“How did we get here?” It’s one of the questions I ponder after every school shooting, after every senseless act of violence, after every scandal in the public arena. It’s one of the questions I ask God. The longer version: “Oh Lord, how did this country come to be like it is today?”
Sometimes I mourn for the state of our country…our world. Maybe you do, too. Jesus said,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. –Matthew 5:4
Like many of Jesus’ statements, this line seems backward at first. Like I’m going to celebrate my grief because I experienced some comfort in it?!? It would still be better not to have grieved at all, thank you very much!
Maybe we don’t really understand “blessed.”
When Jesus said “blessed,” He was talking about a sense of well-being that belongs to members of the Kingdom regardless of outward circumstances. The concept must be related to shalom, which we usually translate as “peace.” (For more on God’s kind of peace, click here.)
Some other ways Jesus could have said it:
- You’re blessed when you… (The Message)
- To truly know shalom, you’ll need to be…
- You’re part of the Kingdom if…
- Things will be alright with you when…
Based on these thoughts, we might paraphrase Matthew 5:4 like this,
There’s no need to get all upset about mourning when you are part of the Kingdom of God because you can be sure God will comfort you.
Jesus was present
with those who mourned.
After Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, died (John 11:1-44), Martha ran out into the street to meet Jesus as He came into town. In their exchange, Jesus revealed Himself to Martha as the Messiah (John 11:25-27). Later He wept with Mary and the other mourners (John 11:35). He was present with them, directly comforting them. I have known the same presence as I walked through personal grief. Maybe you have, too.
When the Apostle Paul thought about his people, the Jews, he mourned their unbelief.
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. –Romans 9:2-4
God reminded Paul of His
promises yet to be fulfilled.
While Paul mourned the present-day unbelief of his fellow Israelites, God also reminded him of the promises yet to be fulfilled. He quotes some of these promises, concluding with Isaiah 59:20-21, (Paul use the Septuagint [Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures], so it doesn’t come out exactly the same in English.)
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:26-27
Old Testament Example
In this monthly series, we’re looking for Old Testament examples for each of Jesus’ beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Jeremiah—the “weeping prophet”—demonstrates God’s comfort through mourning.
It was the dying days of Judah, the last forty years before seventy years of exile, and God tasked Jeremiah with breaking the news of Judah’s demise. Jeremiah didn’t like the news and didn’t like the job.
My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a strong man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words. –Jeremiah 23:9
Like the doctor delivering a cancer diagnosis to someone in his own family, God repeatedly called Jeremiah to pronounce the bad news. (These are just a couple of examples.)
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.” At that time those slain by the Lord will be everywhere—from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be burned or gathered up or buried, but will be like dung lying on the ground. -Jeremiah 25:32-33
For all the big, negative pronouncements, God was also very intimate with Jeremiah. He said things like,
When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. –Jeremiah 7:27
Jeremiah knew the
presence of the Lord.
He took Jeremiah on not-so-fun field trips, too: the temple (7:1-2), the city gates (17:19), the potter’s studio (18:1-3), and the palace (22:1). God also protected him from assassination plots (e.g. 11:18-23, 26:7-16) and told him to do weird things like cut his hair (7:29), buy a belt (13:1-2), not get married (16:1-2), and buy a field (32:6-12). Clearly, Jeremiah knew the presence of the Lord!
While Jeremiah had the onerous task of announcing Judah’s coming destruction, he also got to describe the remnant that would one day return to Jerusalem. He was the voice of God’s promise.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,” says the Lord. –Jeremiah 30:3
“So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel,” declares the Lord. “I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and will save you, declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 30:10-11
I am with you = God’s presence
I will save you = God’s promise
In the midst of his mourning, Jeremiah (and his people) were comforted by God’s presence and His promise.
These days, when Christ-followers mourn—personally or corporately—we have the same comfort. Like Jeremiah, we have God’s presence in the moment, and we have God’s promise for the future.
Have you mourned so deeply that you didn’t have words? Let’s increase God’s glory by sharing how He comforted us with His presence and promises in that time. You can read my story in this blog post from shortly after my father died.