Comfort When It Counts
Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].
Most of us immediately think of the death of a loved one when we identify things we grieve for, but we also grieve over other losses in life, such as the death of a dream, the loss of companionship, betrayal by friends, or chronic health problems. Yet our deepest sense of loss is of a spiritual nature. We mourn when we feel a sense of personal spiritual bankruptcy, realize our own sinfulness, and see our need to repent.
People today aren’t good at mourning and repenting. We live in a society that promises immediate answers to problems and quick relief from pain. Gradually, most of us have come to believe that mourning is somehow subhuman. We’ve concluded that life should always be pleasant, but that’s not the way it works. We live in a fallen world with fallen people. Hurts happen, and quite often they happen to us!
In this beatitude, Jesus tells us that genuine comfort occurs only when we are honest about our spiritual condition. When we repent and express our disillusionment to God, we become receptive to His forgiveness. We may begin by demanding to know why the sin happened, but sooner or later, we’ll realize that God knows, God cares, and God has gracious purpose that is far bigger than whatever sin we have committed. We stop asking, “Why?” We put our hands in His hand, and we ask, “What now?” Repentance is taking the first step back toward God’s very best purpose for our lives.
It’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it’s how you handle what happens to you.
Reading Matthew 5:4 in the Amplified version gives a better understanding to what the verse says to us. There is no question that God comforts those who mourn over loss. As a matter of fact when Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit, He introduced Him as Comforter. Paul in speaking of loss says that we do not mourn as those who have no hope and in other writings tells us that this hope is in Christ. It is an absolute that God loves us and cares for us and is with us in our grief and suffering in this world.
The context of Matthew 5:4, however, addresses mourning because we have sinned. Years ago the church had benches which were called mourners benches. The idea was that once someone was able to see their sinfulness that it would break their hearts and bring them to repentance. In our world that seems to major in helping people feel good about themselves, we often swing the pendulum to the extreme of convincing everyone that they are ok whatever spiritual condition they find themselves in. Some have even changed the words of hymns to reflect the idea that we aren’t really that sinful. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace captured the feelings of a sinner’s mourning when he penned the words “that saved a wretch like me.” So in our attempt to help people feel better we sing, “that saved one like me.”
Scripture tells us that God honors mourning and repentance.
“My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.”
The beauty of having a contrite heart is experiencing the incredible grace and mercy of God flowing over the broken and repentant sinner. Those who have experienced the saving grace of Christ can testify that once they came before God in repentance, mourning over the wretchedness of their sinful life, as Christ forgave them and washed them they felt so clean, so new and so loved. As long as we excuse, justify, or placate our sinful ways we will remain under the burden of sin. But, oh, as we allow our hearts to break, our tears of repentance to flow and we cry out to God for His forgiveness and cleansing, how the joy and love of God floods our souls. Gone is the fear of death, gone is the fear of rejection, gone is the emptiness of our souls, and gone are the regrets and guilt. In comes the flood of love and grace and mercy and comfort. All the old life and old ways are gone and a new life and a new way of living begins. None of this can be experienced until we learn to mourn over our sinful state.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God gives us a powerful set of instructions with a powerful promise:
“and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
The promise that we are given is that God will forgive our sin and will heal our land. Those two things go hand in hand. Until and unless God changes our hearts, our land will remain broken and ravaged by the effects of sin. We often are troubled by all the social ills that seem to be escalating and we try as best we can to resolve them. Perhaps we ought to recognize that behind and beneath every social issue is a sin issue. Hatred, violence, racism, and the like stem from sin and until our hearts are transformed these things which are the result of a corrupted spirit will continue to flourish. Conflict in families, churches, communities, and nations have their roots in selfish, self-centered thinking and no matter how long we sit at the table most won’t be resolved until we begin to mourn over our sinful state and come before God in repentance.
The above verse provides a process by which we might attain the promise. We humble ourselves- that is we come empty-handed before God acknowledging that we need His grace and help. We admit our failure and weakness and sinful state. We literally “throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.” We pray! Sometimes in our busy lives, trying to manage and cope, prayer becomes our last resort, our last priority. I think that even the church would many times rather spend time trying to talk their way through conflict or make decisions through negotiations rather than taking the same amount of time to come before God with their problems and seek His solution. Chronicles adds an important piece that can’t be missed, “and seek His face.” Often we seek His hand. We ask for our need to be met, a way to be made, or some blessing or answer to a prayer. God who loves is is so gracious to answer all this. But He invites us to seek His face, to long for His presence, to hear His heart and to be His friend. This is a deeper walk than just trusting God to meet our need. It becomes a relationship in which both parties contribute. The final thing on our part is “turn from their wicked ways.” This brings us back to Matthew 5:4. Those who mourn over their sins will be comforted. Why? Because when we are broken over our conduct and we come to God we find grace. He is never like the world. He will never humiliate us, nor despise us, nor be disgusted by us. He will receive us, forgive us and restore us. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing, our mourning into dancing and we change the garment of sin for the garment of righteousness.
So today if you have fallen into the trap of some sin and it is no longer fun and you find yourself mourning over your conduct, come to God, cast that filthy garment of sin at His feet. Feel His love, receive His forgiveness and put on the garment of righteousness that He provides through His sacrifice on the cross. And be comforted with the knowledge that your sin has been forgiven and you have received grace.
Dr. John Thompson