded quarry, scraped until I’m bare. Where are you??? Hush child! Be still. Know that I am God. I hold you close. My “where” is all around you, with you in your pain, loving you. I’m underneath you, carrying you when your knees buckle; behind you every moment, defending your bare back tenderly; out in front, scouting ahead, sweeping other dangers from the path; beside you, gripping your hand, so you won’t slip, or stumbling, fall; and best of all, inside you, where my peace is whispering in that still voice which you will hear, eventually, when sobbing is exhausted and silence spreads to let my breath brush balm on all your hurts. Hush, beloved daughter. Your tears are kept as treasure, reflecting rainbows all around as I smile on you, even in the dark.
Jesus said, in the first beatitude, that we gain spiritual happiness when we admit our spiritual poverty and walk with him in his Kingdom. So why does he continue his teaching by talking about mourning?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4 NET)
The word used here, πενθοῦντες, is a present active participle: “those who are mourning” right now. Mourning is deep grief caused by something serious. As the second step in this path to spiritual maturity, it does complement the realization of spiritual poverty that precedes it. As I said last week in the story of how the Lord revealed my need to give him total control, I did shed tears over my condition. This next step addresses that mourning with what is called a “reversal”, a complete change of situation. “The beatitudes and the reversals that accompany them serve in the sermon as an invitation to enter into God’s care, because one can know God cares for those who turn to him.” (NET note, Mat. 5:4)
Think back to a time when you became overwhelmed with sorrow at your own failure, a serious misstep. That is contrition, a key element in our turning around, changing direction. When we bring that to our loving Lord, he assures us that we are forgiven, that his love covers our sin.
This can also refer to grief that is caused by seeing injustice and evil in the world, or that heartbreak you feel when someone you love (your child, your mate, a close friend, a Christian leader you have trusted) falls. In this broken world, that can happen, and in the dark moment of mourning we can wonder where God is (as in the last line of the heartcry in the poem above).
When I wrote this lament, I was in that place of deep hurt and despair. And it was not the only time I found myself there. When someone you count on strays, and deceives you, there is grief.
One day a national pastor that I trusted came to share with me his suspicion that another coworker of ours (we’ll call him “S”) was being unfaithful to his wife, hiding it from us. I was startled, although there had been times when it seemed that he had not progressed as much in his faith as we had hoped. We set up a test, following a clue to where his alleged mistress lived. She was cooking in her courtyard, and claimed she had not seen S at all. But as we sat there, waiting, the pastor dialed the man’s phone number, and we heard the phone ring in the hut behind us. Later, when we delved deeper, we found multiple instances of deceit and taking advantage of our trust. Cutting off our working relationship with S was the right thing to do, but it made our hearts bleed. We were mourning this injustice to his wife and kids as well as to the ministry and the dishonor it threw at our Master. And we mourned over his spiritual state, which was shown up as pretense. He showed no contrition.
Jesus felt that grief too: he wept over the state of Jerusalem. The psalmist wept, crying out to God: “Tears stream down from my eyes, because people do not keep your law.” (Ps. 119:136 NET)
But here in the second beatitude Jesus promises comfort to those who mourn. Sometimes we need to wait for that ultimate consolation that will come when he makes everything new and wipes away all tears from our eyes.
Meanwhile, even in our life here and now there is a mysterious process through which our Lord brings confidence in him and equips us to deal with “godly sorrow.” As Matthew Henry says, “in gracious mourning the heart has a serious joy, a secret satisfaction, which a stranger does not intermeddle with. They are blessed, for they are like the Lord Jesus, who was a man of sorrows, and of whom we never read that he laughed, but often that he wept.”
Right now I think of the sorrow that so many Ukrainians are feeling, seeing their land attacked, loved ones killed. People who minister there, whether currently in or out of the country, are mourning over refugees who have left all behind, families separated, loved ones in great danger. We could list many other countries where the massacres continue, whether done by terrorists, jihadists, criminal gangs or autocratic governments.
Feeling that deep pain is legitimate. But let us not forget that Jesus promises comfort to those who mourn, a consolation that comes from our confidence in God and the way that he has proven his lovingkindness for centuries:
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3 NET)
I look back at the sad case of S, our national coworker, and yet I am comforted in knowing that his wife stayed true to the Lord to the end of her life. In addition, to our astonishment, right then the Lord supplied another person to our ministry team to take S’s place, someone completely trustworthy and with a passion to serve the Lord in the specific way needed
Our Lord is indeed the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1629.