Those who Mourn

Reading:  Romans 8.28-35

When we talk of happiness, we are thinking about fun, laughter and contentment, unmixed with suffering or sorrow. And yet we hear the Master Teacher saying, “Happy are those who mourn, God will comfort them!”


We have grown up in a culture in which “boys don’t cry.” It is also an age of the superficial. The depth of mourning is a measure of the depth of relationship. Jesus is speaking of people who are sensitive, sympathetic, tender-hearted, and alert to the needs of others and the world. The sorrow of true mourning always goes beyond ourselves.

We think of mourning most often with reference to bereavement. It is a mixture of emotions. On the one hand there is a deep

feeling of loss and separation. It is the sorrow of love, now separated from the loved one. When Jesus came to the family of

Lazarus who had died, he wept. The people said, “See how much he loved him!” (Jn.11.35,36) Mixed with that is often a measure of self-pity. We weep not for the sake of the loved one — whom we have committed to the Lord — but because of that gap in our life that no one else can fill. We are not sure how we can manage. It is not unusual for people to feel guilt or regret. Why didn't we spot the problem earlier, get another opinion? Why haven’t we dealt with those unfinished matters that have harmed our relationship? If only I had been more understanding, more caring, more forgiving… And mixed in with that we can also experience anger — anger at having been left behind, anger at carers who were doing their best, anger at God who has taken our loved one.

I have seen those emotions again and again. There is nothing unusual in feeling that way. I remember a preacher I heard many

years ago. He said that there were many of the Psalms he didn’t regard as part of his Bible — they expressed unworthy thoughts.

For my part, I like the book of Psalms. For one thing, it demonstrates that there is no emotion that we may not bring into the presence of God. That doesn't mean that our emotions aren’t all tangled up or that there aren't some for which need divine forgiveness. Bring them all to God — that feeling of loss, that self-pity, those regrets, that anger… Even if it’s against God himself, bring it into his presence.

In the Bible mourning has a much wider reference than the loss of a loved one. We read in Joel 2.12, “But even now,” says the Lord, “repent sincerely and return to me with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Here is the conscience sensitised to God’s will, grieving that one “falls short of the glory of God” (Rom.3.23) as the King James puts it. In the verse in Joel, what is meant is not self-pity at their plight — circumstances were bad and they were being warned about the terrible Day of the Lord. Rather they were being called to sorrow at having offended against God and his laws, a sorrow that returns to God — the sorrow of true repentance.

Matthew tells us that Judas “repented” and took back the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. “l have sinned by betraying an innocent man to death” (Mt.27.3). He was filled with guilt, remorse and self-pity. But he didn’t turn to God. Jesus, dying on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” That could have included Judas, but he didn’t turn to God to accept that mercy and forgiveness. He found no peace of mind — and went out and hanged himself. The mourning of true repentance is an essential quality for those who belong to the Kingdom.

Mourning also refers to grief over the sins of others and of the society in which we live. It is the grief of Jesus on that first Palm Sunday, “He came closer to the city and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, ‘If only you knew today what is needed for

peace! But now you cannot see it!’” (Lk.19.41-42). And when he drove out of the temple those who sold there, “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My temple will be called a house of prayer.’ But you have turned it into a hideout of thieves!”

(v.46). Kingdom people cannot shrug their shoulders over what happens about them. We are to carry real sadness about every

evidence of the rejection of God and his ways in the society about us.


In Romans 8.28, Paul sets out a very important spiritual principle, “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” “In everything” — yes, even in mourning too! There are some of the questions asked by human sorrow to which we will never know a complete and final answer in this life. But we can know God’s love from which nothing can separate us (v.39) and those blessings that his love waits to give.

Central to our faith is a cross — that speaks of suffering too, transformed to a message of God’s love and generosity. “If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He

gave us his Son — will he not freely give us all things?" (vv.31b-32).

God has worked that cross for our good. Cruel means of execution, expressing people's hatred and rejection of God’s Son, God speaks through it of his love, of his desire to accept us back if we will turn back to him (Rom. 5.8). God has worked salvation for any who will believe! This forgiveness, this acceptance by God, this love — this is the comfort for those who mourn over their sins.

But to those who know this peace within, there will also be that grief that so many care so little for God and his ways and are so unresponsive to the Good News — a mourning that looks to the time when “in honour of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2.10—11)


© Peter J Blackburn, 2017
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, 1992.


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