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As we said last week that if you really look at them as a whole, what Jesus is trying to get across in the Beatitudes is this, that our happiness is not a product of circumstances, it’s a product of our attitudes.
And while most of the world buys into the “when and then” philosophy, you know, “When I get this…” or “When that changes…” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy.” Jesus says, “No, it doesn’t work that way.” Your happiness is not a product of circumstances. Your happiness does not depend upon what’s happening around you, it depends upon what’s happening in you. It’s a series of attitudes.
Let’s look at the second beatitude. Found in verse 4 of Matthew 5, it simply said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous.
The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.
In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is the word which is used of Jacob’s grief when he believed that Joseph, his son, was dead (Genesis 37:34).
It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes.
Now the first part of that really makes no sense. Happy are those who mourn? Happy are those who grieve? Happy are those who are expressing sorrow? That’s nonsensical, until you read the last part of the verse, “for they will be comforted.”
How can I be happy when I’m mourning? How can I be happy when I’m grieving? How can I be happy when I’ve experienced a great pain or loss? By receiving the comfort of God.
Now before we look at that comfort and how you receive it, I’ve got to give you a warning that’s straight from Scripture. Not all mourning is going to receive the comfort of God.
In II Corinthians 7:10, Paul says this. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Did you hear that? There’s a godly sorrow and there’s a worldly sorrow, and the worldly sorrow we need not expect any comfort for that. You say, well what are you talking about? What do you mean worldly sorrow?
The world is full of people who can’t see the good in anything. They can’t see the good in anybody. They live in kind of a state of perpetual mourning. Somebody said, “You can’t have rosy thoughts about your future when your mind is filled with blues from the past.” That’s a pessimist. And that person, he or she just mourns all the time. God promises no comfort for that. That is contrary to his will.
- There’s a second kind of worldly sorrow caused by discontentment.
Our society is geared for constant competitiveness and the urge to keep up with the Joneses. Madison Avenue advertising companies specialize in making us feel disenchanted. They create itches that we need to scratch and yet their real job is to create an itch that we never can adequately scratch.
There’s a kind of mourning that goes with discontentment and our Lord won’t comfort that kind of mourning. Instead, he warns against it. Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'”
I Timothy 6:7: “We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. And he says in verse 8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
- Punishment and the consequences of wrongdoing.
A thief may mourn over time that he’s spending in jail, only to be planning his next theft. Do you see what I’m getting at? He’s not grieving over his sin, he’s grieving over getting caught. Now that’s a worldly grief. And all of those things, God says, “Look, those things lead to death. Don’t think I’m going to come down and just take that kind of mourning away. I will not.”
But that same verse says, “There is a godly sorrow which God will comfort.” And this is a mourning that we experience when we hurt and when we have heartaches from the suffering that floods this world.
Suffering that brings pain and that brings death, suffering we have no control over, that we didn’t bring about, but we’re all victims of it.
There are three ways in which this beatitude can be taken.
(i) It can be taken quite literally: Blessed is the man who has endured the bitterest sorrow that life can bring. The Arabs have a proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.” The land on which the sun always shines will soon become an arid place in which no fruit will grow. There are certain things which only the rains will produce; and certain experiences which only sorrow can beget.
Sorrow can do two things for us. it can show us, as nothing else can, the essential kindness of our fellow-men; and it can show us as nothing else can the comfort and the compassion of God. Many and many a man in the hour of his sorrow has discovered his fellow-men and his God as he never did before. When things go well it is possible to live for years on the surface of things; but when sorrow comes a man is driven to the deep things of life, and, if he accepts it aright, a new strength and beauty enter into his soul.
“I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she,
But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!”
(ii) Some people have taken this beatitude to mean:
Blessed are those who are desperately sorry for the sorrow and the suffering of this world.
When we were thinking of the first beatitude we saw that is it always right to be detached from things, but it is never right to be detached from people. This world would have been a very much poorer place, if there had not been those who cared intensely about the sorrows and the sufferings of others.
Christianity is caring. This beatitude does mean: Blessed is the man who cares intensely for the sufferings, and for the sorrows, and for the needs of others.
(iii) No doubt both these thoughts are in this beatitude, but its main thought undoubtedly is: Blessed is the man who is desperately sorry for his own sin and his own unworthiness.
“It is mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities that have separated us and God; mourning over the very morality in which we have boasted, and the self-righteousness in which we have trusted; sorrow for rebellion against God, and hostility to His will; and such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit.”
As we have seen, the very first word of the message of Jesus was, “Repent!” No man can repent unless he is sorry for his sins. The thing which really changes men is when they suddenly come up against something which opens their eyes to what sin is and to what sin does.
A boy or a girl may go his or her own way, and may never think of effects and consequences; and then some day something happens and that boy or girl sees the stricken look in a father’’ or a mother’s eye’s; and suddenly sin is seen for what it is.
