Happy are the Unhappy

Matthew 5:4
The child sees a horse and says, “That horse must be a Christian, because he has such a long face!” There are many misconceptions about what true mourning is. You can be a mourner, and yet not receive comfort. What does the world say? Be happy. If it feels good, do it. Seek pleasure, not sorrow. Jesus says differently. It is not true, however, that Jesus is counseling us here to be miserable. Jesus counsels mourning, not moping. Nor is true mourning merely a weeping over sin’s consequences. There is the case of the child who gets caught with the hand in the cookie jar. The child screams out his penitence, but only because he is sorry that he got caught, and wants to try to avoid the consequence. So what is true mourning? True mourning is a God-given sorrow over one’s own sin, and over the sin of other people.
First, we must mourn over our own sin. It is important to realize that there is a progression in the Beatitudes. The first Beatitude tells us that we have no righteousness of our own. Being poor in spirit means that we have to rely wholly on God. When we empty ourselves of our own righteousness, then we will come to realize that we are sinners. Once the blinders of our own sel-righteousness come off, we will recognize that the only thing we have to offer is our own sin. Being poor in spirit leads to mourning over one’s own sin.
David mentions that his sin is ever before him. We do not mourn only for sin’s consequences. We are tempted to do that often, however. We are tempted to think that we are sorry over our sin, when we are really only sorry that we got caught, or that we are sorry because of what happened after. That kind of mourning is really only mourning for oneself. It is mourning that is directed at me. True mourning, on the other hand, is directed toward God. We are sorry that we have offended our heavenly Father. We are sorry that we have broken God’s law. We are sorry that we have caused a rift in the relationship with God.
It is not mere generalities for which we must mourn. We need to mourn in general for sin, but that is not enough. We must also mourn because of specific sins. If we only mourn for sin in general, then we will automatically try to rationalize our sin away. We will try to excuse ourselves, because it is really only one small sin, after all. “Just one little sin.” That could be the motto for the road to hell: “just one little unrepented sin.”
Mourning means a turning away from that particular sin. Augustine once said, “He truly mourns the sins he has committed, who never again commits the sins he has mourned.” Mourning must be joined with a hatred of sin. We must hate and turn from that sin that keeps us from fellowship with God.
There is a sense in which we must mourn once for all. We must turn from sin to our Savior. There is a turning, a repenting that must take place. We must mourn here on earth temporarily, if we do not want to mourn eternally in hell.
The world says exactly the opposite of Jesus. The world tells us to be well, be happy, just do it, especially if it feels good. The world turns a blind eye to sin. But we must not be blind. Instead we must turn not a blind eye to sin, but turn away from sin. We must believe in what Jesus tells us here. We must believe in Jesus. Mourning over sin is appropriate. We must mourn the fact that we lost our place in the garden of Eden. We must mourn all the evil that has come into the world on account of sin. The world does not see this aspect of humanity. Conservatives will condemn sin, and liberals will excuse sin, but neither will mourn for sin unless God changes the heart.
If we do believe in Jesus, then we must mourn daily for sin. It does not mean that we always literally weep. That is not what mourning is. Mourning is an attitude of the heart that hates sin, and wants to do anything it can to prevent sin from taking more territory. Mourning is a good antidote to daily sin. It is hard to fall into the fire of temptation, when the fountain of the heart keeps the heart moist and wet. Mourning is a water to extinguish the fiery darts of the Evil One. This kind of mourning is not bitter. There is a sweetness to this kind of mourning. Compassion is born from it. That leads us to the second kind of mourning. The first was to weep for our own sin.

