In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” What did He mean by this Beatitude? How can mourning lead to comfort and real joy and happiness?
It’s bad enough realizing that the world is a sad place. But feeling the effects of that world—experiencing grief, sorrow and mourning—can be devastating. And so Jesus addressed mourning in the second of His Beatitudes.
The first Beatitude addressed being poor in spirit—recognizing our own weakness compared to God’s greatness and realizing our dependence on Him. Once someone reaches that point, then he or she is capable of looking at everything with a new set of eyes.
And sometimes those eyes will be filled with tears.
Blessed are those who mourn
The second of the Beatitudes is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This Beatitude touches the heart and soul of what it is to be a Christian.
Christians have at least three things that cause them to mourn—that touch their hearts to such an extent that they sorrow and may be brought to tears. God wants people to be sensitive to the suffering, pain and torment caused by sin (our own or others’) and to be compassionate to those grieving the loss of loved ones.
- Repentance for our sins: When God leads us to repentance, we reach a point where we realize the force of our sins. Our sentiment can easily match the words of King David: “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me” (Psalm 40:11-12). Repentance—the process of confessing one’s sins to God and changing to His way of life—is a very sobering process (Psalm 51). It starts with a godly sorrow over sins that leads to real change (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). For more, read our articles on repentance.
- Sorrow for the sins of the world: “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law,” the psalmist said (Psalm 119:136). This can apply to those in a city (Matthew 23:37; 2 Peter 2:7-8), a nation (Jeremiah 4:19), or for the entire, sin-filled world (Romans 3:10-18). It’s hard living in a world that is so opposed to God’s way, but God will ultimately protect those who sigh and cry over the sins of the world (Ezekiel 9:4).
- Mourning for the loss of a loved one and compassion for others who have lost loved ones: The death of a loved one is a painful thing, and Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15; see also 1 Corinthians 12:26). Jesus was moved by the mourning of those grieving the death of His close friend Lazarus (John 11:33-36). He had compassion on a widow who had lost her son (Luke 7:12-13). Death is an inevitable force that will strike every human on the planet. Even the knowledge of God’s great plan doesn’t take away the pain and the mourning at such a loss. For more on this, read our article “How to Deal With Grief” and our blog post “How to Help Someone Who’s Grieving.”
Thankfully, after all of this mourning that a Christian faces, there is comfort.
For they shall be comforted
God has a fabulous plan that will allow everyone who is willing to repent and be saved. He wants to give us eternal life without any more mourning. This plan included the sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ (Revelation 13:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah was anointed “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” (Isaiah 61:2-3). (Read more about the good news of God’s plan, which gives hope to all, in our articles “Hope in Christ,” “Our Future Hope” and “Hope for the Hopeless.”)
There are multiple aspects of that plan that serve to comfort followers of Christ even now as they go through mourning. Here are three:
- Forgiveness of sins: Repentance can be a painful experience. But there is comfort in knowing that when we repent, God forgives our sins and puts them out of His mind “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). In the depth of that remorse, it’s possible to see the mercy and greatness of God (Joel 2:13; 1 John 1:9).
- The return of Christ: The world is a convoluted mess that has only one solution: the return of Jesus Christ. Until He returns, the situation will keep getting worse and worse. After His return to this earth, Christ will “turn their mourning to joy, will comfort them, and make them rejoice rather than sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13). Eventually, He “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).
- Resurrection: After the death of a loved one, the knowledge of the resurrection can be very comforting. Knowing that this life isn’t all there is, but that God has something even greater in store is a huge source of comfort (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Through the fulfillment of God’s plan, those who mourn “shall be comforted.”
Now that we have examined the Beatitude, let’s consider why it is difficult for us to implement this trait and how we may do so anyway.
The way of man
It does not seem as if mourning would be the way to achieve happiness and comfort.
Instead, most people imagine that the source of happiness would involve lots of physical pleasure and fun—perhaps drinking, partying, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. The natural inclination is to look at mourning as an emotional state to be avoided at all costs and instead to party and revel in the pleasure of the moment.
This is what so many have tried to do. Among them was King Solomon, the wise and wealthy king who had every physical thing he could ever want. But looking back on his life, he said, “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).
Mourning enables people to look at life more soberly—in a way that invites change and causes growth. In this way, those who mourn are truly blessed, in spite of what many think (Luke 6:21, 25; James 4:8-10).
How mourning looks
What exactly does Christian mourning look like?
Mourning is deep sadness, and it may even include tears. Many biblical heroes cried, the most notable of whom was Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:3; John 11:35). Tears do not have to be a sign of weakness. They can show a tender and caring heart that hurts with others and knows pain. At other times, crying can also signify a repentant heart full of sorrow after recognizing the severity of our sin (Matthew 26:75). For more on what the Bible says, read “Crying: What the Bible Says” and “Godly Sorrow.”
A sober, mourning heart will number its days, keeping in mind that this physical life isn’t eternal (Psalm 90:12). Mourning, whether in repentance or out of compassion or loss, can lead to inner reflection. This enables self-examination and more spiritual growth.
God doesn’t want people to sit in dark rooms and mourn continually from dawn to dusk. A fruit of His Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). While there are certainly times for mourning, there are also times for joy (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). A balanced life will have both—at the appropriate times.
For a Christian, godly joy doesn’t come from outer circumstances. Instead, the joy comes from knowing God and His way of life. A close relationship with God can yield more joy than some think possible (Psalm 16:11; 1 Peter 1:8). God’s way, once internalized, gives a sense of inner peace that no amount of trials can overcome (Philippians 4:6-7).
This balance between joy and mourning leads to the self-reflection and awareness that is necessary for the next of the Beatitudes: meekness.
Considering all this, we can see why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4).
You can find an overview of all the Beatitudes and links to them in our article “Beatitudes: Keys to Real Happiness.”