If we were to reduce our needs to one word, I believe that word would be comfort. Discrepancies between sexuality, wealth, or one’s location on this grand planet do not alter the soul’s instinctive longing for rest which resides in the knowledge that everything is ok. The urge to find comfort resides deep in the human consciousness. But the path to comfort seems to be as fixed as the early morning dew on a hot summer’s day.
Where Do We Find Comfort?
In general, modern human beings believe comfort can be found when heeding the advice of that great philosopher, Baloo the Bear, who told his listeners to “forget about your worries and your strife.” Souls naturally seek out relief through work, alcohol, sexual activity, shoe collections, ripped abs, and a host of other means that promise to blunt their awareness of pain, sorrow, and hardships. Yet no distraction proves adequate or life sustaining, forcing scores of souls back to the counselor’s chair in search of more satisfying answers.
According to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus knows the answer. Instead of directing souls to the pleasure of forgetful laughter, he says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Mt 5:2).” The parallel passage in Luke 6:25 which restates the sentiments of Matthew puts the concept even more forcefully noting that Jesus also said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” In other words, those who seek to escape the worries and their strife through laughter will ultimately drowned in a sea of worry.
To find comfort, the soul must embrace the mourning of Jesus.
What kind of Mourning?
The sorrow of Jesus proves to be far more profound than the disposition towards grumpiness and depression associated with Eeyore or Puddleglum. Jesus is not calling his disciples to walk around with a upside down smile for the remainder of their lives. A little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns the aesthetic of sorrow, saying, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” Moreover, as Romans 12:12 reveals, the whole scope of Scripture portrays Christians as a joyful people. Paul writes, “Rejoice in hope, be patient, in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Jesus does not believe comfort can be found in a perpetual state of self-inflected misery. Rather as the famous Welsh Preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted,
The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy.
The sorrow Jesus details in Matthew 5:3 is a sorrow over sin. Paul describes humanity’s innate spiritual poverty as follows: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Tt 3:3).” They have no spiritual capital by which they can negotiate their salvation. Such an awareness cannot help but lead to mourning. As David confessed in Psalm 51:3-4, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” To find comfort, the soul must mourn its sin.
Why Mourning Works
When the soul confesses its rebellion like the prodigal Son in Luke 15:21, Jesus does not place us into the servants quarters. He runs to us, embraces us, and throws us a feast of epic proportions. He gives us eternity, the promise that all will be alright forever. We will be with God forever.
Our savior can assure us that all will be ok in eternity because he has been forsaken. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Mt 27:46)?” Jesus endured the punishments for our sins so that we do not have to spend an eternity in sorrow. Indeed, the soul that has mourned its sin and that has embraced the salvation of the cross has nothing to fear, for death itself has been conquered. Jesus was forsaken so that we maybe forever comforted. If we will weep, Jesus will turn our mourning into dancing and will replace our sackcloth with gladness (Ps 30:11-12).
Why is Mourning So Hard?
Despite the promises of comfort, souls will always struggle to mourn. When people accumulate wealth, prestige, or relationships, they tend to assume their earthly comfort represents God’s favor. If all were not well and if mourning were needed, the markets would dive, they would get demoted, and their friends would leave. The soul that has gained the world is often slow to mourn sin. But it should not be. Jesus took issue with the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17 for its members had mistaken wealth for Jesus’s blessing. The text says, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Circumstances do not change, the soul’s need to mourn.
Others shy away from mourning because it appears to be harsh and unloving. Many pastors refuse to call their congregations to repent of their sin. They believe that addressing an inconsequential affair, a little tax fraud, or a touch of racism will prove more costly than ignoring the sin. They believe it is better to know the laughter of the world than the costly mourning of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 and 6 Paul takes issue with this line of reasoning. He writes, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you… Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” Those who refuse to mourn sin express neither spiritual maturity nor wisdom. Rather, they work against the commands of Christ. When Christians encounter sin, they should mourn it and call others to mourn it. Comfort and salvation come through tears.
Comfort cannot be found through laughter nor through somber asceticism for it is not located in this world. True comfort is tied not to marriages, good grades, or health. It is tied to eternity which can only be accessed through the salvation of Jesus. To find that comfort, the soul must embrace its own discomfort, mourning its poverty of spirit. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”