Real mourning is a lost art in our medicated Western culture. Our extreme distaste for any experience of painful emotion drives us to all sorts of solutions trying to bring comfort to the situation in which real comfort stubbornly eludes you. We would rather do almost anything rather than endure a place of darkness. We drink alcohol, swallow pills, inject drugs, consume food, have affairs, spend money, leave town – anything to avoid an experience of real mourning. We desire comfort but seem unwilling to do the very thing that Jesus says is the root system of true comfort – experience deep mourning.
What is in view in this second Beatitude? The entry for “mourning” in Vincent’s Word Studies speaks of grieving that is too deep for concealment. To underscore this interpretation, the word for “mourning” in the New Testament is often used with the idea of weeping audibly. The implication is that something comes into focus, some issue or pain that is so dominating, so overwhelming that we can’t hide it any longer. All we can do in those times is mourn, crying out in agony over the situation in which we find ourselves.
Mourning Our Own Brokenness
This is especially necessary when the thing in focus is our own broken condition. When the reality of the effect of sin hits us in the face, the only right response is to face it fully, and allow its weight to have its maximum impact. The sinful condition of our lives involves the destructive things that have been done to us, as well as our destructive responses to those situations. Our sinfulness also directly involves owning our own damaging choices rooted in selfishness and rebellion against God and His ways. Real healing and restoration can only begin in my life is when I am willing to squarely face the responsibility that I have for my own situation – sinful responses to the acts of others, and the sinfulness that arises out of my own dark heart. I must allow the Holy Spirit to convict my heart of my own sin, feel the weight of it, and begin to mourn over the whole thing.
A powerful example of this mourning occurs in the New Testament example of Peter in the aftermath of his denial of Jesus during His trial and crucifixion. Luke’s gospel tells us that when Peter claimed for the third time that he did not know Jesus, a rooster crowed (just as Jesus had predicted) and Jesus’ eyes locked with Peter’s. He was immediately filled with agonizing conviction of his own failure, and his response was to mourn over his own sin. He went out and wept bitterly.
There is a point in our lives when we must come face to face with the fact that we have chosen again and again to follow our own agenda rather than the will of God. Peter denied relationship with Jesus because he was operating in fear and self-protection at the expense of his commitments to his Lord. When he realized what he had done, it grieved his spirit beyond measure, beyond his capacity to contain it. Each of us must come to that place as well. There must come a time when the reality of our failure and the gaze of Jesus are focused on us, when we feel the depth of our sin and can no longer excuse it or explain it away. At that point our only alternative is to mourn.
Next time: Barriers to Authentic Mourning