Good Mourning (Matthew 5:4)

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People have a variety of ways to overcome grief. Once there was a man who had lost his job and his life savings in the stock market.[1] He was overcome with grief and fear and uncertain what to do. A friend advised him to buy a pet that will help bring him comfort during this tough life season. So, the man went to the pet store and purchased a parakeet. He thought a parakeet would be a pet that he could talk through his troubles and the bird would talk back to bring him some smiles.

After a week goes by, the man talks and pours out his soul to the parakeet but the bird did not talk back to the man. He returns to the pet store for advice and the store owner says, “Oh, you must have forgot to get the mirror. Parakeets need to see themselves in the mirror to be encouraged to talk.” So, the man purchased a mirror and brought it home to hang in the bird cage.

Another week goes by and the man is continuing to share his heart with the bird but the parakeet is not speaking. The man returns to the pet store with frustration of the silent bird, and the store owner directed the man to purchase the swing. “Parakeets need to see themselves in the mirror and swinging motion in order to talk.” So, the man purchased a bird swing and hung it in the bird cage.

Yet, a third week passes without the parakeet talking. The man is desperate for companionship and even more grieved over his loss of job and speechless parakeet. He returns to the pet store only to be advised to make another purchase. “You have the mirror and the swing but you don’t have the ladder. Parakeets need exercise.” So, begrudgingly the man purchases the bird ladder with a final hope to get this parakeet to talk back to him.

As you might suspect, the desperate and lonely man spends another week talking to his pet parakeet without it talking. Even more, after five days with the ladder the parakeet dies. The man is beyond sad and has moved to anger at the pet store for selling him a parakeet and supplies that appear useless. He marches to the pet store to voice complaint and demand a full refund.

The pet store owner responds, “I am sorry sir. I cannot believe that you fed your pet parakeet, while also caring for it with the essential supplies of a mirror, swing, and ladder, only to have the bird die within the month of purchase.” The man becomes extremely quiet and visibly embarrassed countenance. The pet store owner realizes the man’s tone and demeanor have changed and asks if something he said caused any problems. Rather sheepishly, the man stutters and responds, “I forgot that I had to feed the bird.”

Many of us try a variety of ways to deal with our grief and struggles, but we fail to feed the source of our hope.

Today we explore the beatitude of mourning for causes and cures.

 

EXAMINE

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Blessed

Again, we need to stay reminded that God’s nature and desire is to bless, whereas the world and satan’s desire is to burden – to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus is not saying people are blessed “because” they mourn, but rather, mourners are blessed because they shall be comforted. In other words, all of us will mourn/grieve but our only hope is in the comfort of Jesus Christ.

◊      Jesus blesses from His graciousness. We need to remember the Beatitudes do not include any imperatives (commands) but only indicatives statements. Therefore, God’s blessing cannot be earned but only embraced through repenting of seeking blessing apart from the grace of Jesus. Rogue Living sermon logo 1
◊      Jesus blesses us with growth. The Beatitudes are counter-cultural characteristics for “Rogue Living.” Therefore, living in this world will bring challenge, but adversity leads to our spiritual maturity. à Challenge to memorize the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Blessed are those who mourn

The context of Jesus’s blessing is in light of the previous beatitude, poor in spirit. Being humble and broken before God over sin and selfishness is in view. Mourning over immorality and injustice both personally and corporately are included.

◊      God’s people are called to mourn their own sin. Our sin keeps us from God; and if that doesn’t bother you then you are cold and have grown too casual in your faith. Sin dishonors God, disregards the gospel of grace, damages and destroys human relationships, decays your soul, and can doom you to an eternal hell.  We have learned to be good at confessing our sin without contrition from our sin. Our theology falls short in knowing a salvation and freedom from but not a salvation to. We must pray as the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways” (119:36-37). Too often we would rather recline in laziness than fight against sin and for faith by inclining our heart toward holiness. Pleasing grief and mournful joy is the heart of this beatitude rooted in the gospel of Jesus. We mourn our sin that put stripes on Jesus’s back and nails in His hands. Yet, we find satisfying solace and salvation that Jesus gives us pardon for sin and power to live a new life by grace through faith.