That is what the Cross does for us. As we look at the Cross, we are bound to say, “That is what sin can do. Sin can take the loveliest life in all the world and smash it on a Cross.”
One of the great functions of the Cross is to open the eyes of men and women to the horror of sin. And when a man sees sin in all its horror he cannot do anything else but experience intense sorrow for his sin.
Christianity begins with a sense of sin. Blessed is the man who is intensely sorry for his sin, the man who is heart-broken for what his sin has done to God and to Jesus Christ, the man who sees the Cross and who is appalled by the havoc wrought by sin.
It is the man who has that experience who will indeed be comforted; for the experience is what we call penitence, and the broken and the contrite heart God will never despise (Psalm 51:17). The way to the joy of forgiveness is through the desperate sorrow of the broken heart.
God is going to comfort people who go through that and that’s all of us. Godly grief is also the mourning that we do over our own sins, not the getting caught, but the sin itself.
God says, “If you’ll mourn over your own sin, I’ll come and comfort your heart.” And godly grief is also the sadness that we share for others in their loss. He said, “I’ll bless that if you hurt with other people. I’ll come and take that sorrow away.”
Here, then, are the first birthmarks of the children of God. He who has never come to be poor in spirit and has never known what it is to really mourn for sin has neither seen nor entered the Kingdom of God. How thankful the Christian reader ought to be that the great God condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart!
Now today and tomorrow, when you experience that kind of grief and that kind of mourning, sorrow that is left unattended will literally rob you of your happiness, how do you apply this beatitude? And how do you claim this promise?
If you really want to be happy in this world, you’ll not be happy by just avoiding sadness because you can’t. We’re all going to mourn, we’re all going to grieve, how do I get through that by the power of God so that I’m happy way yonder more than I’m sad?
Three simple steps, write them down.
- Number one, realize God is with you.
You know when we’re hurting, we tend to forget where God is. We think he’s distant that he is far away. Look at Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” When you’re mourning, when you’re in pain, remember three simple things: God is aware, God cares, and God is there. Just those three simple things. God is aware, he cares, and he’s there.
God is aware. Job said, “You keep a close watch on all my paths. There are many, many of you who have come today and you’re in pain, but I want you to know something, God is watching over you. Nothing escapes his eyes. The Bible says, not just the number of hairs on your hair are numbered, the Bible says, even your tears are numbered. I’ve heard people say hundreds of times, nobody knows what I’m going through. That may be right if you’re talking about somebody else in the flesh, but somebody knows what you’re going through. God is keenly aware of everything you’re going through.
- He is not only aware, number two, he cares.
Look at the little book of Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” God’s not only aware, he cares, your pain matters to God.
- Number three, he’s there.
That’s the best thing of all. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I thank God that he doesn’t just offer awareness and sympathy, he offers help when you hurt. He’s not powerless like you and I feel in times of mourning. He doesn’t just write a note like I do that says, “I’m thinking about you in this time of need.” God says, “I’m not just thinking about you, I’m right there and my hand is reaching down to help you.”
Isaiah 43:2, our God says, “‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. And when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,…'”
God says when you’re mourning, I want to come and build you up with my strength. I want to fortify you. I want to stand beside you.
- So the first step in being comforted, being happy when you’re sad, is to realize God’s presence.
Now having said that, have you ever noticed there are some people who grow in their pain and there are other people who get stuck there? Why is that? I think more than any other reason, it’s because they fail to apply step two.
- Release the hurt.
Somebody says, “I’m in pain.” Let it go. How do you let it go? Here’s the key thing, you stop focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left. After your loss, after your tragedy, after your pain, start focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left.
The whole idea here is to quit looking backward and start looking forward.
Isaiah 43:18 says, “‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.'”
Philippians 3:13, Paul says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” And it goes on to say the goal is the prize of the heavenward call of Christ Jesus.
The Bible says your past is your past, let it go. It doesn’t need to hurt you anymore. Some of you are letting memories of people who have hurt you in the past, hurt you right now. I don’t want to be cruel, but I want to be honest. That’s dumb.
If they’ve hurt you in the past, and you’re letting the memory hurt you now, all you are doing is letting them hurt you twice. Don’t let the pains of the past control you. Don’t let the guilt of your past strangle you. If you want the comfort of God, release your hurt. That power is within you.
See there are choices about what to do with the hurts and the pains and the grief sources of the past. Here are some things different folks do at different times, they are on your outline.
You can repress those hurts.
You know you can just push them down. You can swallow them, try to keep them way down deep inside. But I’ve said many times, if you swallow your feelings, your stomach keeps score. There are so many thousands and thousands of Christians right now who are walking wounded, and they are walking wounded because they have repressed their hurt. They’ve never dealt with them, they’ve never even admitted them, they just keep them deep.
