Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
If “Blessed are the poor in spirit” wasn’t enough of a paradox for you, “Blessed are those who mourn” should cinch it for you. John Stott quipped that we should translate this verse “Happy are the unhappy” in order to draw attention to the paradox.
It’s a fair question. What kind of mourning is a blessing? What kind of grief is good?
The answer is found in the context of the previous verse.
The kind of mourning that is a blessing is not the kind associated with the loss of a loved one or some sort of specific tragedy. Rather, the kind of mourning that is a blessing is the kind associated with the loss of self.
To be poor in spirit is to lose the self. It is to lose our self-righteousness. It is to lose our self-respect. It is to lose our self-assurance. And so on.
And that loss is something we grieve.
To use a biblical or theological term, Jesus is talking about the kind of mourning associated with repentance.
Mourning is the inevitable necessity of being “poor in spirit.” As John Stott puts it: “It is one thing to acknowledge our spiritual poverty before God. But it is another thing to mourn it.”
“Poor in spirit” is akin to confession. “Mourning” is akin to contrition.
If being poor in spirit is the continual, conscious acknowledgement of our unworthiness before God, then being mournful is to live in it for a little while.
This reality has several implications for us as Christ-followers, and we’re going to talk about them. What is it that we are actually mourning? What does that look like? What impact does this have on our mission in the kingdom of this world? These are the questions we will quickly answer in our next post.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.