“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
This is quite rightfully a staple of Christian funerals and a precious promise that Christians cling to. Its meaning is obvious, and its message so beautiful that it seems like any comment is purely superfluous. Better, almost, to simply say it, and then be silent and let the Spirit do the rest.
Yet I am going to venture to say just two words about it, which I hope will only help clarify and further polish this beautiful gem.
The first is this: There is no time when we Christians are not in mourning.
That isn’t to say that we are always grieving the death of a loved one. It’s rather to say that the mourning that Jesus speaks of includes more than physical death—it also includes spiritual death. Throughout the Old Testament, God calls upon his people to mourn the effect of sin in their lives.
You can see this in Scripture whenever our Lord calls his people to repent in “sackcloth and ashes” (cf. Jeremiah 6:26, Daniel 9:3, Jonah 3:6-8). Sackcloth and ashes were symbols of grief and mourning over death and disaster.
Thus, when God thinks of his people mourning, he thinks of weeping over spiritual death as well as physical death.
I point this out because we must read “mourning” as expansively as our Lord meant it in the Old Testament. Either we are mourning our sin and its effects: Weeping at the relational wreckage that our hastily spoken words, inattentive ears, hardened hearts, and lazy hands have wrought.
Or we are mourning the effects of sin in our relation with the Lord: How it makes us feel far from him and unworthy of being his child, at the cost our God had to pay to fix it, and how ungrateful we are for the sacrifice.
And then, on top of that, we all have times when we must mourn the loss of a loved one who, because of the Fall, was taken from us far too soon and always against our will.
This leads me to my second comment: There is no time when Jesus isn’t comforting us.
Because mourning is both spiritual and physical, our Lord’s comfort doesn’t come to us only when we are grieving a death. (Though praise be to God that it does come then, and that the form it takes is of a peace that surpasses all understanding and the promise of the resurrection from the dead!)
But not only that, our Lord Jesus comforts us as we mourn our spiritual death by his continual proclamation to us that all is forgiven.
There is no sin that we have committed that Christ has not forgiven.
Though our sin proclaims a dead relationship, our God proclaims and vivifies a living relationship with us through his Son.
More than that, our Lord comforts us by the continual transformative work of the Holy Spirit, who by degrees warms our hearts and increases our love, growing our meekness and gentleness into the mirror image of Christ’s.
More than that, we are not only forgiven and transformed, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be at work in our lives to restore broken relationships, especially with those in the church, though even with non-believers as well (i.e., Jacob and Esau).
All of this to say, the present blessing of the Kingdom of Christ is that there is no time when He is not near us, bringing us comfort as we mourn, giving us his assurance that he is, truly, our ever-present help in time of trouble.
Matt Barker is a pastor of a church in Walkerton, Indiana. He married up to a wonderful wife who gives happiness and wisdom, and has a wonderful daughter who encourages fun and vigilante prayer.