Happy are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Mat. 5:4
I ran across this verse earlier this week studying for my Sunday School class. I have to confess, it's caused me to pause and ponder for days now.
Happy are those that mourn?
How does that even begin to make sense? Isn't' the whole point of mourning the absence of happiness?
In my inability to wrap my mind around this I decided it was time to dig deep. So here goes.
According to Strong's Concordance the Greek for mourn is pentheo. It means "the feeling or act of grieving". It is derived from the root word penthos which means "strengthened from a sensation or impression (usually painful); feel, suffer; passion".
Strengthened from grieving. But how? How does grief strengthen us? The second part of that verse says that those who mourn will be comforted. So let's look at what that means.
Comforted is- parakaleo "to call near, invite, invoke, beseech, call for". Its shares the root word with parakletos "intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter". Yes, this is the word that is often translated "Holy Spirit".
So, when we mourn (grieve, feel, suffer) we call near (invite, call for) the intercessor (consoler, advocate, comforter).
In other words, our mourning invites the Holy Spirit of God to draw near to us. Could there be anything more comforting than that?
Those that mourn are happy because the very act of our suffering brings forth the closeness of God Himself.
This week I have peered into the face of mourning. Almost 300 of our neighbors lost their lives in deadly tornados. As I view the pictures of destruction and hear the stories of the survivors my heart wants to pull back, to go numb to the suffering around me. But God doesn't want me to turn away, to pull back, to become apathetic. He wants me to mourn with those that mourn. To weep and cry and hurt with those who suffer.
Nowhere in God's Word have I found anything about turning away from grief or sorrow. No, what I find is encouragement to mourn.
- Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Ps. 30:5
- The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Ps. 34:17
- Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice. Ps. 55:17
- He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. Isa. 61:1
- And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:17
God does not turn away from our grief. He turns to our grief. He doesn't ask us to "be strong" or "move past it" or "get over it" or "pretend like it never happened". He gives us permission to feel sorrow. And then He comes close and brings solace to our darkness and pain. He holds us and wipes our tears away.
Today I experienced this truth first hand. Just hours ago I watched a sweet young couple lay to rest their beautiful five month old baby girl. As the father of precious Zoe preached her eulogy with tears in his eyes and sorrow in his voice I saw the Holy Spirit of God, the Great Comforter, strengthen him. As I sat in the back of the sanctuary and listened to this daddy talk about the goodness of God, even here, even now, I could only whisper "happy are those that mourn".
Happy are those that mourn.
For they shall be comforted.
It's when we shut down, when we turn away, when we live in denial of our pain that we get stuck in grief. But to find healing, to find strength, to find joy we must mourn. But we do not mourn as the world mourns, those who have no hope. We mourn in the safety of Christ's arms, resting in His strength and comfort. Trusting that He is able to bring forth good out of the deepest of sorrows.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you... Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life... Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42