You can rehearse them.
Just keep rehearsing the pain. Have you ever seen somebody who just won’t let it go? They keep bringing it up in their mind and going over and over and over. And some of them they do it verbally. That’s all they’ll tell you about. “Oh, I’ll never get over this…” “Oh, I’ll never…” They torture themselves by rethinking about it over and over. But God says don’t dwell on the past.
Folks, there is a big difference between mourning and moaning. A big difference—A big difference between mourning and moaning. Mourning is legitimate grief. There are times for bona fide sadness. And when you go through that, God wants to comfort that; but moaning is self pity. And if you’re moaning, you’re doing it honestly because you want to. You just kind of want to hold on to that hurt because that’s your attention-getter. That may be the only way you think you’re getting self esteem that’s tearing you up.
Resent those things.
I guess that’s the greatest tendency of all. We tend to resent what we believe to be the cause of our pain. If that’s another person, we tend to resent them. If it’s our job, we tend to resent it. If we can’t blame it on a specific person, place, or thing, then often God is resented for just letting it happen. The problem with resentment is, it hurts you more than the person you resent.
If you really want to handle your hurt, rightly, then the fourth choice is the best, re-channel them.
Don’t repress them, don’t rehearse them, don’t resent them—re-channel them. Use the energy that you would use repressing, rehearsing, resenting, turn it constructively outward instead of destructively inward.
Do you know who my model is for this—straight from the Bible? The apostle Paul. You talk about, can you imagine the pain and the guilt of knowing if you were Paul that you were the most destructive force on the early church. Read Acts 8:1, it says Paul was the ringleader. He was the one that was seeking to destroy it. And yet he was the very man who wrote what I read to a moment ago from Philippians, “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on…”
Do you know what he did? He didn’t repress his guilt, he didn’t rehearse his guilt, he didn’t resent his guilt, he re-channeled it. He said, “I could lie around all day on the couch and feel guilty, guilty, guilty, then I could do nothing or I could take that and say, “No God, I’ve learned and I’m going to re-channel this for your glory.” People, that’s not hypocrisy, God honors that. He honors that, and he blesses that, and he comforts you when you do that.
- The way God will comfort me is by relying on God’s resources.
When you’re mourning and when you’re hurting, people try all kinds of things. Some get drunk, some pop pills, some watch t.v. all day long, some escape in novels, or just 1,001 things, all trying to dull the pain. God says, “No, no, those don’t work.” There are escapes, diversions, but they’re all dead-ends, they bring you right back to where you were. But God has got some resources you can tap into that really will bring you the comfort and lead you through your mourning. Here they are.
The first resource: God’s word.
Look at Psalm 119:25, here’s what that verse says, “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.” A few verses later, verse 62, David says, “I remember your ancient laws O Lord, and I find comfort in them.”
But the second resource God wants to use to comfort you is his people. That’s why he designed his church. See we weren’t made to be individually isolated or islands unto ourselves. There’s no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We need each other. We’re supposed to be a family. We’re a God-given resource to provide comfort.
I love II Corinthians 1:3,4, here’s what it says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” look at this, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
I mean that says just in black and white, the function of comforting and encouraging one another is just as important a function of the church as worship is. That’s the reason God comforts us. One of the keys, he said, “I comfort you so you can be conduit, so that you’ll go out and comfort other people who are also hurting.”
One minister tells this story:
Years ago, I talked to a man who had been worshipping for two years at a congregation, a big church. And after worshipping for two years, he became ill with cancer, went through a couple of hospital stays and was diagnosed as being terminal. Then going to see him on one occasion, he was bitter. He said it just seems like nobody cares, nobody cared at all. And I wasn’t trying to trap him, it was just an honest question. I said, “Well tell me, who are some of your closest friends in church?” Do you realize that after being there for two years, he couldn’t name the name of one person, not one person that he would have listed as a dear friend.
Folks, the Bible says that we are to comfort one another. That’s why small groups, support groups, care groups, whatever it takes are beneficial so that we can pass along the comfort of God. It’s not that you have to give advice, it’s not that you have to have all the answers, it’s just by saying I’ve been there and I hurt with you.
And then finally, God uses his Spirit to comfort us. When Jesus was here physically, knowing he was going to a cross, he made a promise, John 14:26, he said, “But the Counselor,” (the King James Version says the Comforter) “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Then he said, “My peace I leave with you;…” That was a promise to the apostles, but the Bible says that promise of the comfort from the Spirit is still applicable.
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Mourners comforted—destroyers condemned (v. 14; 5:4).
While this verse is not in some manuscripts of Matthew, it is found in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. Instead of mourning over their own sins, and mourning with needy widows, the Pharisees took advantage of people in order to rob them. They used their religion as a “cloak of covetousness” (1 Thes. 2:5).