“Happy Are Those Who Mourn?”
People spend their entire lives running from and distracting themselves from their problems. People don’t want to be grieved and they try to avoid mourning as much as possible. There are entire industries devoted to distracting people of their troubles and sorrow. Alcohol and drugs numb pain but only create more sorrow. There’s even food known as “comfort food” and not surprisingly, the comfort is unhealthy.
There was a popular worldwide hit song in the 1980s titled “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” written by Bobby McFerrin. It became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it embodies this mindset. In the 1960s, the expression “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was printed on inspirational cards and posters which came from an Indian mystic and sage by the name of Meher Baba (1894–1969) who often used the expression when cabling his followers in the West. McFerrin once said, “Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think.” (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
In the 1994 classic “The Lion King,” Simba sang “Hakuna Matata” (which means “no worries” in Swahili) when he left the sorrows of his past behind. I can hear the song playing in my head now . . .
“It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
At first glance, these messages might seem to be biblical. After all, God’s Word is clear that we’re not supposed to worry or be anxious about anything. But to dismiss problems by adopting a happy attitude in a so-called “problem-free life” is certainly not what Jesus is teaching.
But what does Jesus say? In the parallel passage to Matthew 5:5, Jesus says, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). We’re going to see more “woes” from Jesus when he mourns over the Pharisees.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Bible teaches the exact opposite of what the world believes, thinks, teaches and does.
The first Beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (here), as well as all of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount are for Christians only. Spiritual mourning is a condition, character and attitude of a follower of Christ and is not something the world can try to do to find happiness. Only those who have been born again and have the Holy Spirit are able to access this provision of God. Those who mourn in spirit are the ones who will be happy because they are comforted by God in their grief.
The first time the word “grieved” is used in the Bible is in Genesis 6:6 which says, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” God mourned over the condition of mankind. The result? The flood.
In Romans 7:24 we read, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The Apostle Paul is both poor in spirit and mourning over his sinful condition before finding new birth in Jesus Christ. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a collection of poetic “laments” for the destruction of Jerusalem in the Book of Lamentations. The Psalms are filled with poetry and songs devoted to expressions of sorrow and grief.
There are a total of 271 times the words mourn, grieved, grief, sorrow, sorry and lament are found in the Bible.
It was prophesied in Isaiah 53:3 that Jesus would be a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief.” As followers of Christ, do we grieve over the condition of mankind? Does our own sin bother us? Are we acquainted with grief? This doesn’t mean we should be miserable or gloomy (joy is a fruit of the Spirit after all) but does it bother us that this world is filled with corruption, abuse and immorality and is headed for eventual destruction?
Do our own sinful tendencies that continue to creep in bother us, or do we just bask in the glow of God’s grace and brush them off?
A picture of our Lord Jesus Christ mourning can be found in Matthew 23 when He rebuked the Pharisees. This passage of Scripture is known as the “Seven Woes.” He said to them,
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” (Matthew 23:16)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33)
And if that wasn’t enough, He then says to them, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38)
Can you imagine a pastor saying this to a congregation or a prophet to church leaders? I can assure you, the mega churches would not stay mega for long with a message like the one Jesus’ brought to the religious leaders of His day.
This is godly sorrow. This is mourning!
But how can Jesus say, “Blessed [happy] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”? Who’s happy or blessed after a tongue lashing like this? Who’s comforted by this rebuke? Oh friends, how happy are those who no longer live in ignorance! Happy are those who find comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ for loving them enough to mourn for them, to weep over them, to tell them the truth about their spiritual condition. But they wouldn’t listen. They were blind and continued leading people away from the kingdom of heaven.
Many in the church can’t relate to this kind of mourning over sin and don’t feel any sense of sorrow when false teachers lead people astray. But those same people would be outraged if a doctor was telling his patients with terminal cancer that they were in great health. Can you imagine standing by while an elderly blind woman crosses a busy highway? Would you throw a life preserver filled with sand to a drowning child?
How can anyone who professes faith in Christ not mourn over their sin? When we’re poor in spirit and recognize who we are before God, how can we shrug off mourning over sin when our sinfulness is why Jesus had to die? If we don’t mourn, we will not be comforted.
But how are we who mourn comforted?
Jesus said of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” This “Comforter,” Jesus said, would guide the disciples into all truth (John 16:13). Truth is, when we sin we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). That should also grieve us.
For those who mourn over the alcoholic family member or drug addicted friend who are destroying their lives, we find great comfort when they are set free from their addictions. We mourn over a missing child but are comforted when they are found. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
When we mourn spiritually, it means we are in tune with the heart of God. If we were hard-hearted or aloof in our spirit, we wouldn’t mourn because we wouldn’t care and would not be comforted. We’re proving we’re not poor in spirit. But when we mourn, God comforts us in our grief and that comfort bring with it true happiness!
In closing, the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
For me, it all comes back to the sovereignty of God – recognizing He is in control. I find great comfort knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) and in Him, “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
Father, remind me not to run to distractions when I’m filled with sorrow over the state of my own heart, my sinful tendencies and the state of mankind. Help me to press into you to find comfort and experience happiness in your sovereignty by your Holy Spirit who is my Comforter. Thank you for leading me each day into all truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Thank you for reading my Daily Bible Journal!
Reading, reflecting and writing from the Bible has so radically impacted my life in Christ, it’s as if I’ve been on auto-pilot when reading the Bible in the past. There’s something about “sitting with the text” and through prayerful reflection, sharing what comes to mind. Because I’m posting online for others to read, I consider my words carefully and try to be clear and accurate.
This daily process enhances my understanding of God’s Word and embeds it into my conscience. It literally gets “hidden in my heart!”
I hope this encourages others to be in God’s Word every day.
For God’s Glory,