(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
If you read the first devotional in this mini-series on the Beatitudes, “God focuses”, you may remember that I described these mini-messages as the Lord’s packing list to follow Him.
In Matthew chapter 4, the Lord Jesus had just returned from His 40 days in the wilderness being tempted, began preaching repentance for the Kingdom of God, called His first disciples, and reached out to the undesirables of the world. Then, in Matthew 5, He tells us what it will mean to follow Him.
Today’s verse is Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
It seems to me that the Beatitudes are both descriptive and prescriptive. The Lord warns His followers that walking with Him will be hard. But He also encourages them that such a path should be hard in this world, and He will bless those who persevere to the end.
It’s always struck me that, generally speaking, Jesus almost dissuaded volunteers who didn’t seem to understand what they were saying. You may remember the scene.
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)
In fact, many in Jesus’ time on earth (and today) seem to think that following Him will be relief on easy street or even a road to riches.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3-6)
The Lord tells us that our walk with Him will bring mourning. And that makes perfect sense. He calls us to die to self daily (Matthew 16:24), to reach out to those in pain – many of whom will reject us (Matthew 10:5-16), and to side with Him over family and friends (Matthew 10:37). To some degree or another, mourning for obedient believers will be the rule, not the exception.
Jesus statement about mourning is also prescriptive and encouraging. Mourning for others’ brokeness and even our own is a good sign. I have often told some of my counselees who were confused by their seemingly uncontrollable grief, “You hurt much because you love much.” Jesus calls us to love, and that often will entail grieving.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:11-15)
In fact, doesn’t intense grief often reflect the most intense love? Think of some of your best friends over the years. They haven’t simply laughed with you, they’ve wept with you because your hurt became their hurt. They couldn’t rest until you could rest.
“I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” (Philippian 2:25-28)
So free yourself to mourn this week. That doesn’t mean you have to wear sackcloth and ashes every day. In fact, those who seem to grieve all of the time probably do not understand the great grace and love of our Savior Jesus.
On the other hand, those who never seem to grieve either don’t fully understand the extent of sin in their lives and others or they think that walking with Christ is supposed to be joy all the time.
God willing, He may provide you an opportunity to help them mourn, too.
He will use even your testimony of grief and His comfort to encourage others in His great grace of forgiveness, change, new purpose and peace – which is very different from the illusive absence of hardship.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,so also you share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)