The second kind of mourning is to mourn for the sin of other people. These two kinds of mourning are connected. If we mourn over the sin of others, we are less likely to have sins of our own to mourn. But those who do not mourn the sins of others are probably not aware of their own sins. Do we mourn over other people’s sin? Or do we only mourn over another’s sin when it affects us? For instance, does it bother us when we hear foul language? Do we inwardly grieve, or do we think that that kind of language is somehow eloquent? This is especially true when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain. But if we do not mourn over someone else’s taking the Lord’s name in vain, are we honoring God’s name ourselves? To honor God’s name means more than not taking it in vain ourselves, it means that we want all people to honor it.
To take another example, what about greed? Suppose you see a shady business deal take place, or you see someone greedily snatch property. Does it grieve you to see it? Do you always remain silent, or will you say something? There is a time to remain silent, namely, when the injustice is done to us. But when injustice is done to others, woe to us if we remain silent! Are we to have a prophetic voice in this culture? Then we must denounce greed when we see it. If we do not, are we really concerned about the property of other people? If we see greed, we must mourn over it; we must speak the truth in love. All too often, we remain silent, because we fear rejection. We fear that the other person will never speak to us again. There is a way, however, to do this. That way is to speak the truth in love. Identify with the person by saying something like, “You know, I would tempted to do the very same thing.” Then you can say that you don’t believe that what the person is doing is right.
If we mourn truly over our own sin, and over the sin of others, then there is a precious promise waiting for us. We will receive comfort. Mourning is made on purpose to give comfort. Now, some people think that mourning causes joy. It is not the cause of joy, but rather the way to joy, just as the road is not the cause of my taking a trip, but is the way to get there. It is the only way to get there. Jesus tells us that only those who mourn for sin will receive this comfort. Those who treat sin lightly, or dismiss it by rationalizing, or by excusing, or by making fun of God’s law, or any number of other ways to lessen sin; those people will never receive the comfort about which Jesus is talking. One must dig deep in order to build high. Jesus is saying, “Happy are the unhappy.” That is how weird it might sound to our ears. But it is the only way to true happiness. Happiness is dependent on our relationship to God. That relationship is severed. Only by truly repenting of sin can we come into a right relationship with God.
Only by realizing that our sin put Jesus on the cross can we ever expect to receive the benefits of His death. It was our hand that nailed Jesus’ wrist to the cross-bar. It was our hand that nailed Jesus’ feet to the bottom of the cross.
If we know this, then we cannot love sin. Someone said that it is worse to love sin than to commit it. Remember that repentance must be accompanied by hatred for sin. If we have that hatred for sin, then we will be comforted.
Notice that the comfort will come. That means two things: it is certain that it will come, and it is in the future that it will come. This is talking primarily about the comfort that we will receive in the new heavens and the new earth. It is true that we receive comfort in this life as well. However, the most important thing to remember is that ultimately, every tear will be wiped from our eye. There is no mourning of crying in the new Jerusalem. There is no more separation, no more sorrow, no more sin, no more death. We have the down payment of that comfort now in the person of the Holy Spirit. We do not have all misery. We have the joy of the Holy Spirit. It is not true that those who truly mourn are those who mope around the house in utter misery all the time. There are many who weep who will not be comforted, because they do not truly mourn. They will not receive comfort. No, the Holy Spirit enters our lives, and gives us a certain hope that all will be made right, all wrongs will be righted, all sin punished. Those people who have the most joy are those people who truly mourn for sin. Let us not be satisfied with anything less than true mourning. It is not comfortable now, but it will be. We will have comfort. So often, however, we are satisfied with having as much comfort as possible now, not realizing that this life is not home to us. We are aliens and strangers here on this old earth. We need to wait for the new heavens and the new earth in order to receive the true comfort. As Abraham said to the rich man, “In this life you received your comforts, while Lazarus received only bad things. But now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” Which person do we want to be? Do we want to mourn now, or later? We will do one or the other. The world wants to escape pain altogether. It is not possible. Do not make an idol out of comfort. The way to comfort is almost entirely in the opposite direction. It is like Alice in Alice in Wonderland. She wanted to get to the garden. However, the more she tried to get there, the further away she got. It was only when she tried to go in the opposite direction, that she made her way to the garden. If we make an idol out of comfort, and pursue it for its own sake, we will never find it. It is impossible. However, if we seek holiness rather than happiness, if we seek God rather than man, if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then and only then will all these other things be added to us as well. That is the true meaning of mourning. Happy are the unhappy, for they will be happy.

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