◊      God’s people are called to mourn the sin of others/world. Christians are not to be hypocritical judges (Matthew 7:5), blind guides (Matthew 23:24), prideful Pharisees (Luke 18:14), or stone-throwers (Jn 8:7) against other people’s sin. Yet, the view that we are not to judge at all or hold people accountable to moral standards falls short as well. Christians can engage others about their sin in 3 ways: 1) remaining humble and broken over their own sin / poverty of spirit, 2) praying for God to change a person’s heart and life choices. We have to remember that we cannot change anyone, only God can change a heart. A great example of this is in Daniel 9. This principle is also an exhortation to pray for national leaders (Proverbs 21:1). à Where are the Abraham’s to pray for God to spare our neighbors and nations (Gen 18:22-33)? 3) We mourn the sin of others by loving people and leading them like Jesus did. Jesus was gracious to people deceived by sin, but He was firm against those who were self-righteous. Likewise, our actions of modeling our behavior and belief is vital to a culture hostile to truth and Christianity (1Pet 2:20, 4:14; 2Tim 3:12). “Mourning is the only sane, reasonable response to seeing ourselves and the world as we really are. Many people (including people in the church) think that Christianity teaches us to stick our heads in the sand and ignore just how miserable and difficult and fallen the world really is, wearing a perpetually silly grin on our faces. But the Bible is far more realistic than that. The Christian faith approaches life with wide-eyed realism. Do not ignore evil or suffering; instead, acknowledge it, see it for what it is, and mourn over it.”[2]

◊      God’s people mourn for physical health and gospel hope. Every one of us are mourning something:[3]

–        Material Loss: Grief over losing a possession, even for a brief period of time, like keys or cell phone.

–        Relationship Loss: Grief over a friend who moved, a breakup, or worse a death in family.

–        Intrapsychic Loss: Grief over not obtaining or accomplishing something (degree, job, dream, etc.)

–        Functional Loss: Grief over losing efficiency from a broken tool or even an arm.

–        Role Loss: Grief over changed relational roles – age and parenting seasons, job transitions, etc.

–        Systemic Loss: Grief that is common within a family or class of people

 

Yet, most of us avoid mourning/grief. The world teaches us that mourning is too messy. Jesus teaches mourning rightly leads to maturity.

–        Teach children to stop crying… but there is difference between whining and crying.

–        Tell friends to move on and “forward” from mourning… but God uses grief as part of our testimony (2Cor 1:5-11; 4:7-12; 12:7-10; Col 4:18 “remember my chains”; 2Tim 4:5-8 “endure suffering… poured out… and fought the good fight”

–        Avoid speaking/asking about a person’s struggles… a person I knew called them “tar babies” bc the issues would become sticky and suck you in. I found the term unfortunate. While discernment is needed in how we relate to people, followers of Jesus are called to enter in to the lives of broken sinners.

o   One of most healthy and encouraging acts you can do is to ask a person with a deceased family/friend is to speak the person’s name and share stories about them.[4] Such an action recognizes their value and gives further meaning to bring healing through the mourning journey.

o   We have to learn how to extend comfort without clichés.[5] We can point to God’s promises while also being real about the earthly present. Life will have troubles and we will have tears. But in the midst of our pain we can find God. In fact, God rarely, if ever, explains our suffering; instead He solves our suffering through sharing it with us. He empathizes. And God endures with His divine power to solve our greatest suffering in the resurrection.

In all, when we fail to mourn we fail to mature and have more of God. At the heart of the Christian faith is the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). Jesus was compassionate with tears and prayers in life’s darkest valleys (Matt 14:13-18; Luke 7:13, 23:27-28; John 11:34). And Jesus knows what it is like to cry out “Why?” (Mat 27:46). Jesus is not indifferent or immune to grief.

One thing that can be liberating is to understand that mourning is not something to overcome. Persons cannot simply move on or get over grief. It is important to note that grief is not a sin. Bitterness is sinful but grieving is supportive.

