If a saying is self-contradictory, we often say it is an oxymoron. However, 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 says, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). It sounds just as strange and paradoxical as does the first beatitude that says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). It is seemingly contrary to the accepted views of all mankind in every age of human history, for 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 are thankful that we have escaped their 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. This beatitude does not have universal application or is it 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 there is a bitter anguish that will never be appeased.
Jesus was very, very clear about this. Notice what He said in Matthew 8:12: “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In Matthew 13:42 He says the very same thing: “There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Again in verse 50 He says there is going to be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Over and over again Jesus warned that there was coming a time when there would be a sorrow for which there would be no healing. There would be a sorrow that would have no consolation. Notice what He says in Matthew 24:50: “The master of that servant who will come in 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.”
In Matthew 25:30 the same warning is repeated: “Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It is predicted in Jeremiah that there is coming a time when some people in the world will make this comment: “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 alleviation for their bitter anguish. There can be no real, lasting comfort for the person who refuses to separate from sin by refusing all the overtures of the God of heaven for mercy if they would repent. If you grieve away the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, there is no way for you to be comforted.
Notice what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 concerning a sorrow for which there is no comfort: “… godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
So, there is a sorrow of this world for which there is no comfort. This sort of sorrow does not bring comfort; it brings death. And there are millions of people, today in our world 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 but instead they love the sin and just hate the results. Our jails, prisons, and penitentiaries are filled with mourners of this sort. But this mourning does not lead to any blessed results.
There is a large class of pessimistic people who mourn. One Christian writer describing them said there are people who glory in gloom and misery. There are those who are veritable gluttons for wretchedness. They search 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. They are never so miserable as when they feel duty-bound to be happy. The Bible is very clear; we read it from the words of Jesus about the wailing and weeping that there will be in the last days. The apostle Paul says the same things.
If there is a sorrow that won’t produce any good result, then what kind of sorrow will produce a good result? What kind of mourning is Jesus talking about that brings comfort and happiness? You cannot study the beatitudes and understand them until you understand that they are inseparably connected. Each one is an advanced step on the path that leads to the kingdom of heaven. They form 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 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is to those people who recognize their spiritual poverty and see their sinful condition, and say like the apostle Paul said one time in Romans 7:24 literal translation, “… wretched man that I am! Who is going to deliver me from this body of death?”
If you realize your condition and have true heart sorrow for the condition that you are in, if you are poor in spirit and you recognize that in a spiritual sense you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, and mourn over this condition, the Lord says, you are going to be comforted. The apostle Paul also describes this sorrow that brings comfort and happiness in 2 Corinthians 7:8–12: “… even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; although 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. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 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.”
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 he or she has 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 and he was blessed above anything he had ever experienced before. The same is true in regard to Isaiah the prophet. In his agony of soul, over the sins of his life, he talks of himself as being a man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of a people of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5).
When he recognized his condition and said that he was undone, that brought to him the dawn of a new day, the doorway to happiness. He was anointed as a messenger of the Lord. Then there is the example of King Saul. King Saul mourned over his sin of rebellion, not because he repented because of his sin, but because it cost him his throne. So, he made a forced confession when there wasn’t any 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 results of his sin. Saul had a successor, David, who also committed sins. Looking at their two lives, it appears that David committed sins just as great as Saul did, but with a difference. David was sorry, not just for what he had done, but he realized his total wretchedness, and that there had to be a re-creation or he could never be saved. He was afraid he had committed the unpardonable sin, and this is what he said about it in Psalm 51:
“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness” (verse 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). David recognized that he was all wretched, miserable, 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.”
That’s what Jesus talked about with Nicodemus. He said to the man who was one of the leaders of the Jews in those days that unless you are born of the Holy Spirit, there is no chance for you to enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, unless you have a new heart, a new spirit, you cannot be saved. (See John 3:3, 5.)
Judas was another mourner. Judas’ mourning was 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. It was the sorrow of the world that ends in death. He was sorry for the consequences of what he had done. He never repented for the sin himself. True repentance for sins, sorrow for sin, can come only as a gift of the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 5.)
Peter sinned almost as grievously as did Judas. He betrayed Jesus Christ the same night, but his remorse was great and his grief led to genuine repentance, repentance not just for the consequences, but repentance for the sin itself and he was comforted and blessed. Jesus is the only Source of true comfort. If you want to really be comforted, you must go to Him with repentance, and ask for the gift of repentance. Ask that the Holy Spirit will give your heart repentance and a desire to be born again.
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 bereavement over the loss of a loved one. 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 wants to relieve your mourning.
In Isaiah there is a prophecy of the work of the Messiah, the Christ. Messiah is a Hebrew word, Christ is from the same Greek word, meaning the Anointed One. Jesus applied this prophecy to Himself. Notice what it says the work of the Messiah would be. Isaiah 61:1–3 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 garment 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.”
Notice, the work of the Messiah was to bind up the broken-hearted, 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. That is what Jesus still wants to give to the world today. The problem is that there is a lack of consciousness of sin. This healing can only be brought about by a consciousness of sin and a vision of the character of Christ. Recognition of sin is a result of recognition of God. But this must be followed by genuine heart-sorrow and repentance. The present generation is but little disturbed or concerned over sin. Multitudes of people have so far lost their sense of right and wrong that they are virtually amoral or non-moral. They have trampled all moral and spiritual standards under foot until, to them, nothing is wrong anymore. Such an attitude always produces a spirit of pride and self-appreciation, making its possessors feel they are rich and in need of nothing.
Today we are living in a world that is actually similar to the world that Jesus lived in, 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 a lack is not enough. The blessing is for the person only who is a convicted sinner and who takes the matter seriously and grieves 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. 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, provided that the comfort comes as a result of mourning over sin, which must be first experienced.
Those who realize their spiritual poverty are in a condition that if they mourn over it and are sorry and come to the Lord, He said, “I am willing to heal you. I am willing to provide comfort for your sorrow.”
The ultimate fulfillment of the comfort to mourners will come in that blessed realm where sin and all of its results are no more. We read in the Bible about what Jesus came to do. The purpose, the reason that He came, was so that He could redeem His people and take them to a better land that is described in Isaiah 35, verse 10: “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 read also about that land in the book of Revelation. There will come a time when there is no more sorrow at all. Notice what it says in Revelation 21:4 literal translation: “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Why is it that in the future there will come a time when there will be no more sorrow, no pain, no suffering, no crying out and no funerals? It is because at that time, sin has been done away. You can read about how sin will finally be totally abolished from our universe in Revelation the 20th chapter.
The time is coming when sin and sinners will be no more. And when that time comes, then in God’s universe, everything will be clean. There will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more sorrow. But if you are going to be in that place, you must be cleansed from your sins, not only forgiven, but you must be cleansed from all unrighteousness as you read in I John 1:9. It says in Revelation 21:27, concerning that place, “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.”
The ultimate fulfillment of that promise that the mourners will be comforted will be in that better land when all sorrow will be done away. In order for sorrow to be completely done away, sin has to be completely done away. And if you are sorry for the situation you are in, and want to be cleansed from your sins, the Lord says there is comfort for you.
(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 of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.