“BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED” (Matthew 5:4).
“… O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite! Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street” (Lamentations 2:18-19 ESV)
Our own spiritual state is often a reason to mourn, but this mourning should lead us to action, otherwise it is wasted. When Isaiah had his vision of God in the temple, he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV). To catch a glimpse of God’s holiness, and glory, is to realise how totally unworthy we are to enter His presence, and how deserving of wrath and punishment. As with Isaiah, the awareness of Christ’s atonement for our sin should stir in us the desire to be sent out for service.
Like the prophets we must mourn for the spiritual condition of the people of God, their lack of reverence for God and concern for their neighbour – ” My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (Psalm 119:136 ESV). When the fear of God is absent in our churches, as is the case today, wisdom and glory depart from our meeting places. We grow blind to the nature and effects of sin, and open the door to every kind of wickedness and foolish teaching.
Too many lives are wasted because people do not know God: We live in a broken world, and our churches have insufficient supply of the healing balm, because we have distanced ourselves from the Divine Healer. If we are sensitive to the wasted human potential as well as the immense suffering around us, we will put on sackcloth and ashes, as we plead for deliverance. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7 ESV). Until Christ’s return, we must imitate His walk on earth.
Mourning and Christian witness: Paul, who exhorted us to ‘rejoice evermore’, also wrote of his own tears and sorrow – “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time… serving the Lord with all humility and with tears…” (Acts 20:18-19 ESV). He mourned over the trials, struggles and failings of the growing churches as he exhorted them “night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). A deep sorrow and conviction about the deceitfulness of sin, propelled Paul’s witness about Christ’s sacrifice among the nations.
Mourning and intercession:“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” (Isaiah 64:1 ESV). As we see all around us the things that wound the heart of God, we must follow the example of Jesus – “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7 NASB). Our joy as Christians should be seasoned with holy tears, mourning, and fasting, as we pray for this sinful world to repent and turn back, so that their sins may be wiped away, and times of refreshing of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19-20).
THE BENEFITS OF MOURNING
“He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)
The mourning and the joy are inextricably linked until Christ returns. As we celebrate the freedom that Christ has bought us through His sufferings, and yet grieve over those who still live in the clutches of sin, the joy and beauty of Jesus will fill our lives and lift us to newer levels of maturity. Mourning moves us from the shallow and barren Christianity of our age to a fruitful, rich and triumphant practice of our faith.The church has limited understanding about the practical implications of this spiritual attitude and so, we need to seek the Lord for a fuller revelation.
Pardon for past unfaithfulness: There are, however, numerous examples from the history of Israel to show us the value of mourning. It has averted judgement and impending disaster. When the people of Nineveh mourned for their past sins after being warned of impending judgment, God forgave them. When Manasseh, the most wicked king of Judah, who lived his whole life in defiance of God’s commandments, wept tears of repentance before God, he was shown mercy and favour. When King Nebuchadnezzar repented for his pride, and called upon the lord, he was restored.
Joy: God is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), and His promise to all who mourn is that they will be comforted, and filled with joy and gladness from above. It is no small thing to be comforted by God – His comfort often comes with a total restoration of all that was lost or lay devastated. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11 ESV).
Revival: Mourning has a positive effect on our Christian life and witness. It results in the harvest of souls, and when the church comes together to weep over the sins of our generation, the revival will come. “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (Psalm 126:5-6 NIV).
The end of mourning: God has promised us that our suffering is temporary, and will yield much reward and joy in the age to come. The tears that characterise our lives in this present order will vanish in the new, because God Himself will wipe them away. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelations 21:4).
As we await the final restoration of all things, we must remember that our mourning is neither in vain nor forever. Mourning brings the comfort of God into our lives, nurtures a yielded spirit and much fruitfulness; and finally, when the night of sorrow ends, great joy. Our earthly lives are lived in the shadow of mourning because Satan and the powers of darkness still remain at work in our world. The night cannot last forever for the Sun of Righteousness will rise, and everything that robbed us of joy in this world will vanish in His presence. In our present state of waiting, the more we share of the Christ’s mourning, the more the veil is lifted from our eyes, so that we experience the cleansing of our souls and the joy of greater closeness with heavenly Bridegroom. It is this joy that the world covets and sadly sees so little in us christians who have forgotten to mourn.