We all can express grief differently. Grief can be like a thunderstorm taking a surge of electricity from an entire house; all the power is vanquished in a flash. At first is appears as a flash, then a ripple and then wave after wave of thunder breaks through that it not only rips through the sky but you can feel it in your chest. Grief becomes an all-consuming experience that we either allow to define us or develop us, and by God’s grace we choose the latter.

è Blessed are those who mourn… Jesus is there.

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Again, Jesus does not simply say that because a person mourns they are blessed. His message is that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. Their comfort is in the future. God has promised to sustain us with His presence.

Christians should familiarize themselves with the names and character of God.

–       El Elyon: “The Most High God.” Stresses God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy (Genesis 14:19; Psalm 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25).

–       El Gibhor: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) – name describing the Messiah, in Isaiah. As a powerful and mighty warrior, the Messiah, the Mighty God, will accomplish the destruction of God’s enemies and rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).

–       El Misgab: “God is a fortress”. The word implies a refuge, defense or stronghold (Psalm 59:17; Daniel 11:38).

–       El Qarob: “God who is near.” God is omnipresent in a very personal way (Deuteronomy 4:7).

–       El-Roi: God who sees/of vision” God sees the needs of His people and responds (Genesis 16:13).

–       El Shaddai: “God Almighty.” Some think it stresses God’s loving supply and comfort; others His power as the Almighty one standing on a mountain and who corrects and chastens (Genesis 17:1, 28:3, 35:11; Exodus 6:1; Psalm 91:1, 2).

–       El Shama: “God who hears.” God listens and is attentive to the cries of His people. He loves us perfectly and hears every prayer, even when it feels or seems like circumstances are out of control (Exodus 2:24; Psalm 17:6; Romans 8:26; Hebrews 4:14-16)

–       Yahweh-Rapha: “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26) – “I am Jehovah who heals you” both in body and soul. In body, by preserving from and curing diseases, and in soul, by pardoning iniquities.

–       Yahweh Rûm Rosh: “The Lord who lifts my head.” God knows our guilt and our grief and takes initiative to save and care for us (Psalm 3:3).

–       Yahweh Zimrat: “The Lord is my song”. Indicates praise by musical instrument (Exodus 15:2).

The comfort of God comes from the Holy Spirit (παρακαλέω: parakaleo). The Spirit of God strengthens and prays for us (Rom 8:26). He reminds us we have an Abba-Father who cares (Gal 4:6-7). God’s kingdom is available with a present comfort and a future hope (Rom 8:18-25). Sometimes the only thing we can hang on to is hope; and we know hope is a Person, whom we can trust. While we experience suffering and endure hardship, there is a King who is working a master plan to correct wrongs and weave together meaning and purpose in our life story. And one day, all will be set right, where “God 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” (Rev 21:3-4).

Comfort in our mourning comes in at least three ways

è Redemption: Christ and the gospel provide us empathy for our circumstances as one who suffers with us and is cultivating our life in ways we cannot fully understand or appreciate this side of eternity.

è Remember: Cherishing memories to learn humility from God’s blessings. God’s gifts are good and we must learn grace flows to the grateful not the proud.

è Re-dream: Creating new dreams can feel disloyal to the past, but it’s really honoring the life with gospel hope.[6]

 

APPLY/THINK

Ask God to help you mourn with poverty of spirit and brokenness over sin. May your mourning lead to maturity in seeing Christ who loves and gave Himself for you, and promises to be with you in whatever you are facing.

Comfort can occur temporarily in worldly ways… like eating snacks before dinner to fill you up but with empty calories. Jesus promises an eternal comfort that is truly satisfying. Come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

 

[1] Adapted from Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking.

[2] R.W. Glenn, Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes, p.39.

[3] Six major types of losses by Kenneth R. Mitchell and Herbert Anderson, All our Losses All our Griefs: Resources for Pastoral Care (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983) 36-46.

[4] See Nancy Guthrie, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/yes-say-something-overcoming-awkwardness-grieving-people

[5] http://www.thegoodbook.com/blog/interestingthoughts/2017/03/16/comfort-without-the-cliches/

[6] https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/articles/good-grief

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