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Comfort for Those Who Mourn

February 22nd, 2010

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

 

A hallmark of immaturity is ignorance concerning how much we cost. A child, for example, is blissfully unaware of how much money is spent by his parents on the food he eats, the clothes he wears, the house he lives in, etc. He happily plays without a care in the world never giving a thought to such things as who pays for the lights in the school he attends. But somewhere along the road to maturity we need to pick up on these facts and become conscious of the real costs of physical life.

 

There is a spiritual corollary to this truth: those who mature in the faith become increasingly aware of the cost of our salvation. I am almost certain that no human being while on this earth is capable of fully grasping the depth of our sinfulness nor the full glory of our redemption. That awaits us in heaven where we will “know fully” even as are “fully known” in this life by God (1 Corinthians 13:12). But the maturing believer sees life differently. He sees sin more clearly and the results of sin more plainly. It is a painful view, for sin and its results are all around us in this world, and the victims of the spiritual blindness and rebellion of humanity, the hardness of people’s hearts, is equal to the population of the world. We each carry the scars from what the world has done to us.

 

This attitude Christ described is the repentant attitude that mourns at our moral failures. We have not yet done this if we only or even mostly weep over the sins of others; Christ was talking primarily about personal repentance. It is specifically the work of the Spirit to bring us to sorrow for our sins, to a state of mourning. Paul called this godly sorrow because it leads also to repentance and turning to God and to Him cleansing us from our sin. In this process of mourning, I am not sure we can so easily categorize precisely whose fault everything is. We must take responsibility for our failures, absolutely no question about this matter, and it is much better if we take too much personal fault than not enough, but the general guilt of the society around us, from parents to strangers, and their influence on us and our influence on them, leads us to the same conclusion that Isaiah came to: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5).

 

Christ cried from the cross, ‘”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This is our reality and these words are for us as well. Thank God Christ spoke them!  He was ministering to the heart of every believer in the world, from the first century until now. We have grace to cover our ignorance. We are like them in that we also do not realize the results of our sinning or the cost of our salvation. Consider the fact that the slightest sin would prevent us from entering heaven, and therefore the only remedy for the least of our sins is the death of Christ. Still we laugh about our personal weaknesses and take them all too lightly.

 

Father, forgive us for we also have not realized what we have done. We are like the crowds that jeered and laughed at Christ as He hung on the cross, we are like the soldiers that drove the stakes into his flesh, we are like the Sanhedrin that passed judgment on Him, and we are like the disciples who slept in the garden when they should have prayed, only we do it by neglect and willful ignorance and simple spiritual laziness. The grace of God is sufficient for our need of grace, and it also goes far beyond our awareness of our need as well, otherwise none of us could be saved. Christ’s words were precise, that the blessing for those who mourn is not salvation – that promise was attached to the first beatitude about poverty of spirit – but comfort.

 

The one who mourns over his sin, who weeps over those he has hurt and the offense he has caused to Holy God, finds the comfort his soul needs in the gospel. Christ’s death has paid for our forgiveness and His resurrection has brought us salvation and a new life. As we have learned to weep over our sin, we begin to learn also to mourn over the sins of the world, as Christ wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). This can only be done as God opens our heart to feel a very small part of His own love and burden for the world. Only the one who has learned this from the Father can really experience it, but for the one who mourns like this the comfort of God comes.

 

The great evangelist D.L. Moody had an experience with God that was so deeply personal to him that he hardly spoke about it. It was well after he had been preaching for several years and was already well-known with hundreds of converts coming from his preaching. Whatever happened was something so very deep within his soul that, as God moved within him, he had to ask God to stay His hand. He described it in terms of gaining a new insight into the love of God, and though his words were few they seemed to be describing just such a spiritual breakthrough as Jesus promised: Moody’s mourning led him toward the comfort of God. From that day on his preaching was aflame with the power of God. Rather than hundreds coming to Christ, it was thousands.

 

But what about other reasons we mourn, such as loss, death, sickness, and separation? All of the problems we experience on this earth, and thereby all of the mourning we experience, is due either directly or indirectly to our fallen condition. And the remedy is found in Christ and especially through His death and resurrection. As Isaiah said, “By his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), and the one who weeps for whatever reason will find in Christ the comfort he craves. The Spirit is also called the Comforter and His work is to sustain us and touch the deepest faults and fissures in our souls with His love. In heaven there is the promise that all tears will be wiped from our eyes.

 

Do you want to know the cost of your salvation? Look at the cross of Christ. There is no other way for you to experience forgiveness and eternal life with God other than through the sacrifice of Christ. But look also inside your heart, at the impure thoughts, the blatant selfishness, the unbridled lusts and pride, and remember that as a son of Adam, even as a fallen son, you still bear the image of God, marred though it may be. Is that reason enough for you to mourn? Look around you as well, at the way sin has laid waste to this world, God’s beautiful creation. Your mourning, if it is of the Spirit, should lead you to God. The cross tells us not only of the cost of our salvation but of the earnestness of God in offering us forgiveness and salvation, and of His comfort to our hearts and souls.

 

Do your work of mourning, as aided by the Spirit, and let the Spirit of God do His part of comforting. He will restore the joy, and add more beyond that, to the heart that mourns.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we ask for insight from You into our need of forgiveness and the cost of our salvation. Lead us to take sin seriously and submit to You every failure and weakness, that we might learn and grow. Teach us to mourn our sins and this world’s fallenness that we might also find the comfort of the gospel. Amen.  